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Ferentz not surprised that recruits shop around

[ 0 ] July 28, 2013 |

The most heralded player in the Iowa football team’s 2014 recruiting class spent this past weekend getting a closer look at the Stanford football program in Palo Alto, Calif.

Cedar Falls offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher also took an unofficial visit to two-time defending national champion Alabama a few days earlier.

It was a busy week for somebody who should be finished with the recruiting process, considering that the 6-foot-4, 275-pound Pierschbacher committed to the Hawkeyes in January. In fact, he was the first player to commit to Iowa’s 2014 recruiting class, which has since grown to 12 players, all of whom will be high school seniors this fall.

Another Iowa recruit for 2014 — defensive back Omar Truitt — also is still interested in at least one other school after recently visiting Tennessee.

Pierschbacher and Truitt are part of a growing trend in recruiting where a prospect commits to a school but then still keeps in contact with other schools, in some cases to the point of visiting a school. That used to rarely happen under Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.

“I think there is a tendency to look down poorly on the kids, saying it’s a societal thing and kids can’t make up their minds and things like that,” said Rob Howe, publisher of Hawkeye Insider.com, which covers Iowa football and men’s basketball recruiting for Scout.com. “I think it has more do to with the clock being more sped up and kids verbally commit earlier.”

Pierschbacher’s and Truitt’s commitments will not become official until they sign national letters of intent in February.

“You have kids committing that haven’t even started their senior years of high school yet,” said Howe, who has covered Iowa football recruiting for the past decade. “And common sense would tell you with that much time a lot of things can change.

“I mean, the team and the program they committed to may not be as good. The coach could leave. I think what gets lost is that other schools will continue to recruit a kid that’s committed to a school in most cases. It’s wide open. So you can’t really blame a kid for sometimes looking around when other schools are trying to get him to move off his commitment.”

Ferentz echoed those sentiments.

“The farther away it gets from February (signing day), the more chance those could change,” Ferentz said Thursday at the Big Ten football media days in Chicago. “Your team could go 0-12. The coach could get hit by a bus or might change jobs, all of those things. If I were a prospect and something did happen, maybe you would want to consider a change. It’s part of the game. It’s changing every day.”

Some recruits are so eager to commit to a school in order to secure a scholarship that they do so without having visited the campus. Iowa has at least four recruits in its 2014 class that committed under those circumstances, including Truitt, who lives in the Washington, D.C. area.

Truitt has since visited Iowa City with his parents.

Ferentz has concerns about a recruit committing to a school without seeing the campus.

“What if they show up and don’t like it?” Ferentz said.

Ferentz’s concerns haven’t stopped him from accepting more verbal commitments from players that haven’t seen the Iowa campus. It’s his way of keeping up with the times and with the competition.

Ferentz said it’s easier in this age of the Internet and social media for a recruit to commit without seeing a school compared to when he was an Iowa assistant coach in the 1980s under Hayden Fry.

“When I came out there in 1981, what I knew about Iowa was a lousy record and the head coach was a square jawed ex-Marine from Texas,” Ferentz said of Fry. “Now, there is so much information out there, so it can happen more.

“Kids didn’t commit early back in the ’80s and ’90s. They didn’t get an offer from Coach Fry until the end of the weekend. The dating stuff is gone. This is all mail order stuff now.”

Kids also get involved with the recruiting process much earlier these days. Texas native Anthony Hines took an unofficial visit to Iowa City this past weekend, even though he is entering his freshman year of high school.

Ferentz is prohibited by NCAA rules to talk about a specific recruit before the recruit has signed a letter of intent.

But it seems apparent with Pierschbacher and Truitt still committed to Iowa that Ferentz has softened his stand on allowing committed players to visit other schools. Ferentz used to say that making a verbal commitment to a school was like getting engaged.

“I think for the most part, if it’s a high-level recruit and a player that a school really wants, they’re going to give him more leeway,” Howe said. “Maybe they’ll let him look around. I think for the most part, that’s good, too. We talk about de-commitments, but then there is also an increase in the amount of transfers.

“So if you’re just trying to get a kid to sign the letter of intent but he’s not fully committed, there is a greater chance he is going to transfer. So it’s tricky for the coaches to try to figure out what’s going on in the kids’ minds. And it’s tricky for the kids to figure out what’s going on in the coaches’ minds.”

Pierschbacher is considered one of the top players in the country at his position and one of the top-100 recruits nationally in the 2014 class. Combine his potential with Iowa coming off a 4-8 season and it’s probably fair to say that Pierschbacher has more leverage.

Pierschbacher has said he is concerned about Iowa having another losing season in 2013.

“One thing about recruiting that’s never changed is the consumer has all the rights,” Ferentz said. “The customer is always right. They can change their mind all the way up to February. It’s always been that way and until we get an early signing, that’s going to be the way it is.”

Ferentz supports having an early signing period for football. He wants it similar to basketball, which has an early signing period in November followed by a spring signing period in April.

“As a conference I think we’re all in agreement the best time would be that December signing, when junior college kids sign, that third Saturday in December, right during that dead period, right after the three week contact (period),” Ferentz said. “To me, that’d be the perfect time. I still don’t understand the resistance.”

Ferentz has learned dating back to his first head coaching stint at Maine in 1990-92 to be prepared for anything to happen on the job.

“I developed a motto when I was at Maine,” Ferentz said. “I told my wife if I ever come home and say I’m surprised by something, just hit me with a pan.

“That’s kind of the same thing in recruiting. You can’t be surprised. You have to realize things can change; anything can happen and you keep pushing forward.”

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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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