Iowa Hawkeyes Football: Lester Erb the Key to Recruiting Success

David Fidler Correspondent IFebruary 21, 2012

I have been hard on Iowa running back coach Lester Erb lately. Maybe it's deserved, maybe it isn't.

But it seems that Erb is more than earning his paycheck on the recruiting trails. There are few, if any, AQ schools that are harder to recruit to than the University of Iowa.

According to a recent Rivals' numbers-crunching exercise, in 2011, Iowa was the second-to-last state with an FBS program in terms of producing DI signees. The state with the fewest—Minnesota—only has one FBS school located within its borders, whereas Iowa has two.

According to the 2011 statistics, the state of Iowa produced one FBS prospect for every 2,161 high school football players. By comparison, the top state of Florida produced one FBS player for every 111 players. Ohio, the No. 1 state located within the Big Ten footprint, produced one FBS player for every 382 players.

With that in mind, consider the top states on the list: Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Utah, Oklahoma, Maryland/D.C., Hawaii, Ohio, Arkansas. All of those states—outside of Utah, Arkansas and Hawaii—boast blue blood football programs within or right outside of their borders.

That is not a coincidence.

Consider that in 2011, three of Iowa's 25 commits were from the Hawkeye state. That is 12 percent.

On the other hand, 13 of Ohio State's 24 commits came from the Buckeye state. That is just over 54 percent.

I do not mean to complain. I only mean to fully illustrate the fact that unlike Ohio State or Michigan (31.5 percent in 2011) or even Wisconsin (a surprising 42.1 percent), the Hawkeyes have to recruit most of their players from out of state.

This not only costs more in terms of man power and scholarship money, according to Rivals, but it makes it harder to bring top players in.

After all, Iowa City is nice; nevertheless, the average 18-year-old is more interested in the beaches of Florida, the starlets of California or even the national face time of Ohio State and Notre Dame than he is in the sub-zero Iowa winters and all those cornfields that ESPN shows at least eight times in every Iowa football broadcast.

In short, if the Hawks are to succeed, they have to succeed on the recruiting trails in places as distant as Illinois, Texas, Florida, New Jersey and Erie, Pennsylvania.

And this is where running backs coach Lester Erb comes in.

Rivals recruiting database, among other things, shows which coach each player was recruited by. When scrolling through the Iowa recruits, one notices a number of mentions of tight end coach Eric Johnson and wide receiver coach Erik Campbell.

However, the one coach who consistently came up big on the recruiting trails was Lester Erb.

Erb recruited against college football's elites—Michigan, Florida State and Penn State to name a few—and it was his recruiting efforts that brought in most of Iowa's 2012 blue-chip prospects, including Faith Ekakitie, Jaleel Johnson and Greg Garmon.

All were 4-star players on both the Scout and Rival recruiting sites.

It is even more impressive when one considers the areas to which Erb travels.

Unlike former-offensive line/current-defensive line coach Reese Morgan, who mainly recruits in Iowa, Nebraska and the Dakotas, Erb's 2012 success came from places as distant and disparate as Illinois, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Furthermore, unlike most of the other coaches, who recruit primarily for their position groups, in 2012, Erb brought in recruits at running back, offensive line, kicker/punter, defensive line and defensive back.

Say what you will about Erb (and I have), but he is a big-time recruiter, and I'm not the only one that has noticed it.

In short, kudos, Mr. Erb.