In November, when Iowa looked faltering and talentless and Kansas State was the nation's top team, Kirk Ferentz was asked about recruiting junior college players. Ferentz didn't completely dismiss the idea, but discounted it severely:
I've never said we wouldn't look at a JUCO. Eric Simmons came from Iowa Western last year and we've had several. The reality of it is, and I'm going off my history at this school, junior college players don't, as a rule, always transition in as well. That hasn't been our mode. But there are some schools where it's probably more workable.
But to answer the question, I mean, it's a very dynamic process. We're always evaluating and looking. If you've got X‑amount of scholarships left, what are our best options? Where do we need to use them the most? That's a fluid process.
He reiterated the point in his postseason press conference on November 28:
We're going to try to improve the team, JUCO, high school, we'll look at anybody, anything right now if we think they can help us. But you have to try to project how they're going to fit on campus, and will they be able to have success here in all realms, not just football wise.
Implicit in those statements is a semi-truth: JUCO football players have generally not done well off the field at Iowa. Sure, Brad Banks damn near won a Heisman Trophy out of junior college, but Iowa's latest forays -- Dan Heiar, Nate Guillory -- had problems off the field that prevented them from ever getting in the game. This was the reality behind Iowa's decision not to seriously pursue former four-star commit Rodney Coe; the failure to initially qualify hurt his chances, but his drama queen tendencies on social media killed what little chance there was.
Apparently, the coaches determined the reward was worth the risk, because we got word Sunday morning of the commitment of Damond Powell, a small speedster wideout from Snow College in Ephraim, Utah. Powell originally hails from Toledo, and held a handful of MAC interest but no offers out of high school. As far as we can tell, he'd been offered by Iowa and Ohio this time around. He's just 5'11" and 175 lbs. and runs an alleged 4.4 40, but the production speaks for itself: 1231 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns on just 41 catches. His 30.0 yards per catch average led all NJCAA receivers, and his yards per game, total yardage, and touchdown totals were in the top four nationally. He had seven games with 100+ receiving yards, two with 200+ yards, and four multi-touchdown games. And, if you needed to be sold anymore, the first play of the highlight video -- a tunnel screen for 70 yards, untouched -- should probably put you in this car today.
With numbers like that, there are obvious questions as to why Iowa's the only BCS program after him, questions that can likely be attributed to size and that are serious enough that a team with limited scholarships might balk at using one on a non-conforming JUCO. But Greg Davis is bringing a sea change at Iowa receiver, a move away from the big, strong, proto-Michigan wideout and toward, well, 5'11" and 175 pounds that can go 40 in 4.4 seconds. That's certainly not the case everywhere, and so Iowa can hopefully continue to take advantage.