When Caring Was Creepy: The Class of 2009

Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY Sports

With five years down, the Iowa football Class of 2009 is now done. How did Kirk Ferentz and his staff do on the recruiting trail that year? Not good. Not good by a long shot.

INITIAL NUMBERS

Number of players: 19
Number of Rivals 4-star players: 2
Number of Rivals 3-star players: 5
Number of Rivals 2-star players: 12

There should have been an uptick in recruiting off the 2008 season. Iowa had an impressive run to the finish, winning against national championship contender Penn State on national television and steamrolling through South Carolina in a bowl game. As it was, we would have to wait another year. Instead, Iowa harvested the greatest haul of in-state skill position talent in a generation before the season began, filling six scholarships before the season began (an unheard-of total for Ferentz at that time) but struggled mightily during and after the season. The bevy of two-stars were almost exclusively in-season or post-season commits, and they almost universally failed.

FINAL NUMBERS

Number of players who left the program early: 11
Number of players who completed four years: 8
Number of multiple-year starters: 4
Number of one-year starters: 3

This is how you go 4-8. The 2008 class was a program-killer, a once-in-a-generation whiff that crippled the program in 2011 and 2012. The Class of 2009 was somehow worse, given the number of "developmental" players in the group and the in-state focus of the class. Just 4 of 19 players started for more than one season. Just two are ever going to get a serious chance in the NFL (and neither of those two was a four-star prospect). Elsewhere, there was a pair of star-crossed running backs, two receivers that never really got where they were supposed to go, a handful of offensive and defensive linemen who left before they ever got decent, and a bunch of names you'll never remember.

THE PLAYERS (in order of Rivals projection)

Keenan Davis

Recruited as: Wide receiver
Rivals projection: 5.9 (4 stars)
Final disposition: Only the man when he's wearing his headphones.

It is genuinely difficult to understate the level of hype surrounding Iowa's two four-star prospects in 2009. Davis got the top marks, and for good reason: He was a fully-formed 6'3, 200-lb. Mario Manningham clone the moment he stepped on campus. He played high school football 20 miles from Kinnick Stadium. He got rave reviews from Soup Campbell, the man who gave Michigan Braylon Edwards and thought he'd found another. He played as a freshman, but the Hawkeyes were disturbingly stacked at receiver, Davis got buried, and his four catches would have to do. He wasn't much better in 2010, but with DJK and McNutt on the roster, it could be excused.

With Johnson-Koulianos gone in 2011, Davis moved into the starting lineup and had a solid season: 50 catches, 713 yards, four touchdowns. His place in the sun coincided with the massive dropoff that Greg Davis ushered in for the 2012 season, and all his numbers decreased. He left Iowa with 112 career catches, 1470 yards, and seven scores. Not bad, but not what anyone ever expected. He resurfaced last year on the practice squad with the Dolphins with wide receivers coach Ken O'Keefe.

Brandon Wegher

Recruited as: Running back
Rivals projection: 5.8 (4 stars)
Final disposition: A comet that flew into the sun

If the noise around Davis was loud, the buzz around Wegher was deafening. Iowa's all-time touchdown leader when he left Sioux City Heelan, Wegher came with the numbers -- 3,238 yards and 54 touchdowns as a senior -- and the recruiting hype -- four stars, offers from Oklahoma, Nebraska, Auburn, Wisconsin, and Penn State -- to make him a legend before he ever hit campus. Like Davis, he played immediately. Unlike Davis, that playing time was significant. Wegher ran for 641 yards and 8 touchdowns, an Iowa freshman record, as part of a two-man rotation with redshirt freshman Adam Robinson. With the injured Jewel Hampton coming back for 2010, Iowa had a three-headed halfback monster ready to go.

And then Wegher didn't show up for August camp, and just like that, we never saw him again. The rumors surrounding his departure are largely irrelevant now. The story afterward is anything but. After sitting out 2010, Wegher tried to walk on with Oklahoma. He left after one day, with Bob Stoops issuing a mocking, "Yeah, that lasted long" to the press on his way out of town. He popped up at Iowa Western Community College, was declared ineligible, got arrested for getting into a fight with his brother, and largely dropped off the radar. This fall, he started playing football again at his hometown Morningside College, running for 1,106 yards in 11 games on nearly six yards a carry. When you've got it, you've got it.

Brandon Wegher wasn't an AIRBHG victim or a cautionary tale or anything like that. He was more than that. He was a comet.

Jordan Cotton

Recruited as: Wide receiver
Rivals projection: 5.7 (3 stars)
Final disposition: A pretty good kick returner

Cotton was the third of the in-state skill position players at the heart of this class, and was regularly lumped in with Wegher and Davis for convenience. But Cotton's circumstance was different: He was a tall, lanky high school running back that would be moved to wideout purely for survival. There is always a concern with moving a player to receiver who has never played there, and Cotton's route-running never got there. In 2012, Iowa discovered that, while he might stink as a wideout, Cotton was a fine kick returner. He spent two seasons as part of Iowa's annual field position war. It was somehow fitting that his final kick return, broken up the sideline late against LSU in the Outback Bowl, came up a couple of yards short.

Brad Rogers

Recruited as: Running back
Rivals projection: 5.6 (3 stars)
Final disposition: A career that died from a broken heart

Rogers was a bowling ball of a running back out of Ohio ignored by Ohio State but a perfect fit for Iowa. He redshirted and moved to fullback, but was stuck behind Brett Morse as a redshirt freshman; he made one start and ran for 75 total yards over 11 games. By the time that the depth chart cleared for him after the 2010 season, Rogers was diagnosed with a heart problem that kept him out of spring practice and August camp. He returned four games into the 2011 season, started seven times, and played as well as any Iowa fullback in recent memory. In 2012, with the running back depth chart destroyed by AIRBHG, Iowa moved Rogers back to tailback. Weisman eventually won the job, and Rogers went back to blocking, a role that was not in particular need with another converted fullback getting the carries. He developed back issues during a postseason workout and decided to call it a career one year early.

Drew Clark

Recruited as: Guard
Rivals projection: 5.5 (3 stars)
Final disposition: Student first, athlete second

Clark committed to Iowa in early August, as part of a run of in-state commits including Wegher, Davis, and Cotton during the preseason camp. He certainly looked the part: 6'4, 280 pounds out of high school, with an uncle who was a four-year letterwinner at Iowa and offer list that made Iowa look like a fait accompli: A lot of interested schools but only offers from the Hawkeyes and Iowa State.

He redshirted, as expected, but failed to break through. Clark never put on the additional weight expected -- he topped out around 290 -- and only played in one game over four years. When camp opened this year and his name was again left off the depth chart, Clark decided to call it quits and focus on his engineering degree. He will graduate in May.

Conor Boffeli

Recruited as: Offensive line project
Rivals projection: 5.5 (3 stars)
Final disposition: Better late than never

Boffeli was a rare commit from West Des Moines Valley, but it almost went the other way. He initially committed to Iowa State over the summer before his senior season, then changed his mind just days before Signing Day. He played tight end in high school, but was pegged for the offensive line; his 6'5, 250-lb. frame practically begged for the position change. He redshirted, then looked like a potnetial factor at center. Through 2010 and 2011, Boffeli saw garbage reps on the interior line, and he finally broke through late in 2012 when injuries decimated the line and left him as the best option at left guard for the last three games of the season. Somewhat surprisingly, coaches saw some serious growth before his fifth year, and installed him as starting left guard at the beginning of the year. He never left, making 13 starts in 2013. There's an outside chance he gets some practice squad time in the NFL, but he's never been big enough to play as a serious guard option at the next level.

Nolan MacMillan

Recruited as: Offensive tackle
Rivals projection: 5.5 (3 stars)
Final disposition: Another first rounder at Iowa!

We laughed a little bit last year when MacMillan, a native of Toronto, was taken in the first round of the CFL Draft. It turns out that the CFL Draft only includes Canadian-born or Canadian-resident players, and that teams can keep draft rights for two seasons, so that expansion franchise Ottawa could make him their first ever pick, send him back to Iowa for a season, then bring him to the Great White North for 2014.

There was a time that MacMillan looked like a star. He came from a prep school in New Jersey, redshirted, missed spring practice due to an injury -- this became a theme -- and then shockingly broke into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman at right guard. He started seven games before yet another injury ended his season. He was named a freshman All-American by a couple of publications, and the future looked bright. Then he missed all of 2011 with injuries, and all of spring practice in 2012 with injuries, and August camp in 2012 with injuries, and before you knew it, other guys had moved ahead. He got one start in 2012 and made some special teams appearances, and 2013 wasn't even that productive. What might have been, etc.

Shane DiBona

Recruited as: Linebacker
Rivals projection: 5.4 (2 stars)
Final disposition: His Achilles heel was his Achilles heel

This is the eighth player in the series, and we're already out of three-star recruits. This class was a mess.

Anyway, DiBona came to Iowa from Duxbury, south of Boston on the Massachusetts coast. The coaches really liked him early, and he got a couple of starts at weakside linebacker as a redshirt freshman during the 2010 linebacker apocalypse. Then he got rhabdo in early 2011. Then he tore his Achilles tendon in August, and was out for the season. The Achilles injury was reaggravated during spring practice in 2012, and DiBona had had enough. He finished with 13 total tackles.

Anthony Schiavone

Recruited as: Tight end and pro wrestling announcer
Rivals projection: 5.4 (2 stars)
Final disposition: Lasted about as long as that Mortal Kombat angle on Nitro

Yes, his name is Tony Schiavone. As in former WCW Monday Nitro announcer Tony Schiavone. But this one was a 6'5, 230-lb. tight end and potential offensive line project. He spent a semester in Iowa City as a redshirt, decided it wasn't for him, and left town.

Brett Van Sloten

Recruited as: Plan B
Rivals projection: 5.4 (2 stars)
Final disposition: A surprisingly solid career

Van Sloten only got a scholarship offer from Iowa when the Hawkeyes' top offensive tackle target, West Des Moines' David Barrent, decommitted to go to Michigan State. Van Sloten jumped at the offer, redshirted, and quickly moved into the two-deep. After two seasons as Markus Zusevics' understudy, he was named starting at right tackle for 2012. He never missed a game, starting 25 consecutive contests on the right side. He was a four-time academic all-conference selection, a solid bulwark for the offense, and a potential professional lineman. Not bad for a two-star Plan B recruit from Decorah.

Scott Covert

Recruited as: Defensive tackle-like substance
Rivals projection: 5.4 (2 stars)
Final disposition: Super Bowl shuffling off the team

Covert certainly had the pedigree: His dad played on the 1985 Chicago Bears, his high school coach was longtime Lake Forest head coach Chuck Spagnoli, and his high school quarterback was Notre Dame's Tommy Rees. But Covert came to Iowa at 6'2, 240 pounds, and without a defined position. Iowa thought defensive tackle at first, but Covert eventually moved to fullback. On the eve of the 2011 opener, Covert left the program, having never seen game action at Iowa.

Micah Hyde

Recruited as: Defensive back
Rivals projection: 5.4 (2 stars)
Final disposition: The most improbable superstar of any Iowa recruiting class ever

If you hadn't watched Iowa do it before, you'd never believe that Micah Hyde was a good as he was. A two-star high school quarterback overlooked by local programs should not be able to step in and play defensive back on his first day of college.

Hyde, though, was a peculiar recruit to begin with. He was a first team all-state selection as a senior at Fostoria (Ohio) High who played quarterback, cornerback, and placekicker. He generated more than 11,000 yards of offense in three years. He won divisional and regional player of the year awards. He was a superstar, and yet it was only MAC program that were interested. That was probably a mistake. Hyde played in every game during his four years at Iowa, starting 38 games over the last three seasons. He intercepted eight passes over that time, and holds two of the ten longest interception returns in school history. He took home the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year award as a senior and got drafted by the Green Bay Packers. Hyde was a rarity for this class: A miss by the scouts, not the recruiters.

Martin Hopkins

Recruited as: Linebacker/defensive lineman
Rivals projection: 5.4 (2 stars)
Final disposition: Gone, and gone quickly

Hopkins chose Iowa over Ball State and Akron, committing quickly after receiving an Iowa offer. He spent a year redshirting, didn't show up on the depth chart, and left. Where he ended up remains an open question; he didn't play football at anyplace of significance.

Iowa truly struck out on defensive linemen in 2008 and 2009, a time where the Hawkeyes should have been able to capitalize on the success of a defensive line stocked with four future professionals. I've never seen a good reason why Iowa was incapable of doing so, but the idea that guys like Marty Hopkins and Scott Covert were going to be the answers shows how bad Iowa's out-of-state scouting and recruiting had become.

Stephane Ngoumou

Recruited as: Wide receiver
Rivals projection: 5.4 (2 stars)
Final disposition: Never got here

Ngoumou was one of Iowa's first recruits from the mid-Atlantic, picking Iowa over Eastern Michigan and interest from Syracuse and UConn. He failed to qualify, though, and never enrolled at Iowa. He went to Milford Academy (neither seen nor heard!) and eventually resurfaced at Ohio University.

Tyler Harrell

Recruited as: Defensive lineman
Rivals projection: 5.4 (2 stars)
Final disposition: See above

Harrell had some decent offers -- Kansas, Cincinnati, a handful of MAC programs -- and looked like a promising prospect. He spent a year redshirting at Iowa, left quietly, and ended up at Louisville, where Charlie Strong was desperate for defensive talent. He never broke through there.

Josh Brown

Recruited as: Defensive back
Rivals projection: 5.3 (2 stars)
Final disposition: Racer

Brown was a likely cornerback out of Florida, another one of Rick Kaczenski's Sunshine State projects. Brown had enough interest from comparable programs like Louisville, Indiana, Wake Forest, and USF that he had some buzz. The buzz faded quickly, though: Brown left after one season, eventually joining the squad at Murray State.

Matt Murphy

Recruited as: Offensive line project
Rivals projection: 5.1 (2 stars)
Final disposition: Screaming Eagle

Murphy, who came from Clinton, Iowa, was recruited as a frame. He stood 6'5, weighed 235 pounds, and looked prime for a spot on the offensive line. Iowa initially offered him a grayshirt, but moved it to a full scholarship before Signing Day when attrition opened spots and recruiting fell short (this, in retrospect, was a really bad sign for this class). For whatever reason, it didn't work. Murphy left after one year, spent some time at Iowa Central, and eventually got two seasons as a tight end at Minnesota State.

Dakota Getz

Recruited as: Tight end-ish
Rivals projection: 5.1 (2 stars)
Final disposition: Casualty of LINEBACKERPOCALYPSE

Getz had been a Western Illinois commit that Iowa threw a late offer toward. He took it quickly, and got some initial love from the coaching staff. He redshirted, moved to linebacker in early 2010 when the depth chart caught the injury bug. Getz played for a moment against Michigan that October, but was injured the next week. He didn't see the field again that season, suffered a dislocated kneecap on the opening kickoff against Iowa State in 2011, and never made it back.

Dominic Alvis

Recruited as: Defensive lineman
Rivals projection: 5.0 (2 stars)
Final disposition: A good, solid career

Like Murphy, Alvis was offered a grayshirt. Unlike Murphy, he stayed long enough to make it work. Alvis redshirted in 2009 and saw limited action in 2010, but we were still surprised when he popped up as Adrian Clayborn's replacement on the 2011 opening depth chart. Alvis started nine games that year before being sidelined by a knee injury, and he returned in 2012 to start all 12 games.

That 2012 line was the nadir of Iowa defensive fronts, a group of experienced-but-limited projects that never panned out filling places while younger guys learned the ropes. Rightly or wrongly, Alvis got lumped in with these guys, and his chance to play with the younger guys was cut short by another injury in 2013. He finished with 91 career tackles and 7.5 sacks, a modest haul for a player who started 27 games over three seasons, but a massive success given his recruiting status.

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