SIGNING DAY IS STILL A FEW WEEKS AWAY. Barring some last-minute excitement and a spot or two, Iowa's 2016 recruiting class is practically wrapped up. Kirk Ferentz and staff has already locked up the state's top prospects (according to Rivals) for the 2017 class. Top ranked Juan Harris is committed. Jacob Coons, Tristen Wirfs and Coy KirkPatrick are too. Today, Iowa gets a commit from a bordering state and perhaps the highest-ranked commit of the Kirk Ferentz era.
A.J. Epenesa is a legacy recruit. His father, Epenesa Epenesa terrorized Big Ten offensive linemen for Hayden Fry in the 1990s. His dad is also active on Twitter and posted this shortly after his son's announcement:
A.J. Epenensa is the #1 rated high school junior in Illinois and the #2 rated player overall for the 2017 class per 247 Sports. Rivals ranks him #1 at the strongside defensive end position and #27 nationally. ESPN has him in their Top 300 at 53rd nationally and Scout has him #16 nationally. As recruiting services go, this is kind of a big deal.
The opposition has had a ton of ammo these last few years in the recruiting living rooms. We saw a glimpse of the change in recruiting in June when a slew of commits poured in after Iowa showed off the new facilities. The new digs paid off and Iowa has its highest-rated class in years, per Rivals, set to sign next month. But 12-2 and #5 in the final CFP Poll helped keep MSU and Wisconsin away (for the time being). No more could the competition tell kids Ferentz would be fired, or that you won't win at Iowa. 2015 disproved all of that.
You can count the number of five-star commitments over Kirk Ferentz's 17 years on one hand. There's Blake Larsen, Kyle "Bonecrusher" Williams and Dan Doering. Right? Hell, some of you may remember Willie Guy. Five-star commits are rare and for Iowa and that list, even rarer that they pan-out. There's a long way to go to signing day 2017 and Hawk fans remember the last big-time commit, Ross Pierschbacher, who changed his mind. But this one feels different. And right now, today, it's a big deal.