Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz spent part of his Tuesday writing notes to recruits. Each message included three letters: N-F-L.
Ferentz has seen 55 of his players selected in the NFL Draft in his 15 seasons as Iowa coach, including three last week.
“We certainly sell that,” Ferentz said before an appearance at the Boone-Story County I-Club. “Because that is something our guys have done a good job of.”
Iowa has had 22 players drafted this decade. The only Big Ten school with more is Ohio State, with 23. The Buckeye roster is stocked with four- and five-star recruits. Ferentz has made a living at turning two- and three-star prospects into NFL players.
The Hawkeyes have had 32 players selected over the past eight drafts.
According to Rivals.com, 13 of those players arrived at Iowa as two-star prospects. That includes linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who went to the Dallas Cowboys in last weekend’s fourth round.
Thirteen more were three-star players, including Christian Kirksey, a third-round pick by the Cleveland Browns.
Six — including tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, a third-round choice of the Houston Texans — carried four stars out of high school.
“Maybe other people don’t recognize it when they came in here, but they’re guys we thought were good players,” Ferentz said. “And then I think our guys get great support, and I think they receive excellent coaching. And what we do is an NFL-style system. But all that being said, the credit goes to our players. They have to put the energy and effort into it, too. And that’s what it takes.”
Ferentz likes the direction his 2015 recruiting class is headed, as well. The Hawkeyes have eight commitments to date, including Iowans Landen and Levi Paulsen of Woodbury Central; Jacob Newborg of West Lyon; Ryan Boyle of Dowling Catholic; and Drew Cook of Iowa City Regina.
Five of Iowa’s eight commitments are three-star prospects, according to Rivals.com. The other three are ranked as two-stars.
“We’re off to a good start, but we’re a long way from the finish line,” Ferentz said. “A lot of things need to fall into place between now and February. Everyone was off the road Monday. After two weeks, we wanted to touch base to see where we were at, and to reassess things. But I think things are going positively so far.”
Six new members of the coaching staff have also energized recruiting efforts.
“I think everyone feels pretty comfortable with where they’re at,” Ferentz said. “Jim (Reid), obviously, has some new challenges. He’s in some new areas. But if you meet Jim and visit with him for five minutes, you feel pretty good about things.”
Reid, one of Iowa’s linebacker coaches, switched his recruiting territory from Ohio to St. Louis and Indianapolis to fill the void left by the departure of recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson.
Hitchens and Kirksey used the opportunity Iowa presented and made themselves into NFL draft picks. That included hours in the weight room with strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.
“Chris is a huge component of what we do,” Ferentz said. “Yet the guys who have benefited from it are the guys that invest in it and put the effort in.”
Ferentz is also confident that the third senior linebacker from his 2013 team, James Morris, will have success at the next level. He signed a free-agent deal with the New England Patriots.
“I think James Morris will have a tremendous NFL career,” Ferentz said. “I’ve told several people I think they’re underestimating him. I think that will be proven out in time.”
As Ferentz watches every draft unfold, he takes fatherly pride each time one of his players is selected.
“People don’t, nor could they, realize or appreciate the depth of investment,” Ferentz said. “It’s just a neat thing. Every guy, I think, comes to our program with those kinds of dreams and aspirations. It’s not always the way it’s going to happen.”
THERE WITH THE BEST
Iowa has more than held its own in the Big Ten Conference in terms of recent NFL Draft choices. The breakdown for the league’s schools since 2010, by total picks (first-round choice in parentheses):
Ohio State 23 (3)
Iowa 22 (3)
Wisconsin 21 (4)
Nebraska 19 (2)
Penn State 19 (1)
Illinois 16 (3)
Michigan 13 (2)
Michigan State 13 (1)
Purdue 7 (1)
Indiana 7 (0)
Northwestern 5 (0)
Minnesota 4 (0)
CLASS OF 2015 COMMITMENTS
Jack Beneventi, QB, 6-6, 210, Glen Ellyn, Ill. (Benet Academy)
Ryan Boyle QB, 6-1, 215, West Des Moines (Dowling Catholic)
Drew Cook ATH, 6-5, 218, Iowa City (Regina)
Jack Hockaday, ATH, 6-0, 205, Maroa, Ill. (Maroa-Forsyth)
Jacob Newborg, OL, 6-3, 271 Inwood (West Lyon)
Landan Paulsen, OL, 6-6, 285, Moville (Woodbury Central)
Levi Paulsen, OL, 6-6, 275, Moville (Woodbury Central)
Brady Reiff, DE, 6-4, 215, Parkston, S.D. (Parkston)