When Hayden Fry took over as head coach of the University of Iowa football team in the '70s, he had a plan for turning the previously unsuccessful program around to be a contender in the Big Ten. Not only did Fry completely change the image of the Hawkeyes to be a proud, tough, hard-working unit, but he also knew how to handle Iowa not getting the biggest, most talented recruits.
Other schools had a much richer legacy, making them more attractive to the nation’s star talent. So he developed a system for taking local guys with certain characteristics and fundamentals that fit a simple run-game based, play-action playbook and worked them out hard to build better players. He had to grow them into successful players, since he couldn’t get pre-built guys off the street.
Coach Kirk Ferentz followed and perfected this philosophy, hiring one of the best athletic trainers in the country (Chris Doyle) and maintaining an overall successful and respected program. But even in Ferentz’s early tenure, he was not able to get the 4-star and 5-star recruits programs like Ohio State and Michigan acquired.
Recently, this trend is gradually changing. Iowa is beginning to get a few 4-star recruits (Rivals), such as Austin Blythe (OL), Ray Hamilton (TE), Jordan Walsh (OL) and Jaleel Johnson (DT). Why? Iowa still hasn’t won a national title in the modern era and hasn’t won a Big Ten title in a long time.
Here are some theories as to why Iowa is gaining ground on the recruiting trail.