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Recruiting mailbag: If Iowa misses on Thomas Fidone, who's the next tight end target?

Matthew Bain
Des Moines Register

Welcome, once again, to the recruiting mailbag.

As always, feel free to send me questions over Twitter or to mbain@dmreg.com. I know I do the call-out for questions on Twitter, but I'm happy to take questions at any time.

Let's get to this week's answers:

Where do the Hawkeyes stand with (Thomas) Fidone? Do we have other options if we miss out on him after missing out on (Gunnar) Helm? — @IowaWins

It feels like Iowa football fans shouldn't hold their breath for four-star tight end Thomas Fidone, the Lewis Central product who's been considering the Hawkeyes alongside the likes of Nebraska, LSU, Michigan, Penn State, Notre Dame, Texas and Alabama.

Nebraska is the favorite to land the 6-foot-5 prospect, who attends high school just an hour from Lincoln and grew up a Huskers fan.

After Fidone, the first name that comes to my mind would be Tyler Moore, the Johnston tight end currently committed to Iowa State. A 6-5 target who plays like a big receiver, Moore picked the Cyclones over Group of Five and FCS offers in April. Since then, as his film has made its rounds in this pandemic-affected recruiting cycle, he has added a second Power Five offer from Arizona State. Iowa has also picked up its interest.

Johnston junior wide receiver Tyler Moore (82) breaks free  as the No. 9 Johnston Dragons battle against the Ankeny Hawks in the first half of play during the Class 4A game on Friday, September 6, 2019 at Ankeny Stadium.

I talked with Moore about the Hawkeyes' interest this week, and he said Iowa coaches are keeping in touch and saying they hope to be able to scout him this season.

"They are keeping me updated on what they are doing," Moore told me, "and then also how they just want to continue talking to be able to come see me in the fall."

This bizarre recruiting era, in which college coaches can't watch any prospects in person and may not be able to this fall, could make it more likely a college looks at an in-state prospect — where relationships with his school are already in place and it's just easier, overall, to get information.

More importantly: It's looking like Iowa will actually have a fall high school football season, which is not the case in every state. So, if Iowa wants to see more reps from tight ends to determine who to offer, it will get to see Moore.

Of course, there's one problem for the Hawkeyes: Moore is committed to Iowa State, which, thanks to Charlie Kolar's success, has increased its appeal at tight end. And Moore was eager to become a Cyclone, committing to Matt Campbell just a few days after receiving his offer in April.

It's not uncommon for the Hawkeyes to still recruit committed prospects, including those committed to their in-state rival. Roland-Story 2021 linebacker Zach Twedt decommitted from Iowa State and switched to Iowa, although he had given his verbal pledge to the Cyclones very early in his high school career.

What are the odds (Tyler) Harris and (Blake) Hinson get waivers for this year? — @bjbell60

I was told that, as of Thursday, Iowa State hadn't heard anything about whether transfers Tyler Harris and Blake Hinson will get waivers for immediate eligibility.

If I had to guess, I'd say Hinson is more likely than Harris. Although sometimes it feels random, the NCAA has usually been more lenient when players are either trying to get closer to home (and have a reason to be closer to home) or if they left their previous school for negative reasons out of their control.

Hinson told the Dayton Beach News-Journal in June that the Confederate symbol on Mississippi's state flag factored into him wanting to leave Ole Miss.

Ole Miss forward Blake Hinson (0) drives against Southeastern Louisiana during game action held Saturday December 21st at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson, MS. (Bob Smith-Special to the Clarion Ledger)

"I'm proud not to represent that flag anymore and to not be associated with anything representing the Confederacy," Hinson told the Florida newspaper.

We don't know all the details of Harris' situation, but, at face value, it doesn't seem as likely to earn immediate eligibility. He's actually moving farther from home to play in Ames. Memphis assistant coach Mike Miller did leave after last season, though. So, if he was a significant factor in why Harris wanted to play at Memphis, maybe that could be enough to sway the NCAA.

How realistic is Hunter Sallis landing at ISU? — @bjbell60

In the end, I'd guess Iowa State's chances with Omaha five-star combo guard Hunter Sallis depend in large part on what he deems most important.

Is it prestige and a chance at a national title? Then, options such as Gonzaga, Kansas and North Carolina (or Kentucky and Duke if they get involved) may stand out.

Or will long-standing relationships and proximity to home matter more? Then, schools such as Iowa State, Nebraska and Creighton will have a fighting chance.

The Cyclones, specifically assistant coach James Kane, have been recruiting Sallis for what feels like five years now. Iowa State was the first high-major to get involved with the 6-5 Sallis early in his high school career at Millard North High in Omaha.

As other high-majors, and soon blue bloods, have started to join the party, Kane and the Cyclones have been a consistent, significant presence in Sallis' recruitment. He and Kane are in constant communication.

The problem for Iowa State? Sallis hasn't narrowed his choices yet. He's still fielding new interest and offers and hasn't yet pumped the breaks to focus on a select few schools. The sooner he does that, the better Iowa State's chances.

When all is said and done, I wouldn't be surprised if Sallis came out with a group of finalist schools that included a handful of powerhouse programs and then Iowa State, Creighton and Nebraska.

If visits are allowed and Iowa State can get him on campus, anything is possible. 

It's a shame (Emarion) Ellis got out of the state. I don't fully understand why none of the Big 4 offered him! — @TimothyKSlack3

This isn't really a question, but I wanted to mention Davenport Assumption 2021 combo guard Emarion Ellis in this week's mailbag.

Ellis committed to Texas earlier this week after receiving his Longhorns offer over the weekend. Texas was his only high-major offer. Bryant, Louisiana Tech and Wisconsin-Milwaukee had also offered.

I have Ellis at No. 4 in the in-state 2021 recruiting rankings behind Waukee wing Tucker DeVries, Waukee wing Payton Sandfort and Dubuque Hempstead wing Michael Duax, who is committed to Northern Iowa. Ellis is a long, athletic 6-5 guard who has some rough edges but also an upside through the roof. That's why Texas offered him, even though none of the four Division I schools in Iowa had. The Longhorns view him as similar to the five-star Sallis.

I remember talking with a mid-major coach about Ellis after his sophomore year at Davenport Central. I asked him if his school would recruit Ellis down the line. He responded that, yes, they would, but that he could see Ellis blowing up beyond their level and into a high-major prospect.

(That coach sounds pretty smart right about now.)

Class of 2021 prospect Emarion Ellis watches a teammate's 3-point attempt during Battle a the Lakes.

Drake and UNI had shown interest in Ellis, although I'm not sure how recent. At the time he committed to Texas, Iowa State was picking up its interest in Ellis and was ready to continue evaluating him throughout the summer. Ellis' AAU coach told me he hadn't heard lately from Iowa.

So, will Iowa's four D-I programs come to regret not pursuing Ellis? That depends on if his upside pans out. If it does, he would be one of the biggest steals in the 2021 class.

Matthew Bain covers recruiting and pretty much anything else under the sports sun for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network.  Contact him at mbain@dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.

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