Lost in the talk of Saturday night's open practice is news of Iowa's latest verbal commitment. Aaron Mends, a 6'1, 205-lb. linebacker out of Kansas City, committed to the Hawkeyes Saturday. Mends received three-star grades from ESPN and Rivals; 247Sports and Scout have not yet issued grades. Mends held offers from Iowa, Iowa State, and North Dakota State, with interest from Illinois, Kansas State, Michigan State, Missouri, and Nebraska. He plays linebacker and running back for the Winnetonka Griffins -- alma mater of former Nebraska coordinator Carl Pelini and definitely the best high school mascot of any Iowa recruit so far this year -- and is good enough as a running back that Scout was projecting him there in college.
Where Mends is headed in Iowa's defense is up for speculation. Mends' speed suggests he'll be destined for the outside, but Iowa rarely uses a short linebacker on the strongside. Throw in the plaudits Mends has received as a run-stuffing middle linebacker in high school and the prior commitments of Jameer Outsey and Ben Niemann (both 6'3 and looking the part of an Iowa strongside linebacker), and I'm willing to bet he's headed for the weakside position. In fact, the size, speed, halfback experience, and mentality look a lot like former weakside linebacker Jeremiha Hunter.
Iowa needs help at linebacker. All three starters graduate after this season and, while Ferentz and his staff have done a nice job of recruiting the position in anticipation of that event, the fact remains that the Hawkeyes are likely to start these three in 2014: The versatile Quinton Alston in the middle, walk-on Travis Perry at strongside, and sophomore Cole Fisher at weakside. There is room to break through here, and they need bodies to do it. The staff has a knack for finding linebackers, and they were higher on Mends than they are on most. That's enough for me.
Welcome to Iowa City, Mr. Mends.