Leistikow's 7 thoughts on Iowa football's 2023 recruiting class

Chad Leistikow
Des Moines Register

IOWA CITY − There’s nothing wrong with Iowa football fans being disappointed and frustrated that their team nearly had the highest-ranked prospect in program history but saw him slip away at the last moment.

Five-star offensive tackle Kadyn Proctor’s flip from Iowa, a school he had visited more than a dozen times over the course of three years, to powerhouse Alabama on Tuesday will sting. As will his quote from Wednesday's signing event that, "When I was committed (to Iowa), I felt like I was settling."

The Hawkeyes desperately need help on the offensive line after a shaky year up front. The lack of production at right tackle was especially costly in big-game losses (Purdue, Michigan, Ohio State) over the last two years. Proctor would have been a strong candidate to fill that role immediately and for years to come while potentially joining six previous Kirk Ferentz-era offensive linemen as first-round NFL Draft picks.

But as Proctor moves on to Alabama, Iowa football will move on. That doesn’t mean it won’t be annoying for fans if Proctor goes on to excel for the Crimson Tide as they participate in yet another College Football Playoff. In time, though, there will be a lot of success stories in the Hawkeyes’ recruiting Class of 2023. The Hawkeyes signed 21 prospects Wednesday (plus two Michigan transfers), the first day high school seniors could ink national letters of intent for the upcoming season. As of Wednesday afternoon, Iowa's class ranked No. 27 nationally per Rivals and No. 35 by 247Sports.

Here are some thoughts on the Hawkeyes’ freshly minted class.

Looking back at recent Iowa classes … here were some of the best players.

Iowa’s Class of 2021 ranked in the top 25 nationally. That’s rare air for the Hawkeyes. According to Rivals, they had six four-star prospects (compared to one this year). Of those four-stars, two have transferred out (wide receivers Keagan Johnson and Arland Bruce IV), two have never played due largely to injuries (left tackle David Davidkov and linebacker Justice Sullivan) and two have played extensively but are still developing (offensive linemen Connor Colby and Beau Stephens). The best player to date in that class? Three-star athlete Cooper DeJean, who was a first-team all-Big Ten defensive back as a sophomore.

Going back to 2020, Iowa’s top-rated prospect was quarterback Deuce Hogan. He never gained traction and became a walk-on transfer at Kentucky. Other 2020 class members include Deontae Craig, Mason Richman, Lukas Van Ness, Jay Higgins, Luke Lachey and Tory Taylor – all major contributors, most of them at a very high level for the Hawkeyes. Van Ness, Lachey and Taylor were in the bottom half of that class, rankings wise. That seems silly now.

Going back to 2019, Iowa’s top-rated prospect was linebacker Jestin Jacobs. He’s been solid for the Hawkeyes and transferred to Oregon after four years. Here were some of that year’s three-star prospects: Jack Campbell, who this month became the first Hawkeye to win the Butkus Trophy as the nation’s top linebacker; Sam LaPorta, a Mackey Award finalist and the all-time Iowa leader in tight-end receptions; Dane Belton, a fourth-round 2022 NFL Draft pick of the New York Giants; and Logan Lee, one of the stalwarts of Iowa’s defensive line who will be back next season. Wow. Good list.

The Class of 2022 is off to a good start. Four-star prospects Kaleb Johnson and Aaron Graves look like stars. It seems like five-star safety Xavier Nwankpa is on a promising track.

With Iowa, the results of a recruiting class come to fruition in two to four years. And the highest-rated guys usually don't become the best guys.

More Iowa football recruiting:Meet the players committed to Iowa football for national signing day

With that backdrop, let’s move on to the current crop.

Trevor Lauck becomes Iowa’s prized tackle recruit.

Indianapolis offensive tackle Trevor Lauck could become the gem of the Hawkeyes' 2023 class.

Maybe he will be more appreciated in time. Lauck would have been an afterthought if Proctor had stayed aboard, but he joins the program as the highest-rated prospect in Iowa’s 2023 class. The Indianapolis product measures 6-foot-5, 295 pounds and had offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Cincinnati. Lauck wound up committing June 26, four days before Proctor’s initial Iowa commitment − an afterthought then, too.

Lauck and fellow Iowa signee and Indianapolis-area offensive lineman Leighton Jones (6-2, 275) participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in Frisco, Texas, last weekend. That usually bodes well for future success as a Hawkeye.

More:Kadyn Proctor explains commitment flip from Iowa to Alabama: 'I felt like I was settling'

The Hawkeyes got their (high school and transfer) quarterbacks.

Every high school class has one quarterback, and Iowa zeroed in on New Jersey’s Marco Lainez and got his commitment more than a year ago. The Hawkeyes had developed strong ties with Tony Racioppi, an East Coast quarterbacks guru who worked with Hawkeyes Nate Stanley and Spencer Petras, to help secure Lainez. Racioppi is the offensive coordinator at the Hun School in Princeton, N.J.

Per Racioppi, Iowa is getting a dual-threat quarterback in Lainez who is accurate (80% passer last season), played in a pro-style system and has top-shelf leadership skills and intangibles. Lainez (6-3, 230) won his final 19 games as a high school starter and threw for 2,182 yards and rushed for 573 while totaling 28 touchdowns in nine games as a senior.

Lainez cannot arrive until June, but the timing should be good for him to sit behind Michigan transfer Cade McNamara for two seasons and then be primed for a shot at the starting role. Lainez can bring that long-awaited dual-threat element at Iowa with an ability to extend plays at the quarterback position. And yes, McNamara and Michigan tight end Erick All Jr. signed with the Hawkeyes on Wednesday. (Those are huge gets, but the portal work continues.)

More from Leistikow:Will Cade McNamara become Iowa's answer to offensive woes?

Iowa City High’s Ben Kueter is wildly intriguing.

Ben Kueter was a top-shelf tight end and linebacker for Iowa City High this past season but he's an even better wrestler, having won an age-group world championship at 97 kilograms (213 pounds) in August.

Kueter is more renowned for his prowess on the mat, as the nation’s No. 1 pound-for-pound wrestling prospect in the Class of 2023. The question will be how he can straddle both physically demanding sports. And if he ultimately chooses one or the other, which will it be? Kueter is a true game-wrecking linebacker who has a chance to develop into a nasty edge rusher. According to Rivals, he’s the second-highest rated member of the class (behind Lauck).

It’ll be fascinating to see how Kueter’s college career unfolds. He's tabbed to be a heavyweight in Tom Brands' wrestling room, so adding football weight shouldn't be an issue.

More:Iowa football adds versatile athlete previously committed to Purdue

Has Iowa quietly landed another northwest Iowa gem?

He’s lower-rated by the recruiting services, but that’s usually how it goes in the far reaches of Iowa near the South Dakota border. Zach Lutmer (6-0, 195), a safety from Rock Rapids, has the pedigree of something special. A multi-sport athlete, Lutmer led Central Lyon/George-Little Rock as a quarterback to a Class 2A state championship against Williamsburg and 2024 Hawkeye linebacker commit Derek Weisskopf.

Speaking of western Iowa, Aidan Hall of Harlan led his team to back-to-back Class 3A titles. Hall (6-1, 210) will arrive as an athlete but likely will be molded by defensive coordinator Phil Parker and linebackers coach Seth Wallace. These aren’t try-hard, small-town Iowa guys … they’re legit big-time athletes. It would be a mistake to bet against either one of them.

More:Iowa football adds Illinois defensive back Teegan Davis to 2023 class

Who might be ready to contribute early?

Junior-college defensive tackle Anterio Thompson (6-3, 290) springs off the page. Iowa will need some inside help to offset the departure of Noah Shannon and really just needs to find one solid player with Logan Lee, Yahya Black and Graves returning to fill out its rotation in 2023. Thompson, a former Dubuque Hempstead prep, looks like a ready-made prospect.

And then obviously Iowa needs wide-receiver help in a big way after the losses of Bruce and Johnson in the transfer portal on top of an already underachieving position group. Iowa signed three wide receivers in Alex Mota (6-1, 175) of Marion, Jarriett Buie (6-3, 185) of Tampa and Dayton Howard (6-4, 190) of Kansas City. Howard has good size and speed and could turn out to be a steal.

Also, it’ll be worth tracking Terrell Washington Jr., a Tuesday commitment who comes aboard from Wylie, Texas. A one-time Purdue commitment, Washington (5-11, 195) was sold on Iowa becoming a more explosive offense. While he may start at running back, he becomes a replacement for the Bruce and Tyrone Tracy Jr. hybrid role that Iowa’s offensive coaches have yet to fully master.

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 28 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.

More from Leistikow:Cade McNamara commitment signals change on offense, Iowa football's growing NIL strength

Iowa's 2023 recruiting class

  • Erick All Jr., TE, 6-5, 250, Fairfield, Ohio (Michigan transfer)
  • Maddux Borcherding-Johnson, DT, 6-3, 285, Norwalk
  • Chase Brackney, DE, 6-4, 270, Englewood, Colo.
  • Jarriett Buie, WR, 6-3, 185, Tampa, Fla.
  • Teegan Davis, DB, 6-2, 175, Princeton, Ill.
  • Aidan Hall, ATH, 6-1, 210, Harlan
  • Dayton Howard, WR, 6-4, 190, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Leighton Jones, OL, 6-2, 275, Brownsburg, Ind.
  • Ben Kueter, LB, 6-4, 225, Iowa City
  • Marco Lainez, QB, 6-3, 230, Princeton, N.J.
  • Trevor Lauck, OL, 6-5, 295, Indianapolis
  • Cannon Leonard, OL, 6-8, 270, Gilman, Ill.
  • Zach Lutmer, DB, 6-0, 195, Rock Rapids
  • Cade McNamara, QB, 6-1, 215, Reno, Nev. (Michigan transfer)
  • Kenneth Merrieweather, DE, 6-4, 240, Detroit
  • Alex Mota, WR, 6-1, 175, Marion
  • Kamari Moulton, RB, 5-11, 185, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  • John Nestor, DB, 6-0, 190, Chicago
  • Zach Ortwerth, TE, 6-4, 225, St. Louis, Mo.
  • Kade Pieper, OL, 6-3, 250, Norfolk, Neb.
  • Kahlil Tate, DB, 6-1, 185, Chicago
  • Anterio Thompson, DT, 6-3, 290, Dubuque (Iowa Western CC)
  • Terrell Washington Jr., RB, 5-11, 195, Wylie, Texas
  • COMMITTED WALK-ONS:
  • Ryan Kuennen, DL, 6-3, 240, West Des Moines Valley
  • C.J. Leonard, WR, 6-2, 175, Prairie Village, Kan.
  • Watts McBride, DB, 6-1, 180, Cedar Rapids Washington
  • Aidan McDermott, WR, 6-2, 180, Cedar Rapids Xavier
  • Luke Pollack, WR, 6-3, 190, Deerfield, Ill.
  • Jalyn Thompson, TE, 6-3, 235, Dowling Catholic
  • Cael Winter, OL, 6-3, 260, Waukee Northwest