It looks like Lester Erb might have something to say about all that discussion of Maryland and DC as Iowa's newest recruiting hotbed; it turns out Chicago can keep filling that role, thank you very much. On the heels of Jaleel Johnson's verbal commitment earlier this month, Iowa has apparently won the services of Providence Catholic offensive lineman Ryan Ward (Rivals and Scout have yet to confirm, but ESPN Chicago says it's done and has the coach's quotes to prove it). The 6'6", 270-lb. behemoth received four stars from ESPN and Rivals, the latter of which named him the #12 offensive line prospect in the country (Scout, with a 3*/#48 rating, is as always not as enthused). He turned down offers from Michigan State, Boston College, Vanderbilt, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, and Northwestern.
The last name on that offer sheet might be the most intriguing, as Ward's brother Patrick (I wish his name was Montgomery) plays for Northwestern. While Wizgerald was always thought to have the inside track to the younger Ward, it turns out that Iowa's offer of an actual chance of playing professionally won out over Northwestern's promise that he would become an insufferable douche rocket virtually overnight. This is unquestionably the biggest upset in the Iowa-Northwestern rivalry since the last three games between Iowa and Northwestern, and I'm sure Ryan will regret this decision in the future when he's slaving away on fourteen-hour shifts at a factory owned by his heavy industrialist Northwestern graduate brother that makes field goal posts that can be used on only one half of Wrigley Field.
As for the location story, it appears that, despite talk of pipelines and hotbeds, Iowa's philosophy remains to get the best players possible, regardless of location. Two years mining the District of Columbia were preceded by a two-year foray into St. Louis, which itself followed another extended run through Illinois. The Iowa staff has been together, largely untouched, for twelve years. They have built a recruiting network across the upper midwest, mid-Atlantic, and New England over that time, and that network is now paying dividends in bunches. Ten years ago, Ryan Ward could have been a legacy recruit to the University of Phoenix and Iowa still wouldn't have a shot. Today, due to persistence, consistency, and track record, Kirk Ferentz and his staff get their guys. Ryan Ward is one of those guys, and today he's a Hawkeye.