Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz speaks after the final spring practice of 2018, noting (as he always does) the Hawkeyes are hardly "game ready."
IOWA CITY, Ia. — If anyone was wondering whether Iowa would host official visitors this spring, you got your answer: Tyler Goodson, a three-star running back out of Gwinnett, Georgia, was on hand for Iowa's open practice Friday night as part of an official visit.
"That's probably one more (official visit) than we intended a month ago or two months ago," Kirk Ferentz laughed after the practice concluded.
Like every school in the country, Iowa is navigating through uncharted waters in recruiting right now. Because, for the first time, juniors are allowed to take official visits during the spring. Before, they could only do so as seniors.
Ferentz initially appeared hesitant to host official visits during the spring. At his Feb. 7 signing day press conference, he indicated he would rather continue hosting one big weekend of official visitors closer to the early signing period in December.
But now, as the 2019 cycle has progressed, it seems Iowa's head coach and his staff are becoming more open to the idea of officials in spring. Goodson might not be the only one.
"We still want to do it in a controlled way," Ferentz said. "We would not — we'd prefer, at least I would prefer — that we do it in a way that maximizes manpower, if you will. A focus on one weekend, maybe two."
Prospects are still permitted to take only five official visits, and schools are allowed to offer 56 per year.
Some colleges, such as Notre Dame, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Penn State, have already hosted several officials.
Other schools, such as Iowa, are slowly dipping their toes into these new spring waters — gauging how much they want to alter a recruiting style that has worked for them for so long.
Traditionally, the Hawkeyes would host most of their official visitors during one weekend close to the signing period. With the new early signing period in December, that official visit weekend fell in December this year. Before that, when the only signing period was in February, the Hawkeyes would host their official visitors in January. (They would occasionally host individuals or small groups for late additions, like Jayden McDonald, or for prospects who live far away, like Goodson.)
Iowa's logic was simple: Let's use our visits on kids who are just weeks from signing with us — not kids who are still fully interested in other schools, too. For the most part, Iowa used the official visit more as a final confirmation of a prospect's commitment, rather than as a recruiting tool.
But this new era of spring visits could change things.
Juniors who want to make a commitment can now do so with five official visits to help them sift through options. It makes sense that they'd want that.
Unofficial visits are a great way for players and schools to get to know each other and build up relationships over a limited amount of time. There's a lot more to an official one, though.
Prospects can spend 48 hours on campus with all expenses paid. They can bond with current players and fellow recruits, and often participate in a player-led workout. They can test out the dorms and the on-campus food, and sit in on a few classes. They can preview what life would be like as a student-athlete at that school.
"My plans are to commit before the season, so my family and I are getting my (official) visit in before I make my decisions," Goodson told the Register on Monday.
Goodson isn't Iowa's only junior target who wants to choose a school before he's a senior.
Four-star Illinois running back Jirehl Brock, potentially Iowa's No. 1 2019 target, was at the open practice as an unofficial visitor. He has said he wants to pick a school before the season, and that he's specifically targeting a late summer decision.
Three-star wide Kansas City receiver Desmond Hutson, who holds an Iowa offer plus Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa State interest, has also said he wants to commit late this summer.
Three-star in-state linebacker and Hawkeye target Cameron Baker told the Register he's in no rush to make a decision. Same with three-star in-state defensive end and Iowa target Mosai Newsom, who told the Register he might even wait until fall of his senior year to make a choice.
If the Hawkeyes were to host more spring official visitors, Ferentz said he'd want to bring the prospects in during one or two big weekends. The more time spent hosting targets on campus, the less time coaches can be out on the recruiting trail.
"Not one (visit) here, here and here, and just wear everybody out, because that can happen real fast," Ferentz said. "Plus, we get nothing else done when that happens.
"We're going to keep a very open mind."
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_.