Hawkeye recruiting mailbag: Which recruits are next in line on Iowa's defense?

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

October baseball is always a good time. While my friends watch their teams in the playoffs, I can just sit on my couch and sob about how the Angels are wasting the talent of Mike Trout.

Northmont's Jestin Jacobs makes a tackle against Pickerington Central on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, in Pickerington.

(Yes, I'm an Angels fan. Yes, I accept your apology.)

But I'm assuming most people reading this root for the Cubs, Cardinals, White Sox, Twins or Royals. So, we can all sob together. It'll be a party.

Maybe we can chat Iowa recruiting, too. Or, you can just read about that here.

Welcome, once again, to the Hawkeye recruiting mailbag. Let's get to it.

Who do you see as being the LB of the future? Any new name to watch emerge on defense? — @CaliScruff

For the first question, I'll go with one current linebacker and one future linebacker.

In terms of a guy already on the roster, it's got to be Dillon Doyle. I've been practically conducting the Doyle train since first watching him during his junior season at Iowa City West. (Just ask my boss, who put up with me raving about how well Chris Doyle's kid played on Friday nights.) Immediately, he stood out as a quintessential, hard-nosed Iowa linebacker that produces and understands the game like few others.

We haven't been able to see much of him in a Hawkeye uniform yet, but the word is he has impressed in practice. Here's your proof: Doyle is listed as the co-backup middle linebacker for the Indiana game.

West High's Dillon Doyle celebrates after breaking up a pass and forcing a fourth down during the Trojans' game against Cedar Rapids Prairie on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.

The thing with Doyle is he pairs high-level intelligence with a physical makeup of the son of a college strength coach. He entered Iowa at about 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. He's already up to about 230.

For a future Hawkeye linebacker, I'll go with Jestin Jacobs.

The Clayton, Ohio product committed to Iowa last spring as a three-star. But he's had a monster senior season, and 247Sports gave him four stars after bumping him up from No. 650 to No. 209 in 2019. It's looking like Jacobs could be an early steal, and his 6-4 length projects well in any defense.

Answering the second question: I think three-star safety recruit Sebastian Castro will be a name to watch.

The Illinois product is already well-built at 6-1 and 200 pounds, and his senior film is excellent. He is a physical, punishing playmaker on both sides of the ball. His home position is safety, but he's really a big, strong, versatile defender who can play all over — the kind of defender Iowa loves to get.

Pick a Hawkeye to move from offense to defense, and one from defense to offense. They don't have to take each other's spots, can be anywhere on the field. — @davidscrivner

This is the second straight A+ question from my friend and former colleague David Scrivner. I feel like we should just have a podcast. So many people would listen. Well ... maybe a few people would listen.


The funny answer would be something like moving Tristan Wirfs to cornerback and Anthony Nelson to running back.

But I'll go more serious here. (Sorry, David.)

Oct 6, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes tight end Noah Fant (87) rushes for a first down after making a catch as Minnesota Golden Gophers linebacker Julian Huff (20) attempts to make a tackle in the first half at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

I would be fascinated to see Noah Fant at defensive end. He played there in high school. With the way his body has developed, though, he could be dang good at that position if he focused solely on playing defense. Think about it: His explosive power, speed and strong hands? Plus, he knows how to shed guys. 

Then, let's see what Julius Brents can do as a receiver. At 6-2 and 180 pounds, he's got good size. He's tall and fast enough to be a vertical threat, but he's got crisp, shifty speed like a slot target, too. His hands looked fine on his interception against Minnesota. Of course, he'd need plenty of time to get routes down and simply feel at home on offense. 

If either of these switch-a-roos somehow happen, you can say you heard it here first.

Who is Iowa after at Iowa Western? — @BenFlaherty21

Two guys right now: Chester Graves and Malcolm Lee.

Graves is considered the top junior college prospect in the country. After watching him in person last Saturday, you'll have no argument from me. The 6-5, 240-pounder can play linebacker or defensive end, and he dominates from both spots.

Iowa is among a bucketload of schools in on Graves. The thing is, few if any of those schools are super active in his recruitment, because this guy really doesn't give a hoot about recruitment right now — and he's so good that he can afford not to care. He's set to graduate in May, and whenever he decides he wants to commit, there'll be plenty of schools happy to take him.

"I have no clue," he told me of the schools that have offered him. "I’m just playing football, man. I’m not worried about that."

From what I can tell, Iowa, Iowa State, Nebraska, TCU, Colorado, Oklahoma State, Houston, Southern Mississippi and Florida Atlantic have offered. Iowa Western head coach Scott Strohmeier told me Kentucky and Arizona recently offered, too. 

Iowa wants to add another high-end linebacker if it can; it recently offered Kuony Deng, a four-star junior-college linebacker out of Kansas. It also wants to add another defensive end. Like I said, Graves is a May graduate, so he might not be making his decision for a while. He told me he's going to just play out this season and see where things stand.

Lee is more of a pure defensive end. The 6-6, 265-pounder told me he's considering Iowa alongside Texas, Houston, UCF and Kansas State, and that he wants to take official visits in November. Rivals considers him the No. 18 junior college prospect in the country.

Iowa Western defensive end Malcolm Lee is one of the country's top junior college football prospects.

Here's a little of what he told me Tuesday about Iowa: "They're in the Big Ten. That's something I always aspired to play (in) — I've always aspired to play in the Big Ten. I grew up in Nebraska. So, being a Nebraska fan, when I truly started to understand football, that was around the time the Huskers moved to the Big Ten. So I've always enjoyed watching Big Ten football out of any conference in the country." 

Iowa is also taking a look at defensive tackle Atlias Bell, a former Dowling Catholic star. He holds interest from Iowa, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Washington State, West Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina State. Bell, a May graduate, doesn't hold any offers yet.

"They told me that I could play for them and they could really use me as far as pass-rush," Bell said of Iowa and Iowa State. "They think I’m a player that could help them out with their system — they could just let me go."

Iowa Western defensive tackle Atlias Bell (98) is receiving recruiting interest from Iowa and Iowa State, among others.

With Iowa sticking with his teammate OL commit after the ACL (Justin Britt) and his last official in Iowa City, do you forecast Iowa’s stock rising with David Bell or still a long shot? — @SamuelPThompson

There it is! The David Bell question. I feel like this has become kind of a D.J. Carton type of deal. For a stretch in the summer, every mailbag had a question about the five-star lefty point guard in some form or fashion. Now, it's Bell.

And I get it. The kid was absurdly good as a junior at Warren Central. Somehow, he's even better this year and could be playing his way to a fifth star. He would immediately change Iowa's offense as a freshman.

This is an interesting new spin, though, from Samuel.

Might Iowa sticking with Justin Britt, Bell's teammate at Warren Central, after he tore his ACL have any impact on the receiver's decision?

Warren Central Warriors wide receiver David Bell (4) celebrates a reception early in the first half of the game at Warren Central High School, Indianapolis, Ind., Friday, Oct. 5, 2018.

Of course it'll make a good impression. But I still don't think it's enough to upend Purdue or Penn State. So, yes, it's still a long shot for Iowa to land Bell. His most recent official visit was in Happy Valley for the Ohio State game.

"I love coach (James) Franklin and (assistant coach David) Corley," Bell told our partners at the Indianapolis Star. "After the game, they said they needed me out there making plays since I’ve proved time and time again I’m a clutch player. Just talking to them, they said I could come in and make a huge impact as a freshman."

Also, some news here: The Star reported that Tennessee has now entered the mix. After running backs coach Chris Weinke visited him on Friday, Bell plans to take an unofficial visit to Tennessee on Oct. 20 when the Volunteers host Alabama. He holds an offer from Tennessee.

"They are in the mix," Bell said. "They have a new coaching staff, kind of rebuilding stuff. You can see they are on the up rise."

With all that said, the Hawkeyes are certainly glad to get Bell's final official visit the weekend of Dec. 15 before he announces his commitment on Jan. 5.

Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at mbain@dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.