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Recruiting mailbag: What is the missing piece in Iowa football's 2021 class?

Matthew Bain
Des Moines Register

Hello, everyone. Welcome, once again, to the recruiting mailbag.

I know I've talked a lot about the Waukee boys' basketball team this winter, and for good reason. With Division I talents like Tucker DeVries, Payton Sandfort, Omaha Biliew and Pryce Sandfort, you're going to get plenty of headlines.

But it's important to keep an eye on the juggernaut out east, too.

I'm talking about Cedar Falls, our No. 1 team in the Super 10 all-class rankings.

The Tigers boast four Division I talents of their own. Northern Iowa center signee Chase Courbat is averaging 12 points and 9.2 rebounds while shooting 65.7%. UNI guard signee Landon Wolf is scoring 14.8 points per game while shooting 49.2% from 3-point range. Junior point guard Trey Campbell, who just landed his first offer from UNI, is logging 14.3 points and 4.4 assists per game. And sophomore forward Dallas Bear, who already holds an offer from Bryant, is scoring 4.8 points per game off the bench.

So ... let the countdown to the Class 4A title game begin?

Until then, let's get to this week's mailbag questions, which focus on a potential missing piece in Iowa football's 2021 class, Drake's chances with an in-state basketball star and the potential effects of the governor's proposed school choice bill.

What’s the missing piece(s) for Iowa in the 2021 class?

Iowa is still looking for a running back to close out its 2021 recruiting class in February.

One of its recent offers, Louisiana-Lafayette recruit Kendrell Williams, is out. He told Rob Howe of Hawkeye Nation this week that he's sticking with his original commitment and will sign with the Ragin' Cajuns.

Iowa's other recent offer, three-star Mississippi prospect Jarquez Hunter, told me Tuesday that the Hawkeyes are still recruiting him, but most industry buzz has him picking Auburn, which offered a day before Iowa earlier this month.

So, a new name has emerged as a potential target for the Hawkeyes' last 2021 spot: Des Moines North athlete Deavin Hilson.

North High senior Deavin Hilson stands for a portrait on the field Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder played linebacker and running back during the Polar Bears' shortened season last fall. He picked up his first and only Division I offer from Northern Iowa in early September, and he told the Register Iowa started showing interest soon after that, along with programs such as Iowa State and South Dakota.

While Cyclones and Coyotes interest faded, it got only stronger from the Hawkeyes.

"They were first talking about me being in the mix with a few other guys, because they had one or two scholarships left," Hilson told the Register. "They were just calling me maybe every other day informing us who’s in it and who’s not. A couple months (passed) and I’m still here, and they’re at the point to where it’s down to I think me and somebody else. They’re telling me if everything works out and I’m eligible, they’re going to offer."

Iowa recently requested Hilson's transcripts, usually a sign a program is considering an offer, and Hilson said he sent them in Tuesday. Signing day is next Wednesday, so answers could come soon.

Hilson said Iowa assistant defensive line coach Jay Niemann originally recruited him at linebacker, but he has also been in contact with running backs coach Derrick Foster — including a conversation on Monday. The Hawkeyes have focused on running back for this 2021 scholarship, and Hilson, who clocked an 11.76-second 100-meter dash as a freshman at North, has some good, albeit limited, film at the position. 

In North's two games this year, Hilson rushed 11 times for 100 yards (9.1 yards per carry) and two touchdowns, and he logged 10 tackles and 1.5 solo tackles for loss.

He said Hawkeye coaches have been watching a lot of his basketball season, during which he's averaging 7.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game for North. And they've also watched some clips from his performances at camps at Grandview, Minnesota State and Bemidji State from last summer.

Here's one thing you can definitely glean from his film: He. Is. Quick.

"For me, I don’t really care," Hilson said of where Iowa projects him. "They’re just saying the like what they see. … Obviously, I think I’m a well-rounded athlete, and hopefully they see (that) and believe in me as much as I believe in myself."

North's Deavin Hilson said Iowa football coaches have been watching him play basketball as a way to help evaluate him.

Hilson said UNI is still in contact and looking at him for one of its final 2021 scholarships. He said North Dakota has shown interest, too, but more for a preferred walk-on spot.

It's somewhat difficult to evaluate Hilson because, with Des Moines Public Schools sticking with all-online learning last fall due to COVID-19, he has only a couple games worth of senior film. And, while his junior film shows off his high-level athleticism, Hilson and his coach, Eric Addy, will tell you Hilson improved considerably from his junior to senior seasons.

So, I've got him ranked at No. 47 in our final in-state 2021 rankings, but his ceiling is certainly in the top-30 range.

Beyond UNI, Hilson also holds offers from Division II programs Minnesota State, Wayne State and Bemidji State, plus NAIA offers from Grandview and Briar Cliff.

Hilson said, when he started gaining more interest after landing his UNI offer, he and Addy decided it would be best to not sign in December, extend his recruitment into February and see where things progressed. That decision has led to an extended relationship with Iowa. We'll see if it leads to an offer.

"After the first couple offers, I thought that was the furthest I could go," Hilson said. "Not saying I don’t believe in myself or nothing, but it’s my senior year and I wasn’t hearing nothing at the time, so I was just thinking all hope is up. But just been keeping my head up and steadily working and it came to this.

"I’m nervous and excited, really."

Where does Drake stand with Josh Dix as he garners more attention?

Right now, Drake is in a good spot with Council Bluffs Lincoln 2022 shooting guard Josh Dix. He holds an offer from the Bulldogs, plus UNI, Colorado State, South Dakota State and Missouri-Kansas City.

If Dix winds up getting a high-major offer, though — Iowa State's full coaching staff virtually visited with him last week, and Iowa and Creighton are also showing interest — I don't love the chances for Drake or any other mid-major pursuing him.

His last name isn't DeVries, like Tucker DeVries, who chose Drake over high-majors.

But, like I said, for now, I like Drake's chances. Dix is following the Bulldogs' success this year, and he's building a strong relationship with Drake's coaches, who are making Dix a priority for their 2022 class.

"They’ve had a really good start and have been playing really well," Dix told me earlier this month. "They are making a big impact by being really impressive to start and I think they can keep it going."

Dix is averaging 21.7 points, 8.2 points, 3.9 assists and 2.6 steals per game. In a Jan. 5 game against nationally ranked Millard North, Dix recorded 32 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks in an 85-78 loss.

What’s the conversation regarding the 90-day waiting period?

In case you missed it: In Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds' proposed school choice bill is some language that high school sports fans will definitely care about.

If the bill is passed as currently written, there will no longer be a 90-day varsity sports waiting period for high school transfers who open enroll at a new school. They could play at their new school right away.

That, obviously, is drawing some mixed reactions.

Iowa High School Athletic Association Executive Director Tom Keating, Iowa State Education Association President Mike Beranek and ISEA government relations specialist Melissa Peterson all told me for a Tuesday story they are opposed to removing the 90-day waiting period for multiple reasons, including preventing a drastic increase in athletics-motivated transfers and a potential rise in recruiting.

Others, such as Republican state Sen. Brad Zaun, want to prevent another DMPS situation, where kids who could have potentially earned scholarships couldn't because their schools weren't playing sports this fall … while kids who lived five minutes away could play at different schools.

This bill is in its early stages, and language could change significantly through its various revisions as the state legislature deliberates.

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_.