The 2012 recruiting class for the Iowa Hawkeyes was a respectable haul (ranked 47th nationally, according to Scout.com). It wasn't the kind of class that would make programs like Texas, Alabama, Ohio State or Michigan sit up and go "Wow", but it met the Hawkeyes' needs.
Or so it looks up front.
However, 2013 is shaping up to be another good one, and we're still not in the hardest part of the recruiting cycle yet.
Currently, Iowa has seven verbal commits who will graduate in 2013. Of those seven, five are 3-star recruits, and one is a 4-star recruit. Just one is not rated by Scout, but we all know how well the Hawkeyes do with lightly-recruited prospects.
David Kenney leads the upcoming class so far as a 4-star defensive end out of Indianapolis, Indiana. He's joined by 3-star defenders John Kenny (OLB), Brant Gressel (DT) and Delano Hill (S).
On the offensive side, the Hawkeyes have commits from 3-star OG Colin Goebel and 3-star WR Derrick Willies.
DT Nathan Bazata comes unheralded from Howells, Nebraska. Remember that name, though. I'm betting you'll hear it again in the next couple of years.
That's really where the excitement needs to realistically reside for Hawkeye fans. The 2012 season could be a breakout year for Iowa, if some minor miracles take place. Realistically, it'll be another building year.
Iowa will tweak with its offense and throw everything at opponents but the practice facility's kitchen sink. The Hawkeyes will try for wins alright, but ultimately the best thing likely to come from this year will be valuable experience for the younger classes.
Think about this a moment. Consider Coach Kirk Ferentz's track record of identifying quality talent and building it into something even better. It's second-to-none.
Now, look at where the Hawkeyes have focused the bulk of their recruiting talent.
Imagine it's the 2014 season and David Kenney is sitting on the outside of the defensive line. Next to him are two 4-star tackles from the 2012 class, Faith Ekakitie and Jaleel Johnson. Behind that group are 3-star linebackers John Kenny (2013) and Laron Taylor (2012).
Of course, there will still be several juniors and seniors fighting them for those spots and adding even more depth and talent.
In the secondary are a couple of solid safeties (Ruben Lile and Anthony Morgan) and at least a couple of good corners (Maurice Fleming and Kevin Buford).
Offensively, imagine a revamped Hawkeye attack that features 4-star running back Greg Garmon (2012), with 3-star receivers Cameron Wilson, Tevaun Smith and Derrick Willies.
Of course, the excitement that could be generated from thinking about the possibilities this group might embody comes with a few caveats or assumptions.
First, we'd have to assume that these players will all show up/remain on campus. That's not always a given. In fact, it's almost a certainty that at least a couple of them will either change their mind or move to other pastures.
Second, we'd have to assume that they continue to play the positions as they were recruited. That's not likely in a lot of cases. Safeties are routinely groomed to become linebackers, corners or even receivers. Receivers are routinely moved to the defensive side of the ball or beefed up to play tight end.
Iowa is as notorious as anyone for asking players to change position according to what the team needs and their skill set involves.
Third, we'd have to hope that these players live up to their billing. That's not always the case either. Every team around the country is littered with highly-touted recruits who never quite pan out. Brandon Wegher, anyone?
However, those are the risks that every team takes, and Iowa is no exception. What is important is that the future does look bright.
The Hawkeyes have convinced some talented defenders to come to Iowa City and bolster a unit that is currently lacking good depth. They've captured the attention of some good skill position players who could help electrify a stale offense.
We've seen Kirk Ferentz's groups dwindle before (2005-2007) only to rebound strongly. Certainly, 2008 and 2009 were good years for the Hawkeyes.
There's no reason to believe Iowa can't come back again. This fall could be a decent campaign, but there are too many questions to be answered and too many holes to fill.
However, the future looks bright. Quality recruits are coming to Iowa, and there's a new staff in place with new energy to teach them.
Keep your eyes on these younger players. In just a couple of years, the Hawkeyes could be right back in the thick of some awfully interesting discussions.