Hawkeye recruiting mailbag: Which in-state 2020 WRs are on Iowa's radar?
There was no shortage of questions this week, so if I didn't get to your question in this mailbag, I'll try to get to it over the coming weeks. Thank you so much, as always, for coming up with awesome, new questions every seven days. These mailbags would be impossible without you.
All right, enough nice talk.
Let's start this mailbag with a discussion of Iowa's Feb. 6 signing day, and what comes next for the Hawkeyes.
Heading into the holidays, Iowa was looking for a defensive back, a defensive lineman and other potential best-available options. Although, that was before Anthony Nelson declared for the NFL draft, and also before fellow defensive linemen Garret Jansen and Brandon Simon announced their intent to transfer.
The Hawkeyes got their defensive back in Chicago three-star cornerback Jermari Harris. They landed a defensive end on signing day in Florida three-star Taajhir McCall, who picked Iowa over Army and Navy. They also used a scholarship on Arizona State graduate punter Michael Sleep-Dalton, who will likely compete for the starting job.
But are they done in 2019? Especially considering their losses on the defensive line?
Probably not. Iowa will likely keep a presence in the junior college and graduate transfer market to try to bolster the defensive line. There's still plenty of time. Remember: Mekhi Sargent didn't commit to Iowa until June of last year. Iowa coaches saw Iowa Western defensive tackle Elijah James in January. And although he hasn't had much contact with the Hawkeyes, I was told on Tuesday that James could become more of a focus for Iowa in the spring. There are other names — such as Central Michigan graduate transfer defensive end Mike Danna — who have been tied to the Hawkeyes, too.
With all that said, though, Iowa's recruitment almost entirely turns to the 2020 and 2021 classes now that the second signing day has come and gone.
Are there any in-state receivers the Hawks are pursuing? — @hawkeyefano
Iowa has not offered any in-state receivers at this point, but it's keeping its eye on several. Let's just look at 2020.
Fort Dodge product Tysen Kershaw looks like the top receiver in the junior class. He's got the frame you'd want (6-foot-3, 185 pounds) and the type of production you'd want (71 catches for 1,206 yards and 12 touchdowns last year) from a blossoming FCS, potential FBS prospect. Those 1,206 yards were good enough for third in Iowa and a spot on our All-Iowa Elite Team.
Also a basketball star at Fort Dodge, Kershaw picked up offers from Northern Iowa and South Dakota in January. He told me Iowa and Iowa State have been in regular contact. Specifically, he hears from Tyson Veidt and Derek Hoodjer with the Cyclones, and Kelton Copeland and Reese Morgan with the Hawkeyes. Both schools have also been in to see him recently, and he plans to attend junior days at both schools.
Algona product Wyatt Wegener is another name to watch. The 6-3, 195-pounder will attend Iowa's Feb. 16 junior day, and he told me Iowa's LeVar Woods has been in contact with his head coach. Wegener, who piled up 39 catches for 979 yards and 12 scores last year, said he's also receiving interest from Nebraska, Northern Iowa, Western Illinois, South Dakota State, South Dakota and North Dakota State.
Jace Andregg, who just transferred to Solon, made waves as a sophomore last spring when he was the top-rated athlete at The Opening's Midwest regional. Andregg, who checks in at 6-3 and 185, played his first three seasons in a run-heavy scheme at Cedar Rapids Prairie and didn't get many opportunities to catch passes or develop receiver-specific skills. He recently picked up his first offer from South Dakota State. He told me he's heard from them, South Dakota, Air Force, Wyoming and Princeton lately. He also just picked up an Iowa junior day invitation on Wednesday, and Iowa State has him on its radar, too.
Lewis Central product Josh Simmons is a 2019 recruit committed to Iowa Western, but he told me the Hawkeyes said they might look his way after his first season with the Reivers. At 6 feet and 200 pounds, Simmons was one of TCU signee Max Duggan's favorite targets, catching 57 passes for 1,117 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior.
West Sioux product Kade Lynott could be a guy to keep an eye on if he has a big senior season. The 6-1, 195-pounder was highly productive as a junior, racking up a state-best 1,567 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns on 81 catches. He told me he recently picked up a junior day invitation from South Dakota State.
Solon product A.J. Coons is another potential late-blooming prospect. The 6-4, 180-pound younger brother of former Iowa tight end Jacob Coons, A.J. caught 48 passes for 815 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior. He's also a high-level basketball player, and he showcases his athleticism as a good deep threat in football. He told me he's heard from South Dakota State, Wyoming and Princeton recently.
Have you heard anything new about Daviyon Nixon? — @crandall_tyson
During a brief text conversation this week, Daviyon's dad, Rodney Nixon, told me schools from the SEC, ACC and Big Ten have expressed interest since his son entered the NCAA transfer portal in mid-January. He said FCS and junior college programs have reached out, as well.
On Tuesday, Daviyon told me he didn't have any updates regarding his future.
It sounds like the 6-3, 305-pound defensive tackle is still weighing his options.
During his Signing Day press conference, Kirk Ferentz said "we're still hoping (Nixon) will be on our football team."
Any idea on when Xavier Foster will announce his commitment? — @CjNascar6767
I would not expect a decision anytime soon. For a while, Foster has suggested he'll wait until his senior year to commit. And a few days ago, I was told that he'll at least finish summer AAU ball with Pure Prep Academy before making a choice.
Of course, things change in recruiting all the time. But that's the latest I've heard.
And it makes sense to play out the spring and summer. Iowa and Iowa State are the two schools most on Foster right now, and that's not going to change — no matter how late into the summer or fall the five-star, 7-footer wants to extend this.
USC is involved, especially since hosting Foster for an official visit in early December. UCLA is also still in the picture. It was a bit unclear if the Bruins would continue recruiting Foster after Steve Alford was fired, but most of the same staff is in place and they are still in contact with the Fosters.
Foster holds a Kansas offer, although the Jayhawks haven't been as involved as Iowa, Iowa State, USC or UCLA. Baylor and Creighton are in the picture, too.
In addition to all that, Foster has had interest from Duke and Kentucky since last AAU season, and schools such as Michigan and Ohio State have nibbled in the past, as well.
With a recruiting landscape like that, it makes a lot of sense to play things out in the spring and summer, see if any new schools offer or bump up their interest, and then make a decision from there. Foster is the type of prospect that doesn't need to feel rushed. Schools are going to be more patient with a five-star, top-25 guy than your average prospect.
But, if the kid wakes up one morning and decides he wants to end his recruitment and be a Cyclone or a Hawkeye, you can't fault him for that, either.
How early do you start looking at young football talent? — Brook
I've gotten some form of this question many times over the past couple years, both for football and basketball. And it's a good question.
As a general rule, I wouldn't start seriously looking at young football talent until high school. Middle school ball is just so different from varsity competition. For potential Division I-level kids, I'm interested in how they fare against guys who are one, two, three years older than them. Plus, we can't know for certain how a prospect's body is going to develop through their high school years. "Jimmy" could have an early growth spurt and check in a 6-1 and 180 pounds as an eighth-grader, and he might dominate middle school opponents.
But what if he stops growing? What if he doesn't have the type of body that can add weight while maintaining speed and athleticism?
That's not to say seventh- and eighth-grade performance is meaningless. If I hear about an impressive middle-schooler, he'll go on a "young talent to keep an eye on" list in my head. But I, and I think most of the recruiting community, will hold off on writing or reporting much until the player plays in high school. There's just a lot that goes into a prospect's recruiting stock. It's hard to ever be 100 percent certain about a kid. But there's a little less gray area in high school.
A good example: Clear Creek Amana 2021 defensive end T.J. Bollers was on my radar when he was in middle school. His strength coach, JC Moreau, showed me his film and told stories of how he looked like a man among boys on the football field. And, if you've seen Bollers' middle-school games, you know Moreau wasn't exaggerating.
I wanted to wait until watching Bollers play a high school game to write a story about him, though. And, when I finally did see him when the Clippers traveled to West Delaware in late September 2017, the phenom proved to be legit.
Now, he's the youngest-ever Iowa Eight member for football, and he's been one of the major talents the Register has written about the past couple years.
Who are Iowa’s 2020 basketball targets aside from Xavier Foster? — @GregoryArens
Hey Greg, thanks for the question. I'm going to direct you to the first edition of the Iowa 2020 big board I put out in December. That'll give you a good look at some of the top targets the Hawkeyes have their eyes on right now.
I'll release a second edition of the big board after the high school basketball season — some time around when the AAU season pick up in the spring.
But, yes, major spoiler: Foster is No. 1 on the board.
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_.