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WHEN CARING WAS CREEPY: THE CLASS OF 2010

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After two disasters, Iowa landed a top-notch class in 2010.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
PREVIOUS EDITIONS OF WHEN CARING WAS CREEPY

When Caring Was Creepy 2008
When Caring Was Creepy 2009

INITIAL NUMBERS

Number of players: 22
Number of Rivals 4-star players: 4
Number of Rivals 3-star players: 13
Number of Rivals 2-star players: 5

This class, which came together during the longest winning streak in Iowa football history from late in the 2008 season through nearly all of 2009, is unquestionably the high point of post-2006 recruiting for Kirk Ferentz.  It's a class largely devoid of Iowa's trademark projects, with nearly as many blue chips as two-star prospects. And, unlike that 2006 class, this one delivered, and delivered huge.

FINAL NUMBERS

Number of players who left the program early: 8
Number of players who completed four years: 14
Number of multiple-year starters: 10
Number of one-year starters: 4

That right there is a grand slam for Iowa.  Sixty percent of the class stayed to complete their four years (Iowa hadn't reached 50 percent in its two previous classes), nearly half of the class became multiple-year starters, one other would have had he not run into misfortune, and eight players either are or should soon be getting paid to play on Sundays. Put it this way: Iowa got more multiple-year starters out of the Class of 2010 than it did out of 2008 and 2009 combined.

And, in typical Iowa manner, the best guys turned out to be the lower-tier guys.  Because of course.

THE PLAYERS (in order of Rivals projection)

C.J. Fiedorowicz

Recruited as: The next big thing
Rivals projection: 5.9 (4 stars)
Final disposition: A victim of the hype

You could not have written a script for a guy who Iowa fans would immediately love like C.J. Fiedorowicz. Freakish physical attributes in a tight end frame with absurd ratings from the scouting services and highlight video to pass around is one thing, but what those attributes decommitted from the loathsome Ron Zook to come to Iowa, he could have ridden the hype train all the way to Iowa City.  He played as a freshman, running around on the field like a German shorthaired pointer puppy, no fully grasping its strength and speed yet.  Polish Hat left Iowa fans with visions of domination dancing in their heads.

The final results were solid to borderline great: Fiedorowicz caught 91 passes for 899 yards and 10 touchdowns over three seasons. He caught 45 in his junior year, more passes than Dallas Clark caught in a year where he won the Mackey Award (only Scott Chandler ever caught more in a season under Ferentz). He caught six touchdowns as a senior, more than any Iowa tight end in the Kirk Ferentz era (Scott Chandler once caught six, as well). At the end of the day, he really was Scott Chandler, a guy whose statistics are obscured by the period in which he played and who is destined to be criminally undervalued by fans in the future.

Marcus Coker

Recruited as: Iowa's next big halfback
Rivals projection: 5.8 (4 star)
Final disposition: Confusion

Marcus Coker ran for 219 yards in his first career start. Let that sink in for a minute.

Marcus Coker was the 2010 Insight Bowl Offensive MVP because of those 219 yards and set himself up as one of the most important Hawkeyes entering 2011 as a result.  He didn't really disappoint, running for 1,384 yards in his first and only season as a starter. And then Coker got involved in some sort of investigation that went nowhere, purportedly an assault claim that did not draw any criminal charge. At Florida State, he wouldn't have missed a minute, but at Iowa post-Cedric Everson, it was enough to suspend him for his encore performance at the 2011 Insight Bowl.  Kirk Ferentz clearly didn't agree with the decision, but the decision was enough to send the noted astrophysics student to another program.  He ended up at Stony Brook, where he started just seven games over three seasons, barely matched his 2011 yardage total over the remainder of his career, and never approached the highs of that night in December 2010.

Andrew Donnal

Recruited as: Iowa's next first rounder
Rivals projection: 5.8 (4 star)
Final disposition: Not there, but not bad

The case can be made that Andrew Donnal, who was a full-time starter for just one season at Iowa, is the second-best four-star tackle that Iowa's had. Bryan Bulaga was clearly the best of the bunch, but the pages of Iowa recruiting websites are littered with the names of Blake Larsen, Dan Doering, Chris Felder and Tyler Blum.  Mike Jones turned into a really good guard.  Dace Richardson battled injuries before settling in the interior line, as well. And while Donnal never really did what he was projected to do -- two years of spot duty on the interior before a successful fifth-year senior season at right tackle -- that still might be a better result than anyone else with those accolades.  He'll likely get drafted this spring, which is a solid finish for a guy who didn't have a spot for four seasons.

A.J. Derby

Recruiting as: The savior of the program
Rivals projection: 5.8 (4 star)
Final disposition: Right where the coaches expected him to be.  Only in Arkansas.

Derby was C.J. Beathard before C.J. Beathard had finished high school, the name on everyone's lips every time a pass was underthrown or a play was botched.  Receiver drops the slant?  PUT IN DERBY, the masses would shout.  Running back misses a cutback lane?  DERBY WOULD GET THAT, the crowd would chant.  Punt careens into the end zone?  DERBY COULD OUTPUNT JOHN WIENKE, the fans would sing in unison.

As it turns out, A.J. Derby was, as the coaches had implied during his freshman season, a pretty crappy college quarterback.  He was also an excellent athlete that, when the writing was finally on the wall during his final season of football, gave up his quarterback ambitions and played some tight end.  He caught 22 passes this year for 303 yards and three touchdowns, a great haul...for Arkansas, where he transferred after losing his place at quarterback in Iowa City, breaking the window out of a school bus outside a roadhouse bar on the outskirts of town, and transferring to a junior college and imploding completely.  The lesson, as always: Sometimes the coaches know what they are talking about.

Austin Gray

Recruited as: Linebacker
Rivals projection: 5.7 (3 star)
Final disposition: AWOL

Gray was supposed to be one of Iowa's best linebacker recruits in the 2010 class, a guy with a chance to play as a true freshman despite the fact that the team was loaded.  He got to Iowa City in late July, worked through preseason camp, and then disappeared on August 26 as game preparation began.  He never actually took a class at Iowa. There is no sign of him resurfacing anywhere.  He just vanished.

James Morris

Recruited as: The All-American American
Rivals projection: 5.7 (3 star)
Final disposition: Four years to redemption

We all know the story: Morris, who was arguably the best high school player in the state at Solon, is also the son of Iowa's equipment manager.  He had committed to the program by December 2007 and, due to an AIRBHG-like plague that descended on the linebackers during 2010, ended up as the starting middle linebacker by the second half of 2010.

From there, he struggled through three years.  It might have been an extremely high learning curve or a lack of talent in the defensive line in front of him, but Morris wasn't particularly effective until a breakthrough 2013 season where he recorded 107 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, eight sacks, two forced fumbles and four interceptions on a team that relied exclusively on its defense to win eight games.  He got a cup of coffee with the Patriots -- those old Ferentz connections die hard, man -- and has bounced around practice squads this year in the NFL.  So yeah, it might have been that 2012 defensive line after all.

Donavan Johnson

Recruited as: Defensive tackle
Rivals projection: 5.7 (3 star)
Final disposition: Gone baby gone

Johnson, a defensive tackle out of Arlington, Tex., spent a year in Iowa City getting yelled at by Rick Kaczenski before hitting the road.  There's no sign on the Googles of where he ended up, but it was probably as far away from Kaz's voice as he could be.

Anthony Ferguson

Recruited as: A-train
Rivals projection: 5.7 (3 star)
Final disposition: One of the more interesting stories you'll ever hear from Iowa football

Ferguson had all the things you want to see from an East Coast defensive lineman: Size (6'2, 280 lbs.), pedigree (he played at the Gilman School in suburban Baltimore), and interest from then-Penn State defensive line coach and Mid-Atlantic recruit whisperer Larry Johnson.  Seriously, Iowa was able to beat Larry Johnson for a guy in Maryland once.

He left the team after one season, but didn't leave Iowa.  Rather, he started an organization called Young, Black and Educated that, as far as I know, is still active on campus.  When asked why he left football, Ferguson said:

"I think I was definitely meant to leave the team," Ferguson says. "So many great experiences came from being on the team, but it kept me in a bubble. Creating this organization has allowed me to meet with students and go work in the community."

Ferguson is now pursuing a doctorate.  Not bad, A-Train.

Don Shumpert

Recruited as: Wide receiver-type substance
Rivals rating: 5.7 (3 stars)
Final disposition: Another Iowa wide receiver

Shumpert was an 'athlete' out of St. Louis who was probably too tall to play cornerback but whose high school performance pointed strongly in that direction.  Still, he had 45 catches as a high school senior, and was not a complete misfit at receiver.  Iowa put him there and made him the offensive Greg Castillo, a guy who won a place in the starting lineup during August and was usually passed by September.  He caught 21 passes in two seasons of action and was a competent special teams player throughout.  Most important, he came as a package deal with a high school teammate who had a slightly bigger impact.

Brandon Scherff

Recruited as: Offensive line project
Rivals rating: 5.7 (3 stars)
Final disposition: Outland Trophy winner and overall badass

We weren't covering recruiting back when Brandon Scherff committed to Iowa -- we were too busy making fun of Chuck Long's coaching career on the day he announced he was coming to Iowa -- but if we had, we probably would have praised the fact that Iowa got a 295-lb. high school tackle in a part of the state that Nebraska routinely mines for talent.  I don't think anyone could have possibly known what was coming for Scherff, though.

In the end, he joins the pantheon.  Jones.  Karras.  Gallery.  Scherff.  With all due respect to the guys we discussed two weeks ago, they are Iowa's Mount Rushmore, a monument to the basic principles of a program that has survived for more than a century.  The Outland Trophy is a gigantic deal made smaller by the fact that every position gets its own award.  Think of it this way: Those that cite Bryan Bulaga or Riley Reiff as the best Ferentz-era tackle are ignoring that those guys didn't ever get beyond the Outland watch list.  Do voters know how to examine offensive line play well enough to make the award more than a popularity contest built on preseason buzz?  Probably not, or else Scherff might have won it twice; the scariest part is that his junior season was probably better.

This doesn't even get into the Paul Bunyan story that is Scherff in the weight room, arguably the strongest Iowa player ever (only Gallery can really come close, from what we're told).  It doesn't consider the importance of Scherff in maintaining the one calling card of this entire program, solid offensive line development.  It doesn't consider whether Scherff's face is going to be painted on the water tower in Denison, Iowa.  Those things take him above and beyond, and the hope of everyone who has met the man or seen him on the field is that his presence at Iowa during a long stay in the doldrums doesn't change our view of him five years from now.  Because Brandon Scherff is  a giant.

Jim Poggi

Recruited as: Defensive end
Rivals projection: 5.7 (3 stars)
Final disposition: The canary in the coal mine

Iowa recruited Jim Poggi for a number of reasons: He was a talented high school player, his dad was a successful high school coach in suburban Baltimore (Biff Poggi coached his son and Anthony Ferguson at the Gilman School) who could help with additional recruits, and his brother was a potential five-star recruit a couple of recruiting cycles later.

Less than a year later, Poggi posted something to his Facebook page about his wizz being brown following a January workout, and suddenly the rhabdomyolisis issue was front and center.  Something like 11 football players were hospitalized, with the athletic department clearly intending to hide it from the view of the press and public until Poggi's remarks made it impossible to ignore.  When Kirk Ferentz didn't immediately return to check in on his sick players, parents became angry.  The phrase "mass transfers" was kicked around by the media.  The whole thing was a disaster.  Biff Poggi became the voice of reason for a program in disarray, and while he was publicly defending Iowa, he was also making sure privately that his younger son was going elsewhere.

There were no mass transfers, but there also was little done by the rhabdo guys afterwards.  Poggi never saw the field, and ended his career in February 2013 due to what Ferentz called "persistent injury."

Mike Hardy

Recruited as: SUCK IT BIELEMA
Rivals projection: 5.6 (3 stars)
Final disposition: Uh, yeah, suck it Wisconsin Coach No. 3

WE BEAT WISCONSIN FOR A WISCONSIN GUY was all that really mattered to some when Hardy signed on to join the Hawkeyes.  Rivals had Hardy ranked as the third-best player in the Cheese State in 2010, and Wisconsin wanted him.  And when Iowa got him, Wisconsin went down their list and picked up Jake Irwin instead.  So, yeah, we really got 'em!

Hardy struggled to get past upperclassmen early, then struggled to keep the position he inherited against underclassmen later.  He was a semi-regular fixture in the 2013 defensive front, but had been replaced by Nate Meier by his senior year and saw only spot duty.  Not a bad career, but nothing particularly exciting, either.

B.J. Lowery

Recruited as: Cornerback
Rivals projection: 5.6 (3 stars)
Final disposition: The one after the end of the line

Lowery did what good Iowa cornerbacks do: He broke through early, played as an underclassman under a veteran cornerback that would eventually be drafted, and ascended to the throne after that upperclassman had left.  But Lowery plateaued soon after, and was actually outshone by freshman Desmond King during his would-be NFL Draft highlight season.  He made one of the all-time great interceptions to seal a win over Iowa State, but that translated into no more than a practice squad deal with the Kansas City Chiefs.  And, with that, the line of Iowa cornerbacks into the NFL Draft came to an end.

Louis Trinca-Pasat

Recruited as: Defensive end
Rivals projection: 5.6 (3 stars)
Final disposition: One-half of the duo that brought back Iowa defensive line play

Everyone is obsessed with his teammate's frame, but it was LTP that led the defensive line in tackles for loss (11.5) and sacks (6.5) in 2014.  It was LTP that forced more lost yardage this year than Carl Davis did in his career.  It was LTP that started 25 consecutive games at defensive tackle to end his career.  And it's LTP that looks like a gigantic Jeff Tweedy. Anyone who watched them closely can tell you that they were equals on the field, as the most prolific tandem of defensive tackles at Iowa since arguably Matt Roth and Mitch King.

Carl Davis

Recruited as: Big Carl, nose tackle
Rivals projection: 5.6 (3 stars)
Final disposition: Not quite as Big Carl, destroyer of worlds

That, of course, takes nothing away from Big Carl, whose ability to draw the eye of defensive coordinators left Trinca-Pasat in lighter blocking.  Carl was enormous when he got to Iowa City, and became much less enormous over time.  By the time 2013 started, he was a svelt 315 pounder that looked about 275, all arms and legs and nary a bit of chubbiness.  From there, size, ability and scheme took over.  Iowa moved him to the three technique, using his athleticism above his size, and Carl began laying waste to all those around him.  He made everyone on his defense better by simply being there and taking one for them.  Sometimes, that's the job.

Christian Kirksey

Recruited as: Running back?
Rivals projection; 5.6 (3 stars)
Final disposition: The best cover linebacker since Edds (and maybe longer than that)

Strongside linebacker remains the most critical position in Iowa's standard defensive scheme, and few played it better than the three-star Kirksey.  Iowa didn't really know what it wanted to do with him when he arrived -- there was some talk of putting him in the backfield -- and linebacker looked like a long shot due to his size (or lack thereof).  But when Kirksey had a good first year of special teams work and Iowa surprisingly decided to go small and fast at the outside linebacker spots, it was Kirksey who got the nod.  By his junior year, he was more than capable.  By his senior year, he was a star.

Kirksey finished with 38 consecutive starts and 309 tackles in three years as a starter.  He was a team captain for two seasons, a criminally underrated honorable mention all-conference, and a draft pick for the Browns.  And then Madden made him tiny.

De'Andre Johnson

Recruited as: Another Florida halfback
Rivals rating: 5.5 (3 star)
Final disposition: A victim of his own AIRBHG

Johnson had been an Iowa target before tearing his ACL as a high school senior.  Other teams walked away, Iowa didn't, and the Hawkeyes ended up with an intriguing halfback.  It never got past 'intriguing,' though; Johnson ran four times for 18 yards as a sophomore, failed to break through despite a complete lack of healthy running backs, picked up a pair of citations from the local police in less than a week, and it was over.  He went to community college for a year and resurfaced last season on the roster at Miami.

Anthony Hitchens

Recruited as: Another running back
Rivals rating: 5.4 (2 star)
Final disposition: Tackle machine

Hitch was the other half of Iowa's speed revolution at linebacker.  The former running back out of Lorain, Ohio who chose the Hawkeyes over Indiana, Kansas and other basketball schools and won the weakside linebacker spot by his junior season.  He led the team in tackles twice, racking up a staggering 236 stops over two seasons.  It was in part a function of the defense -- the weakside linebacker is almost always the leading tackler at Iowa -- but Hitchens showed talent and, more importantly, the ability to take coaching and improve.  He was occasionally overwhelmed in 2012.  He was nothing short of spectacular by 2013.  He's a Cowboy now.

Kevonte Martin-Manley

Recruited as: The next great Iowa hyphenated wideout
Rivals rating: 5.4 (2 star)
Final disposition: A surprising record-holder

We probably should have figured out that Martin-Manley would set records when he caught three touchdowns in his first three games, including two in a miraculous comeback win over Pitt.  He led Iowa in receptions as a sophomore with 52 catches, and was pretty much the only effective receiver in Greg Davis' first season.  He nearly broke Nile Kinnick's Big Ten single-game punt return record against Western Michigan in 2013 -- he would have had Ferentz not benched him once the game got out of hand -- and led the team in receptions for second year.

This season, he caught 49 more passes and two touchdowns.  His consistency has been staggering; he has four consecutive seasons with 30 or more catches and still has a legitimate shot of finishing his career as Iowa's all-time leader in receptions, despite playing three years under Greg Davis on some of the most run-heavy teams the Hawkeyes have ever fielded.  He's as unlikely a star as Iowa has had, and the success is well-deserved.

Austin Vier

Recruited as: A sleeper pick
Rivals rating: 5.4 (2 star)
Final disposition: Victim of a broken back

Vier was a complete unknown to recruitniks when Iowa found him at a summer camp and offered a scholarship.  He had the size -- 6'7, 240 lbs. -- to play tight end or bulk up and get on the offensive line, and his athleticism was intriguing.  He had back surgery after his first season, and complications from that operation forced him onto a medical scholarship by that September.

Jonny Mullings

Recruited as: Iowa's attempt at the latest punting fad
Rivals rating: 5.3 (2 star)
Final disposition: Man, that really didn't work

Iowa recruited Mullings out of Australia to cure its ongoing punting problems, hoping to rely on the same rugby experience that made Brad Wing so great at LSU.  Mullings moved to Ottumwa as a high school senior to make it possible, and Iowa threw him a scholarship.  And then Mullings got to Iowa and found out that (1) Iowa wasn't going to run a rugby punt formation under any circumstance, and (2) his technique was way too slow for any standard punting formation.  He never attempted a punt in a game.  It might be the most ill-advised scholarship in Ferentz's 16 years.

Tanner Miller

Recruited as: Last-second afterthought
Rivals rating: 5.1 (2 star)
Final disposition: Surprising contributor, unsurprising fan target

Miller was one of those standard Ferentz last-second guys, a UNI commit on Iowa's radar who got a phone call just days before Signing Day and joined the program.  Surprisingly, he played on special teams as a true freshman and won the free safety spot by his sophomore season.  Unfortunately, while both Miller and the coaching staff saw him as a Brett Greenwood-esque development project, Miller didn't ever quite get there.  He wasn't completely out of his element, but Miller never looked better than a replacement-level defensive back.  He finished his career with 36 starts, 222 tackles, an Iowa record 98-yard interception return, an embarrassing moment against Michigan, and enough teeth gnashing to keep a dentist in business for years.