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Iowa Football Recruiting Update: The State of Affairs

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Things are slow in the Hawkeye State this week, let’s fill some time talking about recruits, shall we?

AJ Epenesa is the key to the class of 2017, for now.
Image via Youtube.com

We are in the midst of a dead week in Iowa sports. There are no games until the weekend. Literally, nothing. And we can recap the glorious destruction of Iowa State in every way imaginable until we are blue in the face, but it might get just a little old at some point (maybe not). So, despite also being in a dead period for football recruiting purposes until January 11, let’s have a look at what the coaching staff has been up to since their throttling of Nebraska on Black Friday and where things stand at this point.

Iowa’s class of 2017 is holding steady at 13 after losing 4 commitments from the state of Texas over the last couple months. Here’s a breakdown of who is currently in the fold:

Defensive Backs - 4 Total, 2 CBs and 2 Safeties

  • Josh Turner is a 3-star CB from Delray Beach, Florida
  • Matt Hankins is a 3-star CB from Flower Mound, Texas
  • Camron Harrell is a 3-star S from Bradley, Illinois
  • Djimon Colbert is a 3-star S from Shawnee Mission, Kansas

Defensive End - 3 Total

  • Coy Kirkpatrick is a 3-star DE from Madrid, Iowa
  • Levi Duwa is a 3-star DE from Wellman, Iowa
  • AJ Epenesa is a 5-star DE from Edwardsville, Illinois

Offensive Line - 2 Total

  • Mark Kallenberger is a 3-star OT from Bettendorf, Iowa
  • Tristan Wirfs is a 3-star OT from Mt. Vernon, Iowa

Tight End - 1 Total

  • Jacob Coons is a 3-star TE from Solon, Iowa

Wide Receiver - 1 Total

  • Brandon Smith is a 3-star WR from Lake Cormorant, Mississippi

Running Back - 1 Total

  • Ivory Kelly-Martin is a 3-star RB from Oswego, Illinois

Quarterback - 1 Total

  • Peyton Mansell is a 3-star QB from Belton, Texas

Very few freshmen are likely to get serious playing time at Iowa in a typical year, and to be honest, it looks like next season will be a typical Iowa year. Looking at the Iowa roster, there are a few clear areas of need for the future, but most of the holes left by departing seniors will be filled by guys already on the roster.

Brandon Smith has the physical abilities to contribute early in his Hawkeye career.
Image via Gannett-cdn.com

One of the key exceptions could be at wide receiver. Iowa looked to have done a fantastic job filling that need when they had Gavin Holmes and Beau Corrales in the fold, along with still committed Brandon Smith. At this point, WR is the largest outstanding need. There is only one current commitment at the position and it’s been a major area of concern for the offense this year.

While the losses of Holmes and Corrales were painful, all could be forgiven if the staff manages to reel in Iowa City West High product Oliver Martin. Most prognosticators are seeing Martin heading to Michigan or Notre Dame (seems like a stretch to me) but Iowa is said to still be very much in the mix. Nabbing the state’s top prospect would go a long way to filling out a class that figures to end with 20-22 recruits.

In addition to Martin, the staff has been keeping in touch with some other prospects, including current Missouri commit Jafar Armstrong. Armstrong is a 3-star prospect from the same high school as current Iowa commit Djimon Colbert. Iowa seems to have slow played Armstrong, getting him on campus in the summer and not offering until November, after he had already committed. At this point, he seems pretty thoroughly in the Mizzou camp, but never say never if Martin ends up elsewhere.

Moving from offense to defense, we see some potential holes coming along the defensive line. While Iowa has three defensive ends already committed, that position is full of relatively young players. The DT spot, on the other hand, looks ripe for early playing time. Jaleel Johnson and Faith Ekakitie will be departing after this season and Nathan Bazata will be gone following next season. True freshman Cedric Lattimore has looked good early in his career, but the loss (and gain and loss) of Juan Harris has left a hole in this class.

Kendrick Green is a 3/4-star recruit from Peoria, Illinois. He’s an offensive guard and Iowa has recruited him as such given he is so damn good at it, but he is being recruited by a number of schools to play on the defensive line. At 6’3” 270 pounds, he is not a small human being (he goes by The Fridge on the Twitters). He just took an official to Illinois and seems to be buying what Lovie Smith is selling, but he also had an in home from Brian Ferentz last week. He’s right up there with Oliver Martin for top targets on the Hawkeye big board in my opinion.

While there are no immediate departures expected in the linebacking group this year (the Outlaw says he is coming back and the Outlaw don’t lie), next offseason looks to be brutal for the Iowa defense as all three starters from this year will be heading for the exit. There is some nice young talent on the roster, but building for the future is always a good thought. Iowa is looking to do just that with 3-star linebacker Thomas Johnston of Spanish Fort, Alabama. Johnston made a visit to Iowa City a week ago and it seemed to go well.

This week, he took home the MVP honors representing Alabama in an all-star game against the best players from Mississippi.

Johnston looks like a great addition to the class if the staff can close the deal. Just, please oh please, leave the closing to the staff. Shake my damn head. Let us know if the comments which one of you idiots did this.

Here’s a look at his highlights.

Other areas of need include the defensive backfield. The loss of King and Mabin this year is mitigated by the emergence of guys like Manny Rugamba, Josh Jackson and Michael Ojemudia, but the sheer number of corners that see the field creates a constant need. That is likely taken care of with the addition of Hankins and Turner, but Zamari Maxwell is another Florida CB that has had contact with Iowa dating back several months and could be in the fold by February.

Safety is also an area where depth is built by constantly adding. These are the types of guys that contribute early and often on special teams. Iowa already has two committed with Harrell and Colbert, but Scotty Nelson of Detroit has been high on the staff’s list for a while and seems to be down to Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan State.

The final area of potential need is at running back. There is a void left by the decommitment of Eno Benjamin. While Ivory Kelly-Martin looks like a hell of a back, the history here tells us you can never have too many of them. The guy to watch here is Johnathan Lovett. Antwuan Branch was thought to be in the mix, but that seems unlikely at this point. Lovett was formerly committed to Rutgers but he since reopened his recruitment. He visited Iowa City on November 12th but was in Maryland just over a week ago. Lovett also boasts a PSU offer. Iowa may be sitting with just one RB commit this year.

As the class of 2017 slowly fills up, Ferentz et al will begin their look even further into the future. That has already started to take shape as they’ve begun extending offers to 2018 prospects and beyond. Recent offers have gone out to 2018 athlete Samson Evans of Crystal Lake, IL. Here’s a look at his film.

The staff also extended an offer to class of 2018 DE Malik Vann from Fairfield, OH last week.

Have a look at his film as well.

Perhaps most newsworthy is the offer of a preferred walk-on spot for long snapper Marshall Coluzzi. That name may sound familiar. Marshall is the younger brother to current Iowa punter/kickoff man/candidate for most interesting man in the world Ron Coluzzi. It’s a damn shame Iowa didn’t get 4 years of Ron and it seems the staff has seen the light and is working to get at least 4 years out of another Coluzzi. The Pants approves.

There have been a handful of others as well. Feel free to post in the comments and we will keep you updated as more are handed out in the next live period.

The Iowa staff has taken the opportunity presented by the coinciding layoff until January 3rd and the live period in recruiting to hit the trail. Aside from visiting with 2017, 2018 and 2019 targets, the staff has been in to see several of the currently committed players. Given the exodus we saw in Texas, I’d say it’s time well spent.

The Des Moines Register released their All-Iowa team this week. There’s only one Hawkeye commit on the list, MT. Vernon OL Tristan Wirfs, but there’s another on there who is the focal point of Iowa’s final push in recruiting for the class of 2017. We touched on Oliver Martin earlier, but it bears repeating that this kid could really be the crown jewel of the class. Trust me when I say I understand the ridiculousness of that statement given the class includes 5-star DE AJ Epenesa. Eppy was a legacy and an early commit at a position Iowa has actually had some success developing. I hope as much as anyone he is a stud for 4 years and has a hell of a pro career, but Martin is a guy everyone is after who hasn’t been an Iowa lean despite growing up in our back yard. From a PR standpoint, I think he is a must get at this point.

And finally, because I just can’t help myself, here’s a quick update on former RB commit Eno Benjamin: he’s not coming and he could be shredding the Iowa defense for years to come. Ugh.

The next open contact period runs January 11th through January 28th. Hopefully the Hawkeyes will have a bowl win under their belt to boast about for the first time in a while. Every feather in the cap is helpful on the trail. With less than 3 months until signing day, recruiting momentum should pick up just in time to fill the void left by the absence of actual football games. Keep your ears open and your Twitter feeds scrolling.