Iowa Football Recruiting: Grading the Hawkeyes' 2013 Class

David Fidler Correspondent IFebruary 6, 2013

Iowa Football Recruiting: Grading the Hawkeyes' 2013 Class

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    The 2013 recruiting season is over, and, if the recruiting rankings are accurate, the Iowa Hawkeyes and head coach Kirk Ferentz didn't have a great year.

    They were 10th in the Big Ten according to 247sports.com and Scout, and eighth according to Rivals.

    The Hawks needed players to fill immediate voids at defensive end, wide receiver and safety. They had, and have, long-term needs at those positions as well as at linebacker.

    The grades in the following slides were determined by holes in Iowa's roster and whether those holes were filled, as well as the quantity and palpable quality of the recruits in question.

    When a player is referred to as a "project," it means that he will probably need some time in the weight room and time to learn his position. It will be at least a season, and probably more, before he contributes on the field.

    "Fallback" refers to the Hawkeyes offering the recruit after their high-profile recruits opted to go elsewhere. In other words, the Hawks "fell back" to what appears, at least on paper, to be a "lesser" recruit.

    These "fallback" recruits often go on to develop and play important roles for Iowa. For example, Brandon Myers didn't receive an offer until signing day, 2004. He went on to be a two-year starter for the Hawks and is currently a starter for the NFL's Raiders.

    Nevertheless, one would hope Iowa doesn't have to "fall back" too many times, as those recruiting stars are there for a reason, as Matt Hinton of Yahoo! Sports noted.

Defensive Backs

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    Players Signed: Solomon Warfield, Malik Rucker, Desmond King

    As mentioned several times over the past few weeks, Iowa's safety play in 2012 was lousy. This was primarily the result of multiple years of poor recruiting at the position, and the safeties' lack of athleticism was on grand display in the losses to Northwestern and Michigan.

    Warfield brings an immediate-impact safety into the mix. The Hawks were one of his first offers, and Iowa did a good job of keeping him on board when more offers poured in.

    Rucker could be either a cornerback or a safety, while King will play cornerback at the next level.

    Both are quality recruits with a number of offers, though King's offers were all of the MAC variety.

    The Hawkeyes could have used another safety, but other than that, they filled their needs and filled them with in-demand players.

    Final Grade: B+

Linebackers

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    Players Signed: John Kenny, Josey Jewell, Reggie Spearman

    With three senior linebackers at the top of 2013's depth chart, Iowa needed to pull in some recruits at this position. Moreover, those recruits could have been projects, as their talents aren't needed immediately.

    Kenny was one of Iowa's first verbals. He graduated high school and enrolled early in order to participate in spring practice.

    He had nine known offers and will compete for the backup weak-side and strong-side spots.

    Jewell is a fallback recruit with no FBS offers other than Iowa. He is a project who won't see the depth chart for at least a year.

    Spearman originally committed to Illinois, but switched to the Hawkeyes right before signing day. He had 13 FBS offers—six BCS offers—and nicely rounds out a linebacker class that was looking shabby only one week before signing day.

    Final Grade: B

Defensive Line

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    Players Signed: Nathan Bazata, Brant Gressel

    Bazata and Gressel are both solid recruits who project to play defensive tackle at the next level, though either could fit in at strong-side defensive end.

    The problem is, as both Hawkeyes blog Black Heart Gold Pants and I recently noted, Iowa has an immediate need for high-impact, pass-rushing defensive ends.

    And the Hawks signed none. They didn't even sign a project at defensive end.

    At one point, they had two solid defensive end commits—Des Moines' Trevon Young and Indiana's David Kenney—but as the above BHGP article notes, Young had his scholarship pulled due to multiple brushes with the law. Meanwhile, Kenney switched his verbal to his home-state school, Indiana.

    Iowa gets points for both defensive tackle prospects. Nonetheless, the void at defensive end could have crippling effects for a program that tied for 115th in the country in sacks, and will be light on pass-rushers in 2013 as well.

    The aforementioned linebacker, Spearman, could also wind up with a hand on the ground, as some of Iowa's best defensive ends—Matt Roth, Aaron Kampman—came to Iowa City as linebackers.

    Final Grade: F

Offensive Line

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    Players Signed: Colin Goebel, Sean Welsh

    Iowa didn't have any pressing needs on the O-line, but this is the one position at which the Hawks consistently go head-to-head with the big boys and win.

    This is partially due to geography—the Midwest may be short on speedy playmakers, but it isn't short on oversized, hard-working farm boys—and partially due to Kirk Ferentz's reputation as an offensive-line guru.

    Welsh boasted 16 offers. while Goebel had 13.

    Neither will play in 2013, but the Hawks have plenty of depth on the line.

    Iowa didn't need much in the way of offensive linemen in the 2013 class, but it got what it needed.

    Still, as both Goebel and Welsh project as guards or centers, Iowa could have used a natural tackle.

    Final Grade: B

Tight Ends

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    Players Signed: Jon Wisnieski, Ike Boettger

    The Hawkeyes typically oversign in the tight-end department, because tight-end types are versatile players who can wind up at any number of positions.

    Wisnieski is, according to 247sports.com, the second-best recruit in the state of Iowa and the best recruit in Iowa's class. He had offers from Nebraska, Kansas State and Ole Miss among others.

    Look for him to stay at tight end.

    Meanwhile, Boettger is a project—he played quarterback in high school—who, as previously predicted, could have a future on the defensive line.

    Final Grade: B

Wide Receivers

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    Players Signed: Damond Powell (JUCO), Andre Harris, Derrick Mitchell Jr., Derrick Willies, Anjeus Jones

    After wavering on his commitment to the Hawks, Damond Powell reaffirmed his verbal in early January.

    This is great news, as the 2012 Hawkeyes had one of the worst passing offenses in the country, and poor receiver play was a part of that.

    Powell, who led the JUCO ranks in yards per catch and was third in touchdown grabs, will give the Iowa passing game an immediate shot in the arm.

    Rivals lists both Harris and Mitchell as athletes, though Mitchell will likely end up on the offense. Harris is more of a tossup. Jones is a fallback recruit who is physically impressive but raw.

    Outside of Powell, none of the receiver recruits project to have an immediate impact.

    More notable than Iowa's recruiting hits are its misses with receivers.

    Two of the Hawks' top receiver targets—Brian Lemelle and Cameron Smith—recently committed to Connecticut and Arizona State, respectively. Lemelle, per the Patriot-News, specifically cited Iowa's current vacancy at receiver coach as a reason for his choice.

    The Hawkeyes, as with any team, are going to lose some recruiting battles. However, it has been publicly known (per ESPN) since the New Year that Erik Campbell, the erstwhile receiver coach, parted ways with Iowa. Yet, as KRUI reported in mid-January—before Lamelle opted for UConn—the Hawks' lackadaisical response to the staff opening caused trouble on the recruiting circuit.

    It is unacceptable for Iowa to lose out on recruits—to college football powerhouse UConn, no less—simply because it is taking its sweet time in the hiring of new staff. As it is, the Hawks hung on to Powell seemingly in spite of themselves.

    Final Grade: D+

Running Backs

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    Players Signed: LeShun Daniels, Akrum Wadley, Jonathan Parker

    Iowa currently has a strong group of running backs, though none of them are seniors.

    Given AIRBHG, one never knows, but the Hawks didn't have any significant needs in this area.

    Daniels, whom Rivals lists as 5'11", 220 pounds, could come right in and play, but he will probably take a redshirt.

    He also could gain some weight and move to fullback, but given the Hawks' current dearth of players at fullback and their seeming lack of urgency in finding new ones, it is possible that Iowa is minimizing the position in Greg Davis' offense.

    Wadley is a fallback recruit who originally verballed to Temple, his only other known offer. Outside of dire circumstances, he will take a redshirt in 2013. He could wind up in the backfield, as a receiver or in the secondary.

    Parker is another fallback recruit who had offers from Tulsa, Ball State and Northern Illinois. He will redshirt and could also wind up in the secondary.

    Final Grade: B+

Quarterback

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    Players Signed: Nic Shimonek

    The Hawkeyes have three quarterbacks on the roster, none of whom are seniors or entrenched starters.

    From a recruiting standpoint, quarterback is arguably the Hawks' least pressing need, but the general recruiting rule is to sign one quarterback in every class.

    In this respect, the Hawks were successful, but don't look for Shimonek on the depth chart until at least 2015.

    As for Shimonek himself, he had no other offers, though he did have interest from North Texas.

    Final Grade: B-

Overall Grade: C+

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    The Hawks grabbed strong recruits at high-need, immediate-need positions. Most notable among this group are Powell and Warfield, both of whom will likely pop up on the depth chart in 2013.

    They also secured the commitment of a number of projects, such as Wisniewski, Boettger, Daniels and Harris, who have the potential to become high-impact players in the future.

    Lastly, they finished recruiting season strong by putting together a linebacker class that originally looked shaky only one week prior to signing day.

    However, no signees at defensive end, which is not-so-arguably Iowa's biggest immediate and long-term need, is a huge issue.

    Also, the way Iowa missed out on a number of wide receivers was problematic and indicative of a confused and publicly inaccessible program.

    On top of that, this class had a lack of fireworks—no 4- or 5-star players. 2008 was the only other season between 2002 and this recruiting class—2002 is as far back as major recruiting sites track—in which Iowa didn't secure the commitment of at least one 4- or 5-star player. The redshirted seniors from that 2008 crew, by the way, were the seniors of the 4-8 2012 squad.

    Add to that losing out on the recruiting trails to programs like Indiana and Connecticut, and the 2013 Hawkeyes recruiting class has to be considered a disappointment (though not as big a disappointment as it seemed to be one week ago).

    This is especially unsettling in a year when a strong recruiting class might have boosted the morale of an already dejected fanbase.

    Yes, Iowa is a developmental program, but there are no developing players—most notably defensive ends—who aren't even on the roster.