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Recruiting mailbag: Where do Iowa State, Drake stand in the race for Tucker DeVries?

Matthew Bain
Des Moines Register

Welcome, once again, to the recruiting mailbag.

Let the record show that I sincerely appreciate anybody who reads this week's mailbag. Because, uh, well, another decently big story broke Wednesday ... 

Big Ten football is coming back.

In case you haven't read any of our approximately 500 stories about Iowa Hawkeye football returning in late October, head over to HawkCentral.com to get all the information you require on this momentous day. (Overly dramatic on purpose? Maybe.)

Until then, let's go ahead and discuss this week's questions, which focus on a couple in-state basketball stars, Iowa recruit Arland Bruce IV and his eligibility at Ankeny and Matt Campbell's recent level of recruiting success.

What jersey numbers will (Tucker) DeVries and (Payton) Sandfort wear for Drake next year?

To all my Drake basketball friends: This is wishful thinking.

The Bulldogs might land one of the Register's top two in-state 2021 prospects (and you can probably guess which one they have a better chance with). But not both.

Regarding Payton Sandfort, it's sounding like his choices are narrowed down to Iowa and Stanford. He was also considering Drake, Minnesota and Utah. But Iowa has long been considered the front-runner, and Fran McCaffery has made it very clear to Sandfort that he is the Hawkeyes' top 2021 target. Stanford has come on strong in recent weeks, offering him in July and conducting as many Zoom visits as possible to give him a feel for the campus and the program.

If COVID-19 hadn't thrown a wrench in visit plans, I think Stanford and its academic pedigree would have had a real shot to upset Iowa. Sandfort has had big-time interest in the Cardinal for the past year, and a Stanford offer is one of the most prestigious spots for any athlete in the country.

Waukee's Payton Sandfort (20) goes up for a shot during their 4A state boys basketball championship game at Wells Fargo Arena on Friday, March 13, 2020, in Des Moines. Ankeny takes a 33-24 lead over Waukee into halftime.

With that said, it's looking like the NCAA's dead recruiting period might extend through September and into October, which would mean no visits by the time Sandfort wants to make a decision.

Translation: Iowa is the team to beat, in my humble opinion.

The only chance Sandfort goes to Drake is if that's where his teammate and good friend, Tucker DeVries, also goes.

Darian DeVries has a much better shot at his son Tucker, the Register's top-ranked 2021 prospect. I've been waiting on the national recruiting services to give him the respect he deserves, and it finally happened in the latest round of updates.

Rivals bumped him up to four stars and No. 101 in the country. 247Sports bumped him up to four stars and No. 102 in the country.

With its recent recruiting push and offer in August, Iowa State has made DeVries' recruitment a three-horse race among Drake, Iowa State and Creighton.

I talked with DeVries this week and it honestly sounds like he's considering all three pretty equally. He told me that he still hopes to take official visits if the NCAA allows them in October. But, either way, he said he wants to announce a decision before his senior season is scheduled to begin at Waukee in November.

Waukee's Tucker DeVries puts up a shot as North Scott's Sam Kilburg defends during the 4A state basketball quarterfinal matchup at Wells Fargo Arena Tuesday, March 10, 2020.

At Drake, DeVries would have the rare opportunity to play for his dad and at a program where he could likely make a significant impact early on.

At Creighton, DeVries would play for the team he grew up rooting for and for a program that has lofty expectations for the immediate future.

At Iowa State, DeVries would get to play high-major basketball in a conference where road games are close enough for friends and family to see in person.

Here's a little information: I asked DeVries on Wednesday if it would be misleading for me to say two schools (and I specifically asked him about the two I had in mind) had emerged as the front-runners. He said that would be misleading — that all three are equally in contention right now.

Take that as you will.

Do you have an update on (Arland Bruce IV's) playing status?

For those of you caught up with this story, here's the very latest: Brad Obermeier, of Arland Bruce IV's attorneys, told me Bruce hasn't yet received his mailed eligibility appeal ruling from the Iowa High School Athletic Association, and that they have a hearing regarding their motion for an injunction scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

"It should be noted that they previously emailed their first ineligibility ruling," Obermeier said Wednesday. "But, as we sit here today, we do not know the status of eligibility — which is the exact reason why we filed the renewed injunction. With the hearing already taking place a week ago, and still without a ruling on eligibility, we were left with no other alternative."

Now, in case you haven't heard: Bruce, an Iowa receiver recruit, transferred from Olathe (Kansas) North to Ankeny in August after his home country voted to postpone fall high school football. (That decision has since been overturned.)

But on the morning of Aug. 28, Ankeny's first game, the Iowa High School Athletic Association informed Bruce and his mother, Linda Bruce, that Bruce did not meet eligibility requirements to play football this fall.

Attorneys representing Bruce filed a motion for an injunction the following Monday that would allow Bruce to play for Ankeny while he appealed the IHSAA's ruling. Later that week, Polk County District Court denied that injunction. In his ruling, however, Judge Robert Hanson recommended the association deem Bruce eligible.

That hasn't yet happened.

Bruce's IHSAA eligibility appeal hearing was held last Thursday in Boone. Bruce and his attorneys hoped for a ruling to be emailed by last Friday. The IHSAA said it would make a decision within five days and, once that decision was made, it would mail the ruling to Bruce, who has watched Ankeny's first three games from the sidelines.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Bruce hadn't yet received that ruling.

So, his attorneys are trying to be proactive. 

Ankeny High senior tailback/wide receiver and Iowa recruit Arland Bruce IV (14) sits out a second game as the No. 2 Ankeny Hawks compete against the Waukee Warriors in the first half of play during Week 2 of the Class 4A game on Friday, September 4, 2020 at Waukee Stadium.

On Tuesday, they filed a motion for an injunction that would both allow Bruce to play if he doesn't receive the IHSAA's ruling by Friday and — if the IHSAA does rule him ineligible again — allow Bruce to play while he appeals his eligibility in court.

Again, that hearing is now scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Obermeier told the Register they know a judge likely won't make any decision regarding the injunction until the IHSAA's ruling is revealed.

If the IHSAA rules Bruce eligible, Obermeier said they'll retract the motion. But if the IHSAA reaffirms his ineligibility, they want to already have a motion filed so they can get a hearing before Ankeny's Friday game against Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson.

The IHSAA cannot comment on ongoing eligibility appeals, but Bruce and his attorneys have told the Register they believe the association based its ineligibility ruling on Bruce's family's living situation — specifically, that Bruce's two younger brothers still live with their legal guardian uncle in Olathe.

Part of the IHSAA's transfer rules reads: "Interpreting the term 'residence' to allow for multiple residences would render the General Transfer Rule meaningless and this is not permitted as a tenant of statutory construction. ... Because there can only be one residence, the IHSAA must determine that the family in fact has only one residence."

It appears that Matt Campbell's recruiting has regressed to that of Paul Rhoads' regime. What is the reason for this?

I wouldn't go that far. Remember: Iowa State's 2020 and 2019 classes were a couple of the best the Cyclones have ever gotten, and Matt Campbell is a huge reason why.

But, yes, it is fair to look at his 2021 class so far and think it's not up to the same bar. 

According to the 247Sports Composite, Iowa State's highest-ranked 2021 recruit is Detroit defensive back Robert Army, who's the class' No. 771 prospect. For comparison, Iowa State's highest-ranked prospects in the previous three classes have been No. 292, No. 273 and No. 266.

Those three classes all ranked in the top 55, and the past two were in the top 50. Right now, the Cyclones' 2021 class ranks No. 57 with 17 known recruits. Unless they add a couple high-end targets in the coming months, they could dip into the 60s as teams below them with fewer recruits (No. 58 Indiana, 13 recruits; No. 60 Ole Miss, 12 recruits; No. 72 Stanford, 11 recruits) land more prospects.

Is that ideal? No.

Is it a reason to panic? Also no.

For one thing, Campbell's classes have consistently been better than Rhoads', and the upward trajectory since Campbell came to Ames is undeniable. Let's wait to see how this class and the next couple classes shape up before looking at that panic button.

Additionally, this COVID-19 recruiting cycle is especially bad, optics-wise, for a team such Iowa State. The Cyclones are more comfortable offering prospects early in their high school careers, compared with other schools. It's not uncommon to see Iowa State offer an under-the-radar prospect as a sophomore or junior, and then that prospect tacks on more Power Five offers toward the end of his high school career.

Without camps and exposure opportunities this spring and summer, some under-the-radar prospects have remained that way, at least in terms of national rankings.

And there are a few guys where Iowa State was their only Power Five offer: North Scott defensive end Joey Petersen, Grinnell offensive lineman Dodge Sauser, Chicago linebacker Aidan Ralph, Ohio defensive end Myles Mendeszoon, Canada receiver Tristan Michaud and Ohio linebacker Carston Marshall.

But, while a lack of Power Five offers by no means says those six prospects won't have success in Ames, looking at which schools offered the Cyclones' other 11 additions could ease some stress: 

  • Robert Army — Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Pitt, Purdue, Syracuse, West Virginia
  • Jim Bonifas — Louisville
  • Howard Brown — Kansas
  • Winsome Frazier — Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, Pitt
  • Jaylin Noel — Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Kansas State, Minnesota, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, Washington State
  • Ben Langston — Missouri
  • Beau Freyler — Arizona, Boston College, Kansas State, Michigan State, Nebraska, Washington State, Wisconsin
  • Tyler Moore — Arizona State
  • Jayden Gray — Northwestern, Virginia Tech
  • Deon Silas — TCU, Virginia, West Virginia
  • Tyler Onyedim — Boston College

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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