The 2013 Iowa recruiting class has been finalized and, for better or worse, it tells Hawkeye football fans a great deal about the direction head coach Kirk Ferentz plans to take his offense.
Last season, Ferentz hired only his second offensive coordinator (OC) in his 14 years as the head man. That OC was former Texas-OC Greg Davis, and there is almost nothing positive to be said about Davis' first year on the job. At least not from an outsider's point of view. As Randy Peterson of Hawk Central pointed out, the numbers tell the story for Iowa's offense.
However, maybe 2012 was a transitional year, and the offense will improve once Davis has the players he wants. Those players will come from recruiting.
The most glaring aspect of the 2013 class is the number of wide receivers and potential wide receivers.
On top of the five, the Hawks brought in running back Akrum Wadley, who could wind up at receiver. Lastly, Matthew VandeBerg is a receiver who will grayshirt this year.
Using Scout's database—which goes back to 2002—the only other year when Iowa brought in that many receivers was 2006. And 2005, unlike 2012, saw the graduation of the Hawks' top two receivers, plus a senior who provided depth.
Only one receiver who caught a pass graduated last year.
Moreover, there are currently seven scholarship receivers on the roster. Two of them—Kevonte Martin-Manley and Jordan Cotton—have a good deal of experience. Another one—Don Shumpert—is an upperclassman. The rest are inexperienced freshmen or sophomores.
Typically, this would be a decent returning group for a Ferentz team. For example, the 2009 team had seven scholarship receivers, one of whom was a returning starter, along with three other upperclassmen.
The 2010 team had eight scholarship receivers, and that group had a strong receiver class.
The 2013 team will enter camp with as many as 12 scholarship receivers. It is unlikely all of those players stay at receiver, but it's also unlikely the Hawks will enter the season with fewer than 10 receivers.
One can surmise two possible reasons for the emphasis on receivers.
The first is that the Iowa brainstrust is uncomfortable with the receivers it currently has on campus. The second is that the Hawks are moving toward more receiver-heavy sets.
Regarding the first possibility, consider the current Iowa receivers' heights and weights. The seven of them average almost 6'2" and 195 pounds. The smallest of them is redshirt freshman Maurice Fleming, who is 6'0" and 185 pounds.
In comparison, the incoming recruits—based on Scout's listed height and weight—average just shy of 6'1" and 182 pounds. The smallest is 5'11'', 160-pound Andre Harris.
The difference might seem small, but it says a great deal.
According to Hawkeye Insider's Rob Howe (via an interview with Hawk Central), Iowa is
trying to add a different kind of receiver...From what you saw with (offensive coordinator) Greg Davis last year, they are looking for guys that can catch short passes and make plays with the ball in their hands. … Yards after catch.
The question is how long will it take these smaller, quicker, younger players to supplant the already established bigger, slower Hawkeyes' receivers. Will it take a year or will the older players cycle off the roster first?
Another notable element of the recruiting class is the lack of urgency in finding fullbacks.
Historically, Iowa's starting offensive lineup included five linemen, two receivers, a tight end, a tailback and a fullback. However, last year, according to Phil Steele, Iowa opted to start a second tight end or third receiver in four of the final five games.
A large part of the reason for this was because fullback Brad Rogers was injured. However, given that Rogers is a senior and has a history of injury and health problems, one would think fullback would be a priority for the Hawkeyes.
Yet, there are no current Iowa fullbacks—unless one includes fullback-turned-tailback Mark Weisman—poised to take Rogers' place and no new recruits ready to step onto the depth chart as his backup.
Finally, there is the Hawkeyes' 2013 quarterback recruit, Nic Shimonek.
According to Max Preps, Shimonek rushed for 842 yards and 6.68 yards-per-carry last year.
The Texan is not Johnny Manziel, and Iowa is not going to adopt an offense like Texas A&M or Oregon. Furthermore, it's unlikely the true freshman will start or even make the depth chart next year.
Nonetheless, a quarterback with dual-threat capabilities could be an indication of the prototypical Iowa quarterback of the future.
It's impossible to say exactly where Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa offense will go in 2013. However, the 2012 offense, though unsuccessful, was decidedly unlike the previous Ferentz-coached Hawkeye offenses.
Perhaps the 2013 group will feature more three- and four-wide sets, fewer fullback looks and even an emphasis on a dual-threat quarterback.
It will also have the players Greg Davis wants, and it will be a truer indication of what Davis can do with his players on the field.