Hawkeye recruiting mailbag: What's up with Iowa's recent interest in 2019 RBs?

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central
Iowa's Derrick Foster poses for a photo during the Iowa Football media day on Friday, Aug. 10, 2018 in Iowa City.

Let's get right to the questions this week.

What is Iowa’s current 2019 RB recruiting situation? — @BenFlaherty21

Ben, like a lot of you, has noticed Iowa dipping back into the 2019 running back market. 

We know of at least three prospects to which the Hawkeyes have expressed recent interest: Illinois three-star prospect Jacardia Wright, New Jersey three-star prospect Josh Henderson and Alabama three-star prospect Shadrick Byrd.

Wright is the only one who holds an Iowa offer, which he got in August before his sophomore year. He told me Levar Woods has been contacting him this week and that he's considering visiting Iowa this weekend — after he finishes his ACT on Saturday.

Rivals' Blair Sanderson tweeted that Iowa visited Henderson at school this week, and that they'll visit Byrd later this week. Byrd and Henderson's high school coach, Todd Smith, confirmed those visits to me.

Henderson is currently committed to North Carolina, but Smith said Iowa and Nebraska have reached out since the Tar Heels' coaching change.

"Josh is interested (in Iowa), for sure," Smith said, "but we haven't had any movement since the school visit."

Byrd currently has two official visits lined up to Troy (this weekend) and Vanderbilt (next weekend). He told me that, depending on how his Thursday visit with Iowa goes, he might visit the Hawkeyes during next week before heading to Vanderbilt. He wants to enroll early, so if Iowa does offer, things could move fast here.

Iowa football assistant coach Derrick Foster works with the running backs during a spring football practice on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, at the Iowa football performance center in Iowa City.

Here's where the follow-up question comes: Weren't the Hawkeyes only taking one running back in 2019? Isn't that why Jirehl Brock's Iowa recruitment ended?

And here's where the tried-and-true answer comes: In recruiting, things change. A lot. Players leave. Needs get re-evaluated. Maybe there's a transfer on the horizon from one of Iowa's running backs. Or — and this feels more likely — maybe the coaches realize they could use another back after a lackluster performance from this year's group.

Or it could be something else entirely.

"(Iowa) always had interest," Byrd said. "But at first they were only taking one back. But now, (they're) looking to take a second one."

Smith's point of view: "I was under the impression they were looking for a bigger back. Which (Henderson) is."

Byrd (5-foot-9, 210 pounds) is an interesting prospect in that he's from Alabama. It's a recruiting foothold for running backs coach Derrick Foster and a state in which I've long thought Iowa should try to create a mini-pipeline

Henderson has not decommitted from North Carolina — that's important to note. He's certainly a bigger back, checking in at 6 feet and 205 pounds. At the time he committed, he held other offers from Michigan State, Purdue, Duke, West Virginia and Baylor, among others.

Wright, another bigger guy at 6 feet and 200 pounds, holds other offers from Michigan State and Western Michigan, among others.

Cherry Creek (Colorado) QB Alex Padilla committed to the Iowa Hawkeyes on Thursday.

Which Hawkeye recruits are enrolling early in January and are any of them likely to get playing time next year? — @iowafanwilliams

Quarterback recruit Alex Padilla and offensive lineman recruit Ezra Miller plan to enroll early and participate in spring ball. Linebacker recruit Jestin Jacobs will also enroll early ... wherever he winds up committing. 

Padilla likely won't get playing time next year. Nate Stanley, Peyton Mansell and Spencer Petras would all have to get injured or perform poorly for Padilla to play. He's a good redshirt candidate.

We'll see about Miller. It's hard to crack any college offensive line rotation as a freshman — let alone Iowa's. That's what made Tristan Wirfs so special. 

Jacobs could compete for a snaps as a freshman in a position group that showed its share of weaknesses this season.

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

Any updates when the 4-star LB from Ohio makes his decision? — @sfan_b

Still no decision from Jacobs, who will either stick with Iowa or flip to his home-state Ohio State. A decision is expected soon, however, as Jacobs will enroll early.

If you're asking right now, I think he stays with Iowa.

But the longer this thing drags out, the worse the Hawkeyes' chances get.

Update on Iowa BB commits Patrick McCaffery and Joe Toussaint? — @Dial54

McCaffery has been tremendous in Iowa City West's 2-0 start.

He scored 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting and added four rebounds, three assists and a block in West's 72-61 win over Dowling Catholic. Then, last Saturday, in a showdown against Grand View Christian and its two Division I forwards in Issa Samake and Harouna Sissoko, McCaffery had 26 points and 13 rebounds in a 64-54 win.

(The Trojans bumped up to No. 2 in our latest Register Super 10 rankings, if you want to check those out.)

Toussaint scored 29 points in Cardinal Hayes' season-opening win against Archbishop Stepinac this past Friday. He told me he didn't play in Cardinal Hayes' second game, a 63-60 win over Chaminade last Saturday. 

Is Iowa beginning to uptick again in recruits based off the promise of new coordinator (Brian Ferentz)? Are they selling kids on “future opportunity/change?” — @JonnyHawkeye

I haven't seen a great deal of change since Brian Ferentz took over. And I'm not saying that in a negative way. Iowa is doing well with the offensive positions it's always done well with: linemen, tight ends, running backs and quarterbacks. It still struggles with receivers.

This 2019 class has been pretty strong on offense, overall.

Logan Lee and Josiah Miamen have a chance to be the next Noah Fant/T.J. Hockenson combination. Tyler Goodson, after playing four years in the Atlanta metro area, is as college-ready a running back as there is in the country. Padilla was good enough to earn a Georgia offer. Miller, Tyler Endres, Justin Britt and Noah Fenske make up a strong class of offensive linemen. And while Desmond Hutson isn't highly rated, there is always potential in a 6-4 receiver.

Forgive me for assuming, but I'd guess that when you ask if Iowa is trying to sell kids on future opportunity/change, you're referring to high-end receivers. The Hawkeyes don't have an offense that appeals to the David Bells or Oliver Martins of the country. They just don't.

Michigan wide receiver Oliver Martin celebrates his touchdown on a pass from quarterback Shea Patterson during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Rutgers, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, in Piscataway, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Could they one day?

That's kind of a chicken-or-the-egg situation, as I've written before. (And if you've read me write that before, feel free to skip these next few lines.)

Which came first: The chicken or the egg? And with the Hawkeyes, what needs to come first: an elite receiver taking a chance on Iowa's offense and producing, and thus attracting other elite talent? Or an under-the-radar receiver being so dang good that he forces the offense to change and helps attract elite receivers to Iowa in the future?

Your answer is as good as mine.

Will there be an Iowa (basketball) big board coming out? — @BenFlaherty21

Slated for later today! But if you want to see which 2020 targets Iowa's in-state rival is looking at, well gosh darn it, here ya go.

(Spoiler: They're looking at several of the same players.)

I can also give you this MAJOR spoiler: Oskaloosa's Xavier Foster will be No. 1 on Iowa's big board, too. 


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_.