Bain: Thoughts on Iowa football's 2019 class, recruiting moving forward
Iowa signed 20 recruits to its 2019 class on the first day of the early signing period. According to 247Sports, its class ranks No. 38 in the country and No. 9 in the Big Ten Conference.
Here are some thoughts on Iowa's 2019 group, as well as the Hawkeyes recruiting moving forward.
First, an overview
This was a very Iowa class. It did well with positions it normally does well with. The Hawkeyes’ quartet of offensive linemen jumps off the page, especially the pair of in-state studs in Ezra Miller and Tyler Endres. Tyler Goodson is as college-ready as any high school running back you'll find. Logan Lee and Josiah Miamen compare a whole lot to T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant. Jack Campbell and Jestin Jacobs are rock-solid linebacker recruits, and we’ll see how Yahweh Jeudy mixes in.
On the flip side, Iowa struggled with the position it normally struggles to attract: receiver. It swung and missed on high-level targets, including a close miss on the elite David Bell. Defensive end is also a bit of an unknown. Van Meter product Chris Reames will need time with strength coach Chris Doyle before he’s game-ready. Iowa was Jake Karchinski’s first and only Power Five offer when he committed in May.
Gem of the class
Miller is Iowa’s highest-rated recruit, but Jacobs is this class’ crown jewel. First, he was recently bumped up to four stars and is one of the fastest-rising recruits in the country. Second, he is from Ohio — an hour from Ohio State — and the Hawkeyes held off the Buckeyes’ late effort to land him. It was a statement recruiting win. You can bet it was extra sweet when Kirk Ferentz received Jacobs’ National Letter of Intent on Wednesday.
It’s Campbell. And I still can’t believe he’s under-the-radar.
Why online recruiting services rank him as low as they do, I don't know. He's the No. 1,111 recruit in the nation, according to the 247Sports composite. That's considerably off. I’d imagine it’s because the kid plays football in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and he never really went to elite camps or played in front of recruiting service evaluators. I’ve got him No. 4 in our 2019 in-state ranking. If Campbell had grown up in Texas, Georgia, Florida, California or any other powerhouse state, Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota and Northern Iowa wouldn’t have been his only offers. I promise you that.
Campbell is a back-to-back All-Iowa Elite Team member and an All-Iowa Football Player of the Year finalist this year for a reason: Hands down, he is the best tackler in the state. He’s got an uncanny nose for the ball, and he can cover ground like nobody’s business.
Most intriguing signee?
I'll cheat here and say two: safety recruits Dane Belton and Sebastian Castro. And those guys are intriguing because, although they may still wind up at safety, it's sounding like Iowa is recruiting them for the slot cornerback position that Amani Hooker plays.
Both certainly fit the bill. Castro, a three-star prospect out of Illinois, is a hard hitter — one of the hardest in the Midwest. Belton, a three-star prospect out of Florida, is a heck of an athlete who did a little of everything for his high school.
Whether these guys wind up playing the slot corner, we'll see. But the comparisons to Hooker certainly pique my interest.
What's left in 2019?
Iowa is still looking for another defensive lineman. Keep an eye on New Jersey three-star defensive end Prince Okituama, who is planning a January official visit to Iowa City.
Cornerback is another position to watch. Chicago product Jermari Harris is a name to keep an eye on moving forward.
Then, with a third scholarship, Iowa recruiting director Tyler Barnes told the Register they'll be looking to add the best available option. In the days before signing day, that option was Cedar Falls three-star receiver Logan Wolf. He wound up sticking with his pledge to Northern Iowa.
More/different needs could emerge as spring ball progresses, but that's what to watch right now.
So ... what happened at running back?
I asked Barnes about that. And give him credit: He was transparent and forthcoming about the whole process.
In case folks missed it: After landing Goodson last July, Iowa decided it wanted just one 2019 running back and shut down its recruiting at that position — which closed the doors on some talented guys, such as four-star Iowa State signee Jirehl Brock.
Barnes said that, after Kyshaun Bryan transferred and coaches saw how injuries affected this year's trio of running backs, the staff re-evaluated things and chose to add a second running back, after all.
You can read his full quote (and our whole conversation) Thursday online, but here's part of what Barnes said regarding the running back situation:
"We thought it was best to go out and find another running back. And try to find the right guy," he said. "We weren’t just going to take a running back. We wanted to find the right guy. And if we couldn’t find the right guy, we would’ve moved it forward into next year."
Of course, Iowa wound up landing Alabama three-star Shadrick Byrd, who picked the Hawkeyes over Troy. Barnes said Byrd was always on Iowa's board, and they're excited to get him on campus in January.
When Iowa fans look back at 2019 recruitment, the evolution of Iowa's needs at running back will be a talking point.
Pipeline to watch
The South. Specifically, Alabama and Georgia — which is weird to say for a team who focuses mainly on the Midwest for recruiting.
But when you've got Derrick Foster, an Alabama native with a great reputation in his home state and the surrounding region, you've got to make additional efforts to at least create a mini-pipeline.
And that's what Iowa is doing.
It has landed two recruits from Georgia (Jayden McDonald and Tyler Goodson) and one from Alabama (Byrd) since Foster joined the staff last winter.
The stigma with Alabama kids is that, if Nick Saban or Auburn hasn't offered them, they aren't worth looking at. And that is so far from the truth. Alabama is right up there with Georgia, Texas, California and Florida in terms of talent. The Hawkeyes could do very well by getting in with overlooked kids who would normally have slipped through the cracks to places like Troy or South Alabama.
Early 2020 names to watch
Iowa already has three 2020 recruits in three-star Texas quarterback Deuce Hogan, three-star Wisconsin defensive end Michael Lois and three-star Illinois defensive end Isaiah Bruce.
Inside Iowa, the Hawkeyes are going hard after three-star Southeast Polk (although maybe not a Ram for long) running back Gavin Williams, three-star Cedar Rapids Xavier offensive lineman Josh Volk, three-star Carroll Kuemper defensive end Blaise Gunnerson and three-star Lewis Central defensive lineman Logan Jones.
Outside Iowa, the Hawkeyes sit well with Kansas City (and Hutson's high school teammate) D'Vontae Key, three-star Illinois offensive lineman Tyler Elsbury and three-star Wisconsin defensive end Logan Wilson, among others.
More thoughts on Iowa's in-state presence ...
In our 2019 in-state recruiting rankings, Iowa landed Nos. 2, 3 and 4 (Ezra Miller, Tyler Endres and Jack Campbell), Nos. 8 and 9 (Noah Fenske and Chris Reames) and No. 14 Nick DeJong as a preferred walk-on.
On paper, the Hawkeyes beat the Cyclones, who landed Nos. 6, 7 and 11 in Darien Porter, Jake Remsburg and Coal Flansburg.
Iowa State got a good start in 2020 by landing three-star Greene County offensive tackle Tyler Miller, who I've got at No. 5 in our in-state 2020 rankings, and Central Decatur linebacker Cole Pedersen, who's No. 6. Iowa didn't offer Miller by the time he committed to the Cyclones, but the Hawkeyes have lots of steps in their evaluation process, and I think they would have eventually offered.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.