And, lo, the eye of Saban did turn its malicious gaze to the west...
Well, we knew something like this was bound to happen. You don't earn a 4* ranking from Rivals and the 79th spot in their Top 250 recruits without also generating interest from some big-time programs. Ross Pierschbacher already had offers from some notable programs -- Notre Dame, Stanford, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Nebraska -- but these days programs don't come much more "big-time" than Alabama. You know, the team that's won three of the last four BCS National Championships, including the last two in a row (a feat no other team has managed since the implementation of the BCS). That Alabama. Well, Nick Saban offered young Mr. Pierschbacher -- in Spanish class, no less.
Mi nombre es Nick Saban, hijo, quiero jugar al fútbol para mí?
¿Dónde están los balones de cristal? En mi casa.
Yeah, that Nick Saban. From that Alabama. Gulp.
Iowa's fought Saban and Alabama for some notable recruits in the past -- running back (and future Hesiman Trophy-winner) Mark Ingram and offensive lineman (and likely future NFL first round draft pick) Cyrus Kouandijo spring to mind. They both chose Alabama. Ingram helped carry 'Bama to the first of those BCS National Championships (and
stole a Heisman from Ndamukong Suh won a Heisman for his troubles), while Kouandijo comprised part of 'Bama's impenetrable offensive line on last year's title-winning squad. So they did alright for themselves.
Pierschbacher isn't generating quite the recruiting hype that Kouandijo did (he was widely regarded as one of the best prospects in the class of 2011), but hey: if Nick Saban wants you to come play football for him, you listen. From a program standpoint, Iowa was certainly on stronger footing when they were recruiting Kouandijo than they are now -- the 2009 Orange Bowl-winning campaign wasn't quite so far in the rearview mirror and Iowa certainly hadn't just gone a combined 11-14 over the past two seasons. Of course, Kouandijo also wasn't an Iowa native who grew up as a fan of the Hawkeyes, which is a plus for the recruitment of Pierschbacher. Still, Iowa had better hope those childhood memories -- and a desire to play 90 minutes away from home -- is strong enough to keep him in the fold. It's hard to imagine the on-field results for Iowa and Alabama this fall doing much to sway him to the Hawkeye cause.
For his part, Pierschbacher is still pledging his loyalty to Iowa, per Rivals ($). Although his comments to the Press-Citizen could be read a bit more ominously, if you were so inclined. Based on his comments there and in the Rivals article, I think he's mainly concerned about not having other options if Iowa completely falls apart this year and Ferentz is shown the door* after the season, but we'll see. If Iowa stumbles to another ugly 3-4 win season, he certainly wouldn't be the first recruit who decided to look elsewhere. It's too soon to start panicking by any stretch of the imagination -- it's April, for christ's sake -- but it looks like there's even more reason to root for a bounce-back season for Iowa this fall (you know, other than the whole "winning is much more fun than losing" bit).
* Yeah, yeah, enormous buyout yadda yadda yadda.