Iowa football director of recruiting Tyler Barnes discusses Hawkeyes' outlook ahead of signing day
IOWA CITY — December 15, the initial signing date for Division I football, is a little more than a month away, and college programs are closer to determining what their 2022 rosters will look like.
Iowa director of recruiting Tyler Barnes is looking forward to knowing who will join the Hawkeyes for next season. The so-called experts aren't bullish on Iowa's recruiting class – No. 51 nationally and No. 13 in the Big Ten – but Barnes said he's feeling good about it.
“(We’re) sitting at 11 commitments right now, you know, feel good about where we’re at," Barnes said Wednesday. “We’ve got an extremely small senior class, 13 scholarship seniors on our roster this year. So we’re expecting probably one of the smallest signing classes in coach (Kirk) Ferentz’s tenure here.”
Iowa has 11 hard commitments, highlighted by four-star defensive lineman Aaron Graves out of Southeast Valley. As the window for 2022 recruits closes, Barnes said the Hawkeyes are settling on a final number between 16 and 18 for this year’s senior class.
“We’re still looking at a couple of (cornerbacks), maybe three,” Barnes said. “It’s certainly a huge need. We didn’t take one in the last class, we don’t have one committed in this class and (we) lose a couple of guys this year. So that’s probably the most pressing need left in the ’22 class.”
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Barnes also said he’s looking for potential offensive and defensive linemen, a linebacker or two and whatever “best available” players are remaining.
Barnes shared that the Hawkeyes have offered five or six players in the last month, high schoolers who weren’t previously on his radar but have had “huge” senior years. While this isn’t typical for Iowa, Barnes pointed to the success of current players who were recruited later in their high school career.
“You look back just through the history of some of our better football players here, even some of the guys that are on the team right now — Seth Benson, Riley Moss, Kaevon Merriweather,” Barnes said. “All those guys were late takes, guys that, really, senior film was huge on those guys.”
There could be a variety of reasons why they weren’t recruited sooner, from injuries to who else was on their high school roster. Barnes said Iowa had five or six open spots to work with at the beginning of the season, and that allowed late bloomers to emerge for Iowa.
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Barnes acknowledged there’s a lot of fluidity in terms of which recruits are announcing their decision soon and which Hawkeye players may stick around for another season. He said that the COVID-19 pandemic still impacts how teams are shaped, from current players receiving an extra year of eligibility to recruits waiting for on-campus visits before making their decisions.
The Hawkeyes hosted one of the top recruiting visits of the year when then-undefeated Penn State came to Iowa City on Oct. 9. Some of the biggest names in the nation were in attendance, including home-state prospects Xavier Nwankpa and Kadyn Proctor from Southeast Polk. They, along with dozens of other recruits, watched Iowa come from behind to beat the Nittany Lions, 23-20.
But in the weeks since, Iowa’s perfect season has been tarnished by back-to-back losses against Purdue and Wisconsin. Barnes doesn’t think those games have changed the Hawkeyes’ recruiting outlook, and he’s confident that the program’s consistency through the past few seasons is enough to keep recruits from swaying.
“It’s not like we’ve lost anybody,” Barnes said. “I know it’s tough. We haven’t won a football game in three weeks. It seems like forever, you know, you have two losses and a bye week built in there. But as a point to our program’s success … you look over the last three years, there’s seven teams in the country and Power Five that have a better winning percentage than us.”
Barnes is confident that recruits aren’t going to dump a team like Iowa because of one or two losses, and that the Hawkeyes’ continued success is a powerful recruiting tool. As for reassuring players that Iowa is still a good option, he said it’s more important to get players on campus, around the facilities and accustomed to the players and coaches.
“We haven’t seen anything drop off by any means since the Penn State game. Like I said, we feel good about the remaining board we have," Barnes said. "We’re going to keep pushing these guys and see where it ends up.”
Alyssa Hertel is a college sports recruiting reporter for the Des Moines Register. Contact Alyssa at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AlyssaHertel.