Recruiting Mailbag: Breaking down Iowa State, Iowa football's newest commitments
Hello, friends. Welcome, once again, to the recruiting mailbag.
As some of you may have seen on social media, former deputy sports editor Matthew Bain finished his time at the Des Moines Register and is off on a new adventure. That means he’s fully passed the recruiting beat on to me.
But that doesn’t mean the recruiting mailbags are ending. I’ll do a Twitter callout for questions early each week, but you can always send questions through Twitter comments and direct message, email or any other way you think of. I can’t promise every question will get answered, but I’ll try my best. Here’s my Twitter.
It’s been a bit of a crazy week for Iowa State and Iowa in terms of commitments. So, that’s where we’ll focus today.
Sound good? Let’s get into this week’s questions.
Did JJ Kohl have an impact on Iowa State’s recent string of commitments, and what is Iowa State getting in the newest members of its 2023 class?
If you hadn’t heard, this past week was a big one for Iowa State football.
Ankeny’s Jamison Patton and Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn’s Kooper Ebel committed hours apart on June 13, one day after a big official visit weekend in Ames.
So, not only did the Cyclones secure three of the state’s best players in the 2023 class, but all three were Cy-Hawk battle recruits.
A lot of people thought that JJ Kohl’s commitment in mid-April could mark a turning point in Iowa State’s recruiting this cycle and be the final piece needed to secure players like Black, Patton and Ebel.
Appears to have been the case.
He has experience playing 7-on-7 with two of those guys, so I figured why not ask Kohl how this all went down.
Obviously, Kohl has been through the recruitment process himself. He knows what it’s like when people want to know your every move and are trying to influence your decision.
Did he want Black and Patton to join him at Iowa State?
Was he going to put pressure on them every time they hung out?
Not a chance.
“I remember when I was getting recruited, it just seemed like everyone’s asking ‘Where are you going? What visits are you taking?’ and all that stuff,” Kohl told me. “Honestly, when I was talking with them, rarely would we talk about recruiting or where things were at.”
Kohl said he’d bring it up every now and then, but it was never the focal point of conversation. When he committed, he did reach out to some kids that Iowa State was still recruiting. One of those players was Ebel. Looks like that connection paid off.
OK, so we’ve covered Kohl’s conversations with the Cyclones’ three newest 2023 commits. But what changed this past week that prompted the surge?
Kohl thinks having a mix of commitments and recruits still in the decision-making process helped. From my perspective, when you get the projected quarterback of the future in the same with guys that are between Iowa State and another program, that helps.
Since the Cyclones weren’t always an easy pick for in-state recruits, I was also curious what it was about Iowa State that convinced these recruits to continue their football career in Ames.
The first thing that Kohl said was how important relationship are to people. Without reading too much into that, he’s developed friendships on and off the field with both Black and Patton. But there was another big factor he mentioned.
“A lot of these recruits who are committing, they’re seeing what coach (Matt) Campbell was preaching and they’re believing in it,” Kohl said. “That was a big thing for me. I needed to go somewhere where I believed in the head coach, somewhere I connected with people.”
One last thing. Since Kohl has been around these recruits and, as a quarterback, he’s familiar with their strengths, I asked him to give me the elevator pitch on each player.
Here’s are summations of his scouting report on each:
Jamison Patton: A natural leader, connects with everyone and finds ways to make everyone better. He’s a really good leader and really good person who just happens to be a really good athlete. He’s going to make a lot of plays at Jack Trice Stadium.
Kai Black: A hard worker, very devoted to the game of football. He’s very smart. He’s a longer guy who will make a lot of players. A lot of people compare him to Allen Lazard just in body sculpts.
Kooper Ebel: He’s a really good athlete, and if you see his highlights, you’ll understand why he had a lot of schools reaching out to him. He makes plays all over the place, and not just on the field.
Who is four-star running back Kendrick Raphael, Iowa football’s newest commit?
Yes, Iowa State had a big week for commitments. But the Cyclones weren’t the only program in the state with big recruiting wins.
On Monday, Iowa picked up a commitment from four-star running back Kendrick Raphael out of Naples, Florida. Now, Florida is a little far away from Iowa City, but I got an assist from Alex Martin, who covers high school sports for the Naples Daily News and News-Press.
Let’s break down Raphael’s commitment.
Raphael had a lot of schools other than Iowa interested in him. We’re talking offers from Appalachian State; Boston College; Buffalo; BYU; Coastal Carolina; Duke; East Carolina; Howard; Iowa State; Louisville; Minnesota; NC State; Pittsburgh; Purdue and Temple.
Experts on 247Sports predicted he’d choose NC State, which he visited on June 3. But something about Iowa clearly stuck out.
“I chose Iowa because they have my major, which is great,” Raphael told Martin on Monday. “They also felt like family, also felt like another school that’s similar to the system I’m in right now at Naples. Everything was pretty much the same, just a little different offense.”
Since the Hawkeyes are traditionally a run-first team (see Tyler Goodson, most recently), it would make sense that their system appeals to Raphael. That deep running back tradition also played a part in his decision.
“The running backs coach (Ladell Betts) is similar to my running backs coach (Manny Morgan) as well," he continued. "Both played for the school, and they’re giving back what the school gave them.”
So, while this is a huge get for Iowa, it’s still a very early commitment for a running back, especially one as highly-ranked as Raphael. That didn’t seem to be a problem, since he said it not only takes away some of the stress that comes with the recruiting process but also allows him to focus on Naples’ mission in his senior season.
The Hawkeyes are getting a productive back in Raphael, and that’s evident by his 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns on 126 carries as a junior last season.
What else is Iowa getting?
“Iowa’s getting everything from me,” Raphael said. “A great guy, involved in the community, and also a great player. I’m gonna show out for your state.”
Last question: When can Hawkeyes fans expect Raphael to make the move to Iowa?
“I’m enrolling early in January. I’m ready to get there. It feels like home to me.”
David Caulker is the second Des Moines North player in three years to go Division I. Are there more Polar Bears that could do the same?
A couple of weeks ago, defensive lineman David Caulker committed to Iowa. He follows in the footsteps of former North teammate Deavin Hilson, who is a running back at Iowa.
Two Division I football recruits out of Des Moines North in nearly as many years?
Clearly something must be happening in that program, right?
I would say yes, strongly.
Caulker leapt onto the scene this spring, but now that his recruitment is officially over, let’s take a look at a couple other North players that could continue the legacy.
Kevin Quayee, an offensive lineman for the Polar Bears, is the first player that comes to mind. The 6-2, 280-pound rising senior was ranked No. 43 in the Register’s 2023 rankings. At the end of last season, his game was still maturing. But he’s put in a lot of work in the offseason. Solid speed and balance, with good size to match.
Zack Seckee is a player that intrigued me at Iowa State’s camp this past week. Quick feet in drills, solid anticipation, good reach — all key skills for a defensive back prospect. He took critiques well and adjusted quickly, and this upcoming summer and fall season could be impactful.
Contributing: Alex Martin, USA TODAY Network/News-Press and Naples Daily News
Alyssa Hertel is the college sports recruiting reporter for the Des Moines Register. Contact Alyssa at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AlyssaHertel.