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Harty: Catch up with Iowa recruiting

[ 0 ] December 9, 2013 |

With all due respect to the 17 high school seniors who make up the Iowa football team’s 2014 recruiting class, the most important recruit already is on the Iowa roster and will remain so for another year.

All-Big Ten left tackle Brandon Scherff made the choice for which Hawkeye fans were hoping by deciding to return for his senior season instead of entering the NFL draft. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Denison native has been a key piece to Iowa’s resurgence this season and will be a key piece again next season.

Iowa now is batting .500 with regard to losing all-Big Ten left tackles to the NFL a year early. Scherff will follow in the same path as Robert Gallery, who returned for his senior season in 2003 and was rewarded as the recipient of the Outland Trophy, as well as being the second player chosen in the 2004 NFL draft.

On the other hand, former all-Big Ten left tackles Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff both skipped their senior season to enter the NFL draft, with each being selected in the first round. The Green Bay Packers selected Bulaga in the 2010 draft, while the Detroit Lions picked Reiff in 2012.

Some draft speculation had Scherff being taken in the first round this coming spring. But assuming he stays healthy and keeps progressing, Scherff could be one of the marquee picks in 2015.

With Scherff returning, Iowa will have three-fifths of this year’s starting offensive line to build around next season. The other returning starters are junior-to-be guard Jordan Walsh and junior-to-be center Austin Blythe.

IN THE WAKE OF BENEVENTI’S COMMITMENT: Jack Beneventi’s commitment to the Iowa football program is interesting for lots of reasons, not the least of which is his status as a 4-star quarterback recruit from the Chicago area.

It also makes you wonder what fellow high school junior quarterbacks Ryan Boyle and Drew Cook, both of whom are from in-state, are thinking about where they stand with Iowa.

Neither Boyle nor Cook has been offered a scholarship by Iowa at this stage and it seems less likely that it would happen with the 6-6, 185-pound Beneventi now on board from the same class.

Iowa has signed two quarterbacks in the same class before under Kirk Ferentz, including the 2008 class, which had James Vandenberg and John Wienke as quarterback recruits. But it’s a rare occurrence because most quarterbacks, especially those with multiple options, would prefer to be the only quarterback in their recruiting class.

I exchanged text messages with Boyle Monday night and he said the Iowa coaches have been in contact with him nearly every day, so there apparently is still a mutual interest, even with Beneventi having committed. Boyle spoke highly of the Iowa coaches and said that his mobility would give the Hawkeyes a unique dimension. He’s right about that.

Boyle’s skill set and his size — he’s listed at 6-2 and 190 pounds — would make him a nice fit at schools like Iowa State, Minnesota, Northwestern and Nebraska where the offenses cater to mobile quarterbacks. The coaches at those four schools apparently feel the same way because Boyle said he hears from them the most, along with Iowa, Michigan State and Cincinnati.

Boyle rushed for more than 1,000 yards this past season and was named Iowa’s Gatorade Player of the Year. This summer will be pivotal for Boyle and for Cook as they try to help their cause by performing well at all-star camps.

This isn’t an attempt to question the Iowa coaches about whom they prioritize in recruiting but rather an attempt to shed light on a unique circumstance.

Quarterbacks who are as talented and as successful as Boyle and Cook don’t come around very often, let alone at the same time. Both are coming off junior seasons in which neither lost a game while leading their team to a Class 4A and a Class 1A title, respectively.

Boyle has the advantage of playing in the highest class in Iowa, whereas Cook has the advantage of being 6-foot-5.

I’ve seen both play on multiple occasions, and I’m convinced that they can compete at the FBS level. Boyle probably is more ready right now, partly because he’s more advanced physically, but Cook’s upside as a dual-threat quarterback is intriguing, partly because of his size.

His bloodlines aren’t bad, either, as the son of former Iowa all-America tight end Marv Cook.

A FAMILY AFFAIR: Two of the top high school juniors in the talent-rich state of Ohio have a connection to the Iowa football program that ultimately could help in recruiting.

Justin Hilliard, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound four-star linebacker from Cincinnati, is the younger brother of Iowa running back recruit C.J. Hilliard, who committed to the Hawkeyes in June.

James Daniels, a 6-4, 275-pound center from Warren, is the younger brother of Iowa freshman running back LeShun Daniels. Both of the younger brothers already have visited Iowa City and are seriously considering the Hawkeyes.

Landing either one of them won’t be easy, though, because you name the school and chances are that one of the younger brothers or both of them have a scholarship offer from that school.

Justin Hilliard has more than 30 offers at this point from a Who’s Who list of schools that include Ohio State, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Alabama, Penn State and Oklahoma.

James Daniels’ list of offers isn’t as prestigious but already includes the likes of Michigan State, Penn State, West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky.

A family connection already has helped Iowa land brothers A.J. and Jyaz Jones from Dallas. A.J. is being redshirted as a freshman receiver at Iowa this season, while his younger brother Jyaz is a high school senior defensive back and one of 17 players committed to Iowa’s 2014 recruiting class.

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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