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National Signing Day 2012: A Closer Look at Iowa Hawkeyes' Defensive Recruits

David Fidler Correspondent IJanuary 31, 2012

National Signing Day 2012: A Closer Look at Iowa Hawkeyes' Defensive Recruits

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    Football's second season will end today, and as of right now, Iowa will sign 22 players, though that may change over the course of the next day or two.

    Currently, the Hawks expect to have 11 new offensive players and 11 new defensive players on campus in 2012. This article will focus on the defensive side of the ball.

    The breakdown of the 11 defensive players are as follows: four defensive linemen, two linebackers, two safeties and three cornerbacks.

    For the players' measurables, I used both Scout and Rivals Hawkeye sites, the information on which doesn't always match. Nevertheless, I usually relied on the less "impressive" of the two choices, as players typically inflate their weight, height or 40 time, for obvious reasons.

    I split up the offensive and defensive players based on what the scouting sites felt was their primary position; not where I felt they'd end up.

    Finally, please don't refer to any of these young men as "studs."

    It is not only disturbing, but it is worth making the effort to remember that they are more than pieces of meat.

    Tomorrow, I will look over the offensive recruits, as well as any late signees.

Anthony Morgan: S, Plano, TX

2 of 12

    Measurables: 6'1", 185 pounds, runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds

     

    Other Offers: Arizona, Colorado State, Indiana, New Mexico, North Texas, Northwestern, Rice, Stanford, Tulsa, Utah State, Vanderbilt, Virginia

     

    Commit Date: Dec. 14, 2011

     

    Possible Positions: S, CB

     

    Chances of Playing in 2011: 35 percent

     

    My Two Cents: Out of all the positions on the field, the Hawks are most liberal about burning defensive backs' redshirts. Among other things, that is because they make for strong special teams contributors.

    Morgan will have a shot in that department, but he will have to learn new positional responsibilities at Iowa, as it appears that his high school team didn't play much cover-two.

Kevin Buford: CB, Canton, MI

3 of 12

    Measurables: 5'10", 170 pounds, runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds

     

    Other Offers: Central Michigan, Toledo

     

    Commit Date: Dec. 11, 2011

     

    Possible Positions: CB, RB

     

    Chances of Playing in 2011: 20 percent

     

    My Two Cents: Buford will wind up on the defensive side of the ball, but he will likely be a project.

    Expect him to spend the 2012 season in the weight room. He will have an opportunity to fight for a place on the depth chart in 2013.

Faith Ekakitie: DL, Lake Forest, IL

4 of 12

    Measurables: 6'2", 255 pounds, runs the 40 in 5.06 seconds

     

    Other Offers: Arizona, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Oregon, Purdue, Stanford, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, as well as a number of non-AQ programs.

     

    Commit Date: Nov. 4, 2011

     

    Possible Positions: DT, SDE

     

    Chances of Playing in 2011: 50 percent

     

    My Two Cents: Even though Iowa is as desperate on the defensive line as it has been since 2005, Ekakitie is too small to make major immediate contributions.

    One possibility is that he will be a three technique defensive tackle in the same vein as Jonathan Babineaux, Mitch King and Karl Klug, and in the end, he could be as disruptive as his forbears. However, right now, he needs some weight and polishing to assume that role.

    He could also wind up as a strong-side defensive end, which is a less complicated position than defensive tackle, and which requires less physical development. If he does wind up there, he will have more chance for immediate playing time, as the Hawks project to have big problems at end next season.

    Either way, it's never a good thing when a true freshman ascends to a starting position on either side of the line, but if Ekakitie is lights out at strong-side defensive end, he could conceivably receive a lot of playing time in 2012.

Daumantas Venckus: DE, Weston, FL

5 of 12

    Measurables: 6'4", 220 pounds, runs the the 40 in 4.7 seconds

     

    Other Offers: Colorado State, Navy

     

    Commit Date: Nov. 16, 2011

     

    Possible Positions: DE, TE

     

    Chances of Playing in 2011: 15 percent

     

    My Two Cents: If Venckus is to contribute in 2012, it will be on special teams. He is far too underweight to play defensive end and far too unpolished to play tight end.

    In the long run, he could wind up on either side of the ball, but right now, he is a project.

Ruben Lile: S, Detroit, MI

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    Measurables: 6'3", 200 pounds, runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds

     

    Other Offers: Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Cincinnati, Eastern Michigan, Purdue, Toledo, Vanderbilt, Western Michigan, Wisconsin

     

    Commit Date: Aug. 27, 2011

     

    Possible Positions: S, WR, LB

     

    Chances of Playing in 2011: 25 percent

     

    My Two Cents: Lile looks like a diamond in the rough.

    Physically, he reminds me of Chad Greenway, who came to the Hawkeyes as a scrawny 6'2" safety, but left as a 240-pound all-conference linebacker.

    I think Lile will end up on the defense, probably at weak-side linebacker, but with his athleticism, he could end up anywhere.

    Nevertheless, if he is to make an impact in his freshman year, it will be on special teams.

Laron Taylor: OLB, Detroit, MI

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    Measurables: 6'0", 205 pounds, runs the 40 in 4.8 seconds

     

    Other Offers: Cincinnati, Indiana, Western Michigan

     

    Commit Date: Aug. 5, 2011

     

    Possible Positions: LB, DE

     

    Chances of Playing in 2011: 25 percent

     

    My Two Cents: Scout feels Taylor will be a weak-side linebacker. I don't see that in Iowa's scheme. He's too slow and short. There is no way he could keep up with slot receivers.

    In my opinion, he looks more the part of a middle linebacker, or even defensive end if he puts on some weight.

    It would be interesting if he and his classmate, Ruben Lile, end up in a Hodge and Greenway situation, as starting weak-side and middle linebackers.

    Either way, it won't happen this year.

Jaleel Johnson: DT, Lombard, IL

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    Measurables: 6'2", 277 pounds, runs the 40 in 5.2 seconds

     

    Other Offers: Arizona, Boston College, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Tennessee, Toledo, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin

     

    Commit Date: July 7, 2011

     

    Possible Positions: DT

     

    Chances of Playing in 2011: 45 percent

     

    My Two Cents: Johnson is one of those rare defensive tackle prospects that comes to Iowa City at something approaching playing weight. Historically, Iowa has taken linebackers and beefed them up to 280 pounds.

    Johnson is rough-around-the-edges and plays too high, but as his video shows, he is a gamer, and that will always impress Iowa coaches.

    If Johnson is a quick study, he could gain immediate playing time on goal line and short yardage situations.

    If not, look for him in 2013-2014.

Maurice Fleming: CB, Chicago, IL

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    Measurables: 6'1", 185 pounds, runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds

     

    Other Offers: Ball State, Central Michigan, Cincinnati, Eastern Michigan, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Minnesota, Northern Illinois, Toledo, Western Michigan, Wisconsin

     

    Commit Date: Dec. 9, 2011

     

    Possible Positions: CB, WR, S

     

    Chances of Playing in 2011: 20 percent

     

    My Two Cents: High school quarterback comes to Iowa, learns a new position and eventually makes it to the NFL.

    This has gotten to be a consistent and pleasant story under Kirk Ferentz, and hopefully, Maurice Fleming can continue that trend.

    Of course, it will take him a year or two to learn the position. In effect, don't expect to see much of him this year.

Drew Ott: DE, Giltner, NE

10 of 12

    Measurables: 6'4", 235 pounds, runs the 40 in 4.8 seconds

     

    Other Offers: Kansas State, Ohio

     

    Commit Date: June 21, 2011

     

    Possible Positions: DE, TE, DT, OG

     

    Chances of Playing in 2011: 25 percent

     

    My Two Cents: Ott will wind up at tight end. If he shows an immediate knack for it, he will be the third or fourth tight end this year, and he will play on special teams.

    If he needs more development, he will show up on the depth chart in two-three years.

Nate Meier: LB, Tabor, IA

11 of 12

    Measurables: 6'2", 235 pounds, runs the 40 in 4.57 seconds according to his highlight video

     

    Other Offers: No known FBS offers

     

    Commit Date: Jan. 30, 2012

     

    Possible Positions: ILB, OLB, DE, TE, FB, TB

     

    Chances of Playing in 2011: 20 percent

     

    My Two Cents: Meier was a fall-back commit, so that's bad right?

    Here are some other Hawkeye fallback commits: Brandon Myers, currently a tight end with the Oakland Raiders. Mike Elgin, who was a three-year starter on Iowa's offensive line. Mike Daniels, who just finished up an impressive career for Iowa as a defensive tackle.

    In short, don't write Meier off just because he was a late offer for the Hawks.

    Word is, Meier came to Iowa with the intention of playing tailback. As has been the case with past Hawks, he will get that opportunity, but eventually, anatomy will win out, and he will either move to fullback or become a weak-side defensive end.

    Either way, if he shows up this season, it will be on special teams.

Sean Draper: CB, Cleveland, OH

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    Measurables: 6'0", 165 pounds. Runs the 40 in 4.6 seconds.

     

    Other Offers: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisville, Pittsburgh and a slew of non-AQ programs, particularly out of the MAC

     

    Commit Date: Jan. 31, 2012

     

    Possible Positions: CB, WR

     

    Chances of Playing in 2011: 10 percent.

     

    My Two Cents: Draper is a string bean.

    He will need a year or two in the weight room before he is ready to do anything on the college gridirons.

    When he is ready to play, he will be on the defensive side of the ball.

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