National Signing Day storylines to watch
At the time Monday when he was scheduled to end all suspense surrounding his college decision, Alaric Jackson added two more days of drama.
The three-star offensive tackle prospect from Detroit whittled his list of finalists to Iowa, Iowa State and Nebraska, and most recruiting gurus tabbed the Hawkeyes as the team to beat.
“Everything was leaning towards Iowa,” said Allen Trieu, a Michigan-based Midwest recruiting analyst for Scout.com.
But Jackson’s decision took a twist hours before his scheduled announcement when Michigan, in the wake of losing blue chip offensive line commit Devery Hamilton to Stanford, came in with an 11th-hour offer for Jackson.
Rather than announcing his commitment Monday, Jackson took to Twitter to explain his delay.
“Due to some difficulties going on in this process of recruiting, I will be postponing my commitment to February 3rd, 2016 on signing day,” Jackson tweeted.
For weeks, Jackson has been earmarked as a leading contender to fill the last scholarship spot in Iowa’s 2016 class. Iowa State made a late pitch and brought the 6-foot-7, 285-pound tackle prospect to Ames for a visit last month. Nebraska had been near the top of Jackson’s list for weeks.
Now there’s Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines as a late entrant to the race.
“(Jackson) wanted to wait to see what they had to say,” Trieu said. “I don’t think it’s a done deal that he’s going to go to Michigan. I think he just delayed so he could hear them out and take a look. Right now he’s going to announce on signing day morning and it’s going to be Michigan or Iowa.”
Trieu said the Hawkeyes have a couple things working in their favor. For one, Jackson recently shunned a couple schools that came after him late in favor of programs that had long-standing relationships with him.
“The fact that (the Michigan offer) came (Monday) means he can’t visit, they can’t visit him and they hadn’t really even been recruiting him, so I don’t even know that he’s even been to Michigan for any kind of visit — game visit, camp, junior day, anything,” Trieu said. “I would have a hard time seeing him pick them without that, but it sounds like they do have his ear right now.”
DOES IOWA HAVE A BACKUP PLAN?
The Hawkeyes won’t need one if Jackson takes their offer and Iowa’s other 24 commits follow through with signed letters of intent.
But what happens if Jackson opts for Michigan and Iowa suddenly has a scholarship to spend?
The Hawkeyes could upgrade Pella star Noah Clayberg’s grayshirt offer and allow him to join the team when training camp begins rather than next January. Iowa has a big enough resume with offensive linemen that it seems reasonable to think the Hawkeyes could go shopping on signing day and find an alternative plan to fill the spot set aside for Jackson.
HOW HIGH WILL IOWA STATE CLIMB?
Given the circumstances he faced two months ago when he became Iowa State’s head coach, Matt Campbell has built quite a recruiting class in short order.
The Cyclones have collected 19 new commitments to go with five holdovers from the group assembled by former Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads and his staff.
As of 3 p.m. on Tuesday, the Cyclones were 54th in the Rivals.com recruiting standings. If they hold on to that spot, it would mark their second-best finish since 2005. The 2011 class, which included receiver Quenton Bundrage and tight end Ernst Brun, finished 51st in the Rivals rankings.
The Cyclones cracked the Rivals top 50 for three straight seasons under coach Dan McCarney — Iowa State finished 31st in 2002, 47th in 2003 and 48th in 2004 — but the Cyclones have ranked anywhere from 51st to 88th since then.
Iowa State sat in 47th on the Scout.com team rankings as of Tuesday afternoon, which would be the network’s highest rating for the school.
In the last three weeks, the Cyclones have added two players given four-star ratings by Scout — offensive lineman Sean Foster and receiver Deshaunte Jones — and tight end Chase Allen, who picked Iowa State over Michigan and Nebraska.
“They’ve done an outstanding job, as good as you could possibly hope for with a new staff taking over there,” Trieu said. “I think I said (in early January) that they’ve exceeded expectations. They’ve blown expectations away now that you add in the guys who have committed since then.”