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Hawks gain ground in recruiting arena

[ 20 ] September 27, 2010 |

It took three seasons of occupancy in the top 10 on the field before Iowa played alongside the other national powers in the recruiting arena.

Until February 2005, the Hawkeyes had a better chance of beating Michigan on the field than in the living room. They had a better shot at getting their hands on a bowl trophy against Florida or LSU than they did at getting the signature of a prized recruit who was being wooed by the SEC superpowers.

But three consecutive finishes at No. 8 in the final Associated Press poll positioned Iowa to cash in on signing day in 2005, and the Hawkeyes landed a recruiting class that was ranked in the top 10 by some analysts. Several of the key players in that class helped Iowa secure a No. 7 finish on the field last year, and now the Hawkeyes appear primed again to collect the recruiting dividends from their on-field success.

“They could be making that turn where they’re becoming a consistent national brand,” recruiting guru Tom Lemming said. “We’ll know more by the end of this year, but (the success on the field has) to continue. There’s only a few schools, probably 15 nationally, that have the ability to do it every single year. Iowa could be close to getting into that group.”

The Hawkeyes have commitments from 14 players for their 2011 class. They kept Williamsburg four-star offensive lineman Austin Blythe from getting away. They beat USC, Michigan, Nebraska and a couple dozen other programs for Illinois four-star lineman Jordan Walsh. They pulled Melvin Gordon, Lemming’s top-ranked player in Wisconsin, away from the Badgers. They beat Florida State, California, North Carolina and a bunch of Big Ten schools for Ohio tight end Ray Hamilton.

That’s just a small sampling of Iowa’s recruiting victories in recent months.

“Those are the kinds of battles that show you where Iowa is right now,” Rivals.com analyst Jeremy Crabtree said. “They can go and compete against other good, high-quality programs and get guys like that.”

The Hawkeyes still are in the mix for at least eight players who are rated as four-star prospects by Rivals, along with Cyrus Kouandjio, Scout.com’s No. 1 offensive tackle.

“I think it’s still a case of (Iowa) coach (Kirk) Ferentz going after kids who fit his pattern and their style of play more than (an attitude of), ‘Let’s go out there and try to recruit four- and five-star guys,’” Crabtree said. “They are able to get involved with some more high-caliber kids with the success they’ve had, but I still don’t see them altering too much from what has been successful for them, and that’s going out there and getting darn good football players, regardless of whether they’re fast enough, tall enough or this or that.

“The one thing you notice about the guys who end up at Iowa is they’re tremendous football players, they’re almost always captains of their high school football teams or they’re leaders in the classroom, out of the classroom. Those are the things you really notice about the kids who end up at Iowa.”

FRIDAY NIGHT HIGHLIGHTS: Iowa quarterback recruit Jake Rudock continued his blazing start for Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. Two weeks ago, Rudock completed 9-of-16 for 247 yards and three touchdowns as the top-ranked team in Florida throttled No. 2 Boyd Anderson 52-13. Rudock connected on 11 of his 17 passes for 169 yards last week in a victory against Cardinal Gibbons. For the season, Rudock is 31-for-47 for 646 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions.

The other Floridian in the Iowa class, cornerback Torrey Campbell, preserved a 21-14 victory for Naples Barron Collier High School against Lehigh by breaking up the potential game-tying touchdown.

“There’s a reason he’s going to Iowa,” Barron Collier coach Mark Ivey told the Naples News. “He’s a good player, and he made a great play. That’s probably the best play of the year, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Gordon continues to pile up big numbers for Wisconsin power Kenosha Bradford. The Iowa running back recruit has 57 carries for 727 yards (a 12.8 average) and 14 touchdowns through five games.

The Hawkeyes also are targeting the top running back in Missouri. Darrian Miller, ranked by Rivals as a four-star player and the No. 2 overall prospect in the state, piled up 135 yards Friday night for Blue Springs in its victory against Lee’s Summit — and that was just his first five carries. Miller finished with 267 yards and four touchdowns.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andy Hamilton: University of Iowa graduate Andy Hamilton is originally from Williams, Iowa, and started at the Des Moines Register in August after 12 years at the Press-Citizen. He covers wrestling for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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