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Harty: Hawkeyes’ recruiting class fills needs

[ 12 ] January 31, 2012 |

Nobody will ever mistake the Iowa football team’s 2012 recruiting class with the star-studded cast headed to play for Urban Meyer at Ohio State, but it’s still an impressive haul under tougher-than-usual circumstances.

Recruiting never has been easy at Iowa for reasons that were identified long before UI professor Stephen Bloom shared his thoughts about living in our state for the past two decades.

From the low in-state population to the miserable winter weather — although, it was nearly 60 degrees and sunny when I wrote this Tuesday — overcoming obstacles always is part of the deal when you recruit at Iowa.

But it wasn’t just the typical obstacles that stood in the way during this recruiting period, which will culminate with today’s national signing day.

Kirk Ferentz and his crew had to deal with a lack of momentum on the field and a growing concern over player attrition off the field. They also had to deal with their own coaching staff being in transition following the retirement of defensive coordinator Norm Parker and the December job switch from Iowa to Nebraska by defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski.

So to land what long-time recruiting analyst Tom Lemming thinks could be the third best recruiting class in the Big Ten, and a top-30 class nationally, and what Scout.com ranks as the fourth best class in the conference proves that the Iowa football program still is relevant under Ferentz.

Relevant means being able to convince a stud recruit such as offensive lineman Alex Kozan, who is from Colorado, to turn down scholarship offers from the likes of Michigan, Auburn and LSU to be a Hawkeye.

And it means being able to land four of the top recruits from the Chicago-land area when Wisconsin and Michigan State are having major success and when Michigan is back to being Michigan again.

The Iowa coaches accomplished both of those things despite working under less-than-favorable circumstances.

“They’re the best evaluators in the conference and the best developers of talent from the head coach down to the strength coach,” Lemming said of the Iowa coaches. “It’s tough for them to beat Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame head-to-head.

“But they still come up with a quality class and a very athletic class, guys that they can develop.”

This class, which as of late Tuesday afternoon had at least 21 high school seniors from 11 different states and two junior-college players, isn’t on par with Iowa’s 2005 recruiting class, which was widely considered a top-10 class on paper.

But it’s also not a bunch of no-names, either.

Iowa fans cherish the rags-to-riches stories that have occurred under Ferentz, but sometimes they get blown out of proportion.

For every Bob Sanders that came from out of virtually nowhere to achieve stardom at Iowa, there is an Adrian Clayborn or Christian Ballard or Brian Bulaga who came to Iowa with high expectations and then lived up to them.

The 2011 season exposed Iowa in a number of ways, but nowhere was it more glaring than on the defensive line.

Finding help at running back was another concern with the position having been ravaged by attrition.

This class addresses both of those needs, at least on paper, which is all you can say about any recruiting class at this stage.

Jaleel Johnson and Faith Ekakitie are considered two of the top recruits from the Chicago-land area, and two of the top players nationally at their position, which in both cases is the defensive line.

Cedar Falls running back Barkley Hill rushed for more than 6,000 yards in high school, but he isn’t even Iowa’s marquee recruit at that position.

That distinction goes to Erie, Pa., native Greg Garmon, who is ranked as a four-star prospect by both Scout.com and Rivals.com. Garmon had more than 40 scholarship offers, so it’s not like the Iowa coaches landed him by default or stole him from a Mid-American Conference school.

Some wonder with Iowa losing 11 games over the past two seasons — including twice at lowly Minnesota — if the program is beginning to unravel under Ferentz.

Others say things have become stale after 13 seasons under Ferentz.

The 2012 recruiting class says otherwise on paper.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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