Iowa isn't quite done filling out its 2013 football recruiting class -- it sounds like they're probably looking to add another 3-5 prospects to that class before National Signing Day (which is just a touch over three weeks away -- February 6, 2013) -- but they're already getting started on the 2014 front. And they've started their 2014 with one of the biggest splashes imaginable, securing a verbal commitment from '14 OL prospect, Ross Pierschbacher, already being hyped up as a top prospect in that class.
Aside from having a first name that connotes intelligence, physical attractiveness, and rugged masculinity (cough), the Pierschbacher commitment is exciting because it represents a true blue-chip signing for the Iowa staff. There aren't a lot of 2014 rankings out yet (for obvious reasons), but Pierschbacher is already generating a lot of buzz. Scout pegs him as a 4* recruit and the 4th best offensive guard prospect in the nation. Rivals hasn't assigned him a star ranking yet, but one of their leading analysts in the Midwest described him thusly:
Top 2014 OL I have seen in the Midwest this year and strong candidate to be a top 100 prospect in that class.
Pierschbacher appears to be a very strong contender to be the top prospect in Iowa in 2014, so having him in the fold is a good accomplishment for a staff that's struggled in that department lately. If Pierschbacher does sign with Iowa (and, remember, he can't do so until February 2014), he'll be the first top-ranked in-state prospect to do so since A.J. Derby in 2010 (let's hope his Iowa career works out better than Derby's did, obviously). (Christian French signed with Oregon in 2011, Amara Darboh signed with Michigan in 2012, and Jake Campos is slated to sign with -- ugh -- Iowa State in 2013.)
If you prefer to analyze a prospect by his offer sheet rather than his star rankings, Pierschbacher grades out highly there, too. He chose Iowa over offers from Boise State, Iowa State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame -- that's certainly a cut or three above the low-BCS offers or MAC offers we so often see among Iowa recruits. Iowa went toe-to-toe with some heavy-hitter programs for Pierschbacher and came out on top. That they did so on the back of the worst season for Iowa football in over a decade is perhaps even more impressive. Kudos to Reese Morgan (the lead in-state recruiter for Iowa) and Brian and Kirk Ferentz.
Then again, perhaps that poor performance actually helped push Pierschbacher toward Iowa:
The Irish also received commitments from four Scout.com four-star offensive tackles in the 2013 class.
"I just started to question if playing time would become an issue," Pierschbacher said. "I want to play. Coming into Iowa, I think I have a better chance to play earlier than Notre Dame."
You can't exactly blame him for looking at some of the guys taking the field for the 2013 Hawkeyes and thinking that the path to the playing field might be a bit shorter in Iowa City than in South Bend.
The other thing that pushed Pierschbacher to Iowa? Stability:
"It was between Iowa and Notre Dame coming down to it and just with the stuff with coach Kelly, I know coach Ferentz is going to be there for a while and just the stability," Pierschbacher said. "It’s a big deal to me to play in front of Iowa people. I grew up here and I’ve been an Iowa fan for my whole life, so it just meant a lot to me. I couldn’t see myself going anywhere else really."
Thanks for that wandering eye, Brian Kelly.
Pierschbacher indicated to Morehouse that the Iowa coaches were already planning on utilizing the same approach with him that they used with great success with Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff: start at offensive guard and eventually move out to offensive tackle after acquiring technique, experience, and appropriate size (although at a listed 6'5", 270, he's pretty close to ideal Iowa size already).
"Yeah, they [Iowa coaches] think they’re going to do what they did with Bulaga and Reiff and all of them," Pierschbacher said. "They’re going to start me out at guard my first couple of years or first year and then they’re going to move me out to left tackle. So, that’s the plan right now."
That approach worked like gangbusters with Bulaga and Reiff, who eventually parlayed their success at Iowa into first-round NFL draft selections. It's far too soon to tell if Pierschbacher will be the next Iowa player to do the same, but it's certainly exciting to have another prospect capable of that. Pierschbacher also adds to the impressive collection of highly-rated linemen Iowa has added lately; Iowa has added at least one 4* OL prospect in four of the last five recruiting classes. Pierschbacher joins the likes of Andrew Donnal ('10), Austin Blythe ('11), Jordan Walsh ('11), and Ryan Ward ('12) as potential future stalwarts of the Iowa offensive line.
Getting a verbal commitment from Pierschbacher so early is also useful because of the potential benefit for Pierschbacher to serve as an ambassador -- and recruiter -- for the Iowa program over the next 13 months. Pierschbacher has already been in contact with several other '14 prospects (including QB/ATH Jay Scheel) and if he's as good as advertised, he's likely to be invited to some All-Star games next winter, where he might be able to help sway a prospect or two Iowa's way.
So welcome aboard, Mr. Pierschbacher. We've long been in need of some good news when it comes to football and this certainly fits the bill.