People complain about February being sort of a dead month, but it contains our two favorite* things: National Signing Day and awards season. So why not combine the two into Iowa football recruiting awards that we'll call... the Creepies?
It's okay that you're not in a tuxedo for this ceremony—no, it's fine, whatever—but let's get started with the festivities!
Most Likely to Play Right Away
Runner-up: Keith Duncan, K
Winner: Toks Akinribade, RB
Kirk Ferentz isn't one to play a ton of true freshmen unless he's in dire need of one of two things: depth or to shake things up. Neither seems particularly applicable for 2016. Duncan's got a big enough leg to challenge Mick Ellis for kickoff duty and perhaps even the starting gig, but that's a bit of a copout of an answer (plus he's got competition from other walk-ons). So we'll go with Akinribade, who at first glance finds himself in a logjam at tailback but could easily find his way to the field. The easiest way for players to find the field as true freshmen under Ferentz is at the skill positions, especially on offense, and WR went through that just last season. Meanwhile, Iowa goes through several RBs per year—four saw significant action last year, and Jordan Canzeri's rushes need to go somewhere. So assuming four Iowa RBs will see action in 2015, Akinribade just needs to get past fellow freshman Toren Young (likely) and lightly-recruited underclassmen Marcel Joly and Eric Graham.
Runner-up: Cedric Boswell, CB
Winner: Cedrick Lattimore, DL
We'd have gone with one of the (likely) defensive ends here, but A.J. Epenesa's presence in the 2017 class ameliorates a lot of the future need at that position. Iowa loses plenty at CB, which means Boswell will have a great shot at a starting spot in 2017, but what Iowa needed the most was a potential star on the defensive interior, and the closest to that is Lattimore, who brings an enormous frame and athleticism to the defensive line—think an Adolphus Washington-esque presence in the middle or even on the edge. Iowa's defense is predicated on disrupting the interior rushing game first and foremost, and it needs a guy like Lattimore to be the linchpin.
Runner-up: Amani Hooker, DB
Winner: Kristian Welch, LB
Two things: it's hard to declare a "sleeper" in a class that's literally full of 3-star composite recruits, but both of these players were more-or-less ignored relative to their potential. Amani Hooker came up in Minnesota's backyard and couldn't get an offer from the Gophers, which seems like addition by way of subtraction as an offer sheet goes. He can play all four positions in the secondary (and has some serious experience on offense and special teams) and has the size and speed to contribute early. But Kristian Welch came out of small-town Wisconsin as a versatile athlete with track skills and a nose for contact, and virtually nobody at the FBS level paying attention to him. It's not quite as ridiculous as Bob Sanders' tiny offer sheet ended up being, but we can already hear Brent Musburger saying "...from Iola, Wisconsin!" in that marvelous tone after Welch makes yet another play on national television.
Most Likely to Develop into a Star
Runner-up: Alaric Jackson, OT
Winner: Noah Fant, TE
We mentioned Cedrick Lattimore earlier and we might love Jackson's potential even more, but the transition to line play at Iowa can be lengthy and difficult, and we've seen highly-rated OL prospects struggle to translate to the next level fairly often—less so with tight ends. So while Jackson's ceiling is the highest in the class, we're most confident in Fant, a do-everything tight end who has only started harnessing his physical gifts—the gap between his junior and senior films is massive. We're not sure if Fant will crack this year's TE depth chart, but after rising senior George Kittle graduates there's nobody on the roster who's going to ball out like that. Iowa's offense loves multiple-TE looks, and while Fant shares the class with fellow tight end Shaun Beyer, Fant looks more ready to see the field early and establish himself as a guy you can't keep off the field.
Runner-up: This new QB Nathan is a three-sport star. He can do it all. You really have to appreciate the... Stanley tool set.
Runner-up: If Noah were 70 pounds heavier, he'd be a center you could trust with 1-on-1 blocks all day. The headline would be... Fant: a C island.
Runner-up: When Iowa finally made the scholarship offer, it was... The Right Time with Amani Jones.
Runner-up: Going across the middle against Amani Jones is... Highly Questionable.
Runner-up: I hope this new TE from Chariton does so well as an Iowa player he sends his son here too. Then they can be... T.J., Hawk and son.
Runner-up: Shaun's a good recruit, and he's a good fit at Iowa. Neither side will get... Beyer's remorse.
Runner-up: Here's my dream scenario. Iowa gets another crack at Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship. And now it's Iowa grinding out the impossibly long drive with the game on the line. And sure enough, as the final seconds tick down, it's Akinribade stretching the ball over the goal line for the clinching score, and all of us Hawkeye fans clinging to our radios hear Gary Dolphin scream, "We... won! Toks, over the line! Sweet Jesus!"
Winner: And then after that historic touchdown, our headline would be...
...here's what it would be, people...
...let me tell you...
AKINRIBADE, MOVE YOUR FEET AND FEEL UNITED, WHOA-OH-OH!
(You didn't think it was accidental we hotlinked the words 'junior' and 'senior' next to each other, did you?)