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Iowa Football: Hawkeyes' Top Priority on National Signing Day

David Fidler Correspondent IDecember 23, 2016

Iowa Football: Hawkeyes' Top Priority on National Signing Day

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    There are unlikely to be any major surprises as the Iowa Hawkeyes football program moves toward national signing day (Feb. 6). The program's top priority is to make sure that those players from whom it has received verbal commitments make it to Iowa City.

    That doesn't mean that there aren't players whose commitments, in their way, have a higher value to the program than others.

    The recruit's value is determined not only by the talent that he has demonstrated in high school, but also by how high his ceiling appears to be, how much he can immediately help the program, how much he can help the program in the future and what positions the Hawks are most in need of.

5. Tight End Ike Boettger

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    Boettger is a lightly recruited tight end prospect out of Cedar Falls who boasts no offers other than Iowa.

    247sports.com lists him as 6'5" and 232 pounds, so physically, he will be able to come in and play right away.

    However, it is likely that his immediate mark will be limited to special teams, no matter where he ends up.

    The bigger issue is regarding where he does end up.

    Though every recruiting site—247sports, Rivals, Scout and ESPN—lists him as a tight end, as the attached video attests, he also plays defense.

    Right now, the Iowa roster is short on defensive ends, both for 2013 and in future years. There are currently no 2013 recruits who project to be defensive ends, which means that Iowa will have to orchestrate some position changes.

    Boettger would likely be a project, but he could be a project who pays off two or three years down the road.

4. Defensive Lineman Brant Gressel

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    Rivals lists Gressel as 6'2" and 280 pounds, so he naturally projects as a defensive tackle at the next level.

    Nonetheless, Iowa likes to use "big" strong-side defensive ends, putting smaller, quicker tackles on the inside. The 2010 combination of 297-pound Christian Ballard at end with 280-pound Mike Daniels on the inside was evidence of how the Hawks have often positioned their linemen.

    In effect, Gressel could wind up at strong-side end, where Iowa has a more immediate need for bodies.

    If necessary, he could then switch back to the inside if things don't work out.

3. Safety Solomon Warfield

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    The Iowa safeties had a tough year in 2012.

    This, as much as anything, was a product of poor recruiting, as half of the 2012 Hawkeyes safeties were walk-ons. Though Iowa has done a good job of turning walk-on safeties into NFL prospects—Sean Considine is the best example—the safeties' lack of athleticism was especially evident in the Northwestern and Michigan beatdowns.

    As Hawkeyenation reported, five different safeties saw game action over the final stretch of the season.

    Two of those safeties—Tom Donatell and Collin Sleeper, both former walk-ons—graduated, and there is room on the depth chart for a freshman to step in and earn playing time.

    According to Rivals, Warfield was the Hawks' fourth verbal of the 2012 class.

    He has 19 offers, some of which are of the MAC variety, but Penn State, Michigan State, Arizona, Arizona State and West Virginia, among others, have also been in play for his services.

    Despite this and despite the Hawks' issues in 2012, he has remained loyal to his Iowa verbal.

    The 2013 class is low on star power, but Warfield could be one of the biggest surprises of the bunch.

2. JUCO Wide Receiver Damond Powell

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    Damond Powell spent the last two years at Snow College in Utah.

    Last year, the speedster had 41 receptions for 1,231 yards and 14 touchdowns. His 30-yards-per-catch average was No. 1 in the country among JUCO receivers, and he also had the third-most touchdowns.

    Powell committed to the Hawks in early December. However, according to Randy Peterson of Hawkcentral, he began to waver on his commitment when it became known that wide receivers coach Erik Campbell would be leaving Iowa City.

    As Peterson further reported, Ferentz and Ferentz (Kirk and offensive line coach Brian) made their way to Powell's home in Ohio, and as of this writing, everything appears to be copacetic.

    In 2012, Iowa receivers struggled mightily in terms of stretching the field, adjusting to new offensive coordinator Greg Davis' horizontal passing game and making plays.

    The Hawks' top receiver was Kevonte Martin-Manley, who had an unimpressive 52 receptions, 571 yards and two touchdowns.

    In the attached video, Powell does not accumulate his yardage on fly routes, but by catching the ball near the line of scrimmage and making a play after the catch.

    As Iowa State blog (yes, there is one) widerightnattylite.com (sarcastically) broke down, this is exactly what Davis wants out of his receivers.

    Receivers weren't the only issue with Iowa's offense last year, but Powell's playmaking abilities can immediately insert themselves into and help to revitalize the Hawkeyes offense.

1. Defensive End Ruben Dunbar

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    Dunbar is the one recruit who has yet to verbally commit to Iowa (or any other program) but whose services the Hawkeyes desperately require.

    As referenced earlier with Boettger and Gressel, as I noted shortly after the regular season ended and as Iowa blog Blackheartgoldpants recently brought up, Iowa is in desperate need of playmaking defensive ends.

    This is not only true now, but also for the future.

    Though the Hawks are known for developing unheralded recruits, arguably the three best defensive ends of the Ferentz era—Aaron Kampman, Matt Roth and Adrian Clayborn—all came to Iowa with a lot of stars next to their names.

    The current roster is devoid of any defensive ends with impressive pedigrees.

    According to Rivals, the only uncommitted defensive end whom Iowa has offered is Illinois native Dunbar. Moreover, via 247Sports.com, Iowa was one of the first to offer Dunbar, who holds a total of 11 offers.

    With a listed height and weight of 6'3" and 250 pounds, Dunbar could contribute immediately as a pass-rushing specialist. Furthermore, his upside is substantial, and in a year or two, he could fill the void—a dominant weak-side defensive end—that has existed in the Iowa defense since Clayborn graduated in 2010.

    It is unlikely that Iowa will get many signing day surprises, but a commitment from Dunbar could be huge.

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