The Hawkeyes needed immediate help on the defensive line after losing Thomas Nardo, Broderick Binns, Mike Daniels and Lebron Daniel to graduation. Despite starting three seniors along the defensive front four the line was average at best. Binns and Daniels will get a chance in the NFL and their departure leaves Iowa scary thin for 2012. The coaching staff did an excellent job on the recruiting trail hitting the Chicago area for two four-star (rated by Rivals) recruits. Don't expect these guys to start right away but after a red shirt season should compete for a spot in Iowa's two-deeps.
I'm going to look at the Youtube videos and tell you a little bit about what I like about these guys. Now, I'm not "breaking down film" because 1.) I'm not a football coach 2.) YouTube highlights aren't "film" and 3.) that's all just silly really. However, I do have a BS in Kinesiology and well, it's just discussion among us fans.
(click on the player name to review previous Caring is Creepy and YouTube videos)
Jaleel Johnson (6'2" 277)
Rivals 4 *
I saw Johnson's team play live on Comcast in the Illinois state championship game. He's a big kid, definately jumped out on your screen. He may already be bigger than the 277 Rivals has for his weight. He looked closer to 300. And he looked out of shape too which is scary considering it was the last game of the season. There could have been an injury that we didn't know about that held him out of drills in practice. I don't know, but he didn't always pursue the ball which was a negative.
His technique needs work but that's something college coaches aren't concerned with. They plan to coach these guys up. The more raw the better. There's less poor technique to correct that way.
Probably the biggest positive I saw with Johnson was his pop. He really moved the guy across from him when he got his pads under his man. There was more than one play he had the center three yards in the backfield and moving backwards. That combination of his size, strength and pop could potentially make for a solid defensive tackle.
2011 outlook: Iowa's depth is a question mark at defensive tackle but I think Johnson still takes a year to learn the Iowa system. There have been message board rumors that he may still have "work to do" to get qualified. That's certainly a story to watch this Summer.
Fun Fact: Jaleel is named after Jaleel White of Family Matters fame.
Faith Ekakitie (6'2" 255)
Lake Forest, Illinois
Probably the biggest thing that jumps out at you on Ekakitie's YouTube's is his athleticism. He grabs a pass out of midair to make an interception from his defensive end position and shows the ability to break down and change direction in the backfield.
If you need more proof of the kid's athleticism watch him play some hoops. Both former Hawkeyes Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard played basketball in high school. They both could move their feet and that's probably why they are in the league.
2011 outlook: Like Johnson, expect a red shirt season to gain some weight. The Hawks need help right away but if it's from true freshmen then expect a long season.
Fun Fact: Faith found the inspiration to write his own story via his personal blog after running across Hawkeye Beat on the Twitter.
Daumantas Venckus (6'4" 220)
Rivals 3 *
I don't know a ton about Daumantas other than he played against some of the best competition in the country. His YouTube videos are full of impressive stats and other information like a 5.1 GPA (what?). But, that kind a thing is self-reported so, who knows.
At 6'4" he has good size to play the defensive end spot. He's reportedly already added some weight to his 220 pounds posted at Rivals. He'll have a lot of competition at that spot for playing time with Ekakitie and Ott joining him in this class.
2011 outlook: DVC will need a year or two to add some pounds to play defensive line in the Big Ten. Expect him to make a rise up the depth chart around the start of his third year on campus.
Fun Fact: Despite being a defensive linemen, Venckus idolized former Hawkeye Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. He's such big fan that he added a hyphen and another last name and is now Daumantas Venckus-Cucchiara.
Drew Ott (6'4" 235)
Ott is no doubt the greatest football player in the history of Giltner, Nebraska. Ott, playing 8-man football, earned Parade All-America honors. Despite being projected as a defensive end, hopefully his career path is similar to the last Parade All-American Iowa pulled out of Nebraska. Seth Olsen was an all-Big Ten offensive tackle and is still bouncing around teams in the NFL.
Ott was a do everything guy at Giltner. When you're born for division one football and the rest of the field is full of 140 lber's it's not surprising you fill the stat sheet with whatever you want. Iowa's most famous 8-man footballer, Chad Greenway is in the Top 5 in the NFL in tackles. He's done quite well. Another, Tyler Blum, suffered back injuries and didn't get beyond a few snaps at Iowa.
2011 outlook: Ott will need to add some weight to play defensive line in the Big Ten. I predict a career path similar to Dominic Alvis. The prediction for both Venckus and Ott are the same. Expect them to show up in the two-deeps at the start of their third year on campus.
Fun Fact: Drew loves syllables, he really does.
The offensive line is the polar opposite of the defensive line. Iowa added four-star recruits Austin Blythe and Jordan Walsh last season and had the luxury of red shirting both. Blythe ended the season working with the second team offensive line and could break into the two-deeps as a red shirt frosh. It appears coach Ferentz's fame as an offensive line guru is paying off on the recruiting trail. It helps that for the second time in three seasons Iowa will have an offensive linemen drafted in the first round of the NFL draft.
Mitch Keppy (6'5" 287)
Port Byron, Illinois
Keppy was Iowa's first commit of this class and has been forgotten a little bit since his commitment last Spring. Keppy is a legacy. His dad, Myron, played defensive line for Hayden Fry. Keppy doesn't have lengthy football highlight videos on YouTube, just a couple wrestling videos tossing people around.
He fits the mold of a prototypical Iowa offensive lineman. Wrestling certainly helps with hand fighting and the work ethic involved. Keppy could play either guard or tackle, guard might fit the best.
2011 outlook: Most likely a red shirt season and then a real chance at cracking the two-deeps in his second year.
Ryan Ward (6'6" 270)
New Lenox, Illinois
Ward is my pick to have the best career of all these line recruits (defensive too). It's not going out on a limb really. His brother plays right tackle at Northwestern so the genes are there and you have to assume he knows and understands the work involved in a Big Ten football program.
For a big guy (6'6") he does an excellent job of getting his pads underneath his man's and has good lower joint flexibility. He uses his lower body and explodes out of his stance off the line of scrimmage. Ward is the left tackle of the future at Iowa. He's big enough, smart (had Northwestern offer), and extremely athletic for a kid of his size.
2011 outlook: Ward will red shirt while he learns the tackle position (either right or left to start). He could be in the two-deeps as early as his RS freshmen year but as a sophomore is more realistic. See: Andrew Donnal, I see a path similar to his.
Fun Fact: Ryan refers to his brother Patrick as just Patrick Ward.
Eric Simmons (6'3" 305)
Iowa Western Community College
Simmons is listed at 6'3" but he looks a little closer to 6'1". He also looks like he enjoys kicking ass. His videos are full of pancakes and non-stop blocking til the whistle. My favorite play of all these videos is Simmons losing his helmet but still getting after his guy all the way down the field.
Simmons is an Iowa kid, he played HS football at Madrid. After one season at Iowa Western Community College Simmons comes to Iowa with four years to play three. There will be Yanda comparisons but Simmons is a different breed, he's a center.
Behind James Ferentz is Conor Bofelli, maybe Jordan Walsh, and perhaps now Simmons. Walsh might find his way over to guard and in the two-deeps this Spring. That means Simmons could be the second team center of the future after a red shirt year. Typically, you don't bring JUCO kids into red shirt but Iowa's current depth on the offensive line isn't a typical situation.
2011 outlook: Being able to participate in Spring ball gives the coaching staff a real good look at Simmons. I think he red shirts but if he shows the tenacity in Spring practice that he showed in his YouTube videos he may be tough to keep out of the two-deeps.
Fun Fact: Simmons has never been to Madrid, Spain.
Reid Selby (6'5" 250)
Who? Right? A last minute add to the class, perhaps to fill Kozan's spot. Selby isn't a name that was on anyone's radar. At least until this morning. Selby has a football highlight tape on YouTube. He has wrestling videos too. He had an offer from Air Force and was probably on his way there until Iowa offered. There will be more about Selby as the local media works to find out who this guy is.
2011 Outlook: Red shirt and prosper. Rivals has him at 6'4", Iowa lists him at 6'5". He could project at either guard or tackle at that height.