Iowa Football: Hawkeyes' 7 Biggest Needs for the 2014 Recruiting Class
The 2013 Iowa Hawkeyes recruiting class may have been inked, but college football is a 24/7 cycle, and a football team that is in constant flux has constant needs.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz's best bet to turn around a program that is on a three-year decline starts with the talent he brings into the program.
The criteria in the following slides concerned Iowa's long-term needs, immediate needs and fundamental program needs, in that order.
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7. A Safety
Multiple years of poor recruiting at the position caught up with the Hawks in 2012.
Over half of the safeties on the 2012 roster—courtesy of ESPN—were walk-ons.
This lack of athleticism hurt the secondary multiple times, most notably against Northwestern—which put up 349 yards rushing against Iowa—and Michigan, against which the secondary looked lost (see embedded video).
By the end of the season, Iowa had tried five different safeties, three of whom are back this season.
The 2013 class had a bit of bounce back, signing 3-star safety prospect Solomon Warfield.
However, with one likely senior starter—Tanner Miller—and a still-limited pool of talent waiting in the wings, the Hawkeyes could use at least two safeties in this class.
According to Rivals, Iowa currently has 17 offers out to defensive backs, and it is particularly good to see how many of them—seven—are from Texas.
6. Get Reinvested in the Lone Star State
Speaking of which, Iowa had something of a Texas pipeline early in Ferentz's tenure.
Such all-conference Hawkeyes as Jonathan Babineaux, Drew Tate and Scott Chandler hailed from the Lone Star State.
However, lately Texas Hawkeyes have been few and far between. The last high-impact Lone Star Hawkeye was cornerback Charles Godfrey, who graduated in 2007.
A large part of the issue was Iowa's Texas recruiters—former running backs coach Carl Jackson and former defensive line coach Ron Aiken—left the program in 2007 and 2006 respectively. Since then, the primary Texas recruiter has been wide receivers coach Erik Campbell who didn't bring in many players.
Campbell left the staff in this offseason's coaching carousel and was replaced by Bobby Kennedy, a former Longhorns' coach and a man with longstanding ties to Texas.
With Iowa's retreat from Florida recruiting, it becomes imperative that the Hawkeyes mine talent in one of the other top two talent-producing states in the country. As California has never been in Iowa's sights, Texas becomes a priority.
Rivals lists 17 Hawkeyes offers to Texas prospects, which is up one from last year's final count. Presumably, more offers will go out to Texans once the season gets underway.
5. Offensive Tackles
According to get2theleague.com, the average height of the top 10 tackles taken in the 2011 NFL draft was 6'6". The average weight was 322 pounds.
The current Iowa football roster lists 21 offensive linemen, but how many non-seniors physically fit the tackle role or are at least close to it?
Maybe five, one of whom will be a true freshman in 2013—Colin Goebel—and will still be 40 pounds below the average weight listed above.
The other four include juniors Andrew Donnal and Brandon Scherff; and redshirt freshmen Mitch Keppy and Ryan Ward.
With two senior tackles—one starter—set to graduate in 2013, Iowa needs to bolster its roster in this area.
The good news is Cedar Falls native Ross Pierschbacher will be one of the top tackles in the country in 2014, and he has already given his verbal to Iowa.
4. Middle Linebackers
Profootballfocus.com goes over the prototype of each linebacker position, and unfortunately, Iowa only has one prototypical middle linebacker, or MIKE, on its roster.
That linebacker is junior Quinton Alston. The rest of Iowa's linebackers—including current starting MIKE James Morris—are more ideally suited to the strong or weak side.
Iowa didn't land any middle linebackers in its 2013 class either.
Therefore, it is imperative that the Hawkeyes get one or more true middle linebackers in their 2014 class.
As Morris proves, Iowa can juggle players to get its best three men on the field. Nonetheless, the best Hawkeyes defenses—2003, 2004, 2008, 2009—always featured all-conference middle linebacker play via Abdul Hodge and Pat Angerer.
The Hawkeyes need a great middle linebacker if they are to have a great defense.
3. Lock Down the State
2013 was a weak class in the Hawkeye State—a state that does not usually produce a lot of prospects under the best of circumstances.
2014 projects to be the best of circumstances. Pierschbacher is universally considered the best prospect in the state, but Rivals lists two other 4-star Hawkeye State prospects, including Iowa State-commit Allen Lazard and Iowa-commit Jay Scheel.
The state of Iowa has not had three or more 4-star players—according to Rivals' scale—since 2009. Before that, one would have to go back to before 2002, which is the limit of Rivals' database.
With Iowa State outshining Iowa two years in a row on the field, and blue bloods like Alabama offering Iowa prospects, the Hawkeyes have to lock down the state.
2. Immediate Impact Defensive Ends
The 2012 Iowa Hawkeyes had 13 sacks which was tied for 115th in the country. The Hawkeyes' top defensive end and pass-rusher—Joe Gaglione, responsible for five of those sacks—graduated.
In effect, Iowa needed an immediate impact defensive end in the 2013 class. Unfortunately, according to Ferentz himself via Hawkeyesports.com, Iowa was unsuccessful.
That leaves the Hawkeyes understaffed at defensive end again in 2013, though conditions don't look as bleak as 2012.
Nevertheless, Ferentz's recruiting failures in 2012 mean that he has to hit a home run in the next recruiting class.
According to Rivals, Iowa currently has 15 offers out to defensive ends. The number of offers needs to increase exponentially once the season begins.
1. Win, or at Least Field a Respectable Team
This goes with all of the aforementioned, but especially with locking down the state. It is particularly evident in the recruitment of Pierschbacher.
Pierschbacher committed to Iowa early and is a lifelong Hawkeyes fan, so most Iowa fans figured the deal was done, but is it?
As Andrew Logue of Hawkcentral.com reported, Pierschbacher received an Alabama offer and sent out the following tweet:
Just talked to Coach Saban, they have offered me a full ride to play football for the Crimson Tide! #RollTide— Ross Pierschbacher (@RossP71) April 17, 2013
Just the idea that an Iowa native and lifelong Hawkeyes fan would entertain an Alabama offer is unsettling, though certainly justified given Bama's current dominance paired with the uncertainty in Iowa City.
Last season, Iowa lost, but the bigger issue—to recruits and fans alike—is that the Hawkeyes fielded a boring team that most recruits who have options wouldn't elect to play for.
In effect, even if Kirk Ferentz's job isn't in jeopardy due to his contract, he has to turn this football team around in order to attract talent and save his legacy.
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