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Football ‘Crootin: Countdown to Signing Day

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With two weeks until National Signing Day, we take a deep dive into where things stand with Iowa’s roster and the class of 2017.

Iowa v Rutgers Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

We are just inside of two weeks from National Signing Day in the college football world, and Iowa has lost two scholarship athletes on the offensive side of the ball who were expected to contribute next year in the span of a week. First it was Jay Scheel announcing his medical situation would no longer permit him to play football, and then senior RB Derrick Mitchell announced yesterday his intention to be a graduate transfer to another program.

With the recent developments and the countdown officially started, now seems like as good a time as any to take a look at the current roster composition for the Iowa Hawkeyes, areas of need and how the class of 2017 can address those needs down the home stretch.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Current Status

As of today, there are 65 scholarship players on the Iowa roster.  With 85 scholarships available for use, that leaves 20 open slots to fill with the class of 2017.  There are currently 14 players committed the Hawkeyes in this group.  I’m no mathematician, but that looks like six more spots to fill.

Or does it?  We are still early into the spring semester (like, two days in early) and this time of year is known to be peak attrition time in college football.  Ferentz the Elder has been quoted a few times as saying he expects the class of 2017 to have 20-22 signees, which would obviously indicate he expects to see 1-3 departures.  It could be more.

With only 14 players in the fold and 13 days until NSD, I maintain it’s going to be tough to get to more than 20 kids without reaching a bit.  A more likely scenario, in my opinion, would be to add 5-6 (so 20 signees on the high end) and fill the open spots with scholarships to walk-ons as we have seen done numerous times before.  Some obvious candidates are Keith Duncan, Drake Kulick and Peter Pekar, among others.

With that overview, let’s look position by position at the scholarship distribution.

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Florida vs Iowa
Nate Stanley looks poised to take the reins at QB in 2017, but Tyler Weigers and Drew Cook are also on the roster.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Offense

QB - 3 Scholarship Players

Seniors: None

Juniors: Tyler Wiegers

Sophomores: Drew Cook and Nate Stanley

RS Freshmen: None

RB - 4 Scholarship Players

Seniors: Akrum Wadley

Juniors: Marcel Joly

Sophomores: Toks Akrinibade

RS Freshmen: Toren Young

FB - 1 Scholarship Player

Seniors: None

Juniors: None

Sophomores: Brady Ross

RS Freshmen: none

WR - 6 Scholarship Players

Seniors: Matt VandeBerg and Jonathan Parker

Juniors: Jerminic Smith and Adrian Falconer

Sophomores: Ryan Boyle and Devonte Young

RS Freshmen: none

TE - 5 Scholarship Players

Seniors: Jon Wisnieski

Juniors: none

Sophomores: Nate Vejvoda and Noah Fant

RS Freshmen: TJ Hockenson and Shaun Beyer

OT - 4 Scholarship Players

Seniors: Boone Myers and Ike Boettger

Juniors: none

Sophomores: Levi Paulsen

RS Freshmen: Alaric Jackson

OG - 5 Scholarship Players

Seniors: Sean Welsh

Juniors: Ross Reynolds and Keegan Render

Sophomores: Landan Paulsen

RS Freshmen: Cole Banwart

C - 3 Scholarship Players

Seniors: None

Juniors: James Daniels and Lucas LeGrand

Sophomores: None

RS Freshmen: Spencer Williams

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Iowa
Josey Jewell returns for his senior season to lead the Iowa defense.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Defense

CB - 4 Scholarship Players

Seniors: None

Juniors: Josh Jackson

Sophomores: Manny Rugamba and Michael Ojemudia

RS Freshmen: Cedric Boswell

S - 4 Scholarship Players

Seniors: Miles Taylor

Juniors: Brandon Snyder

Sophomores: Amani Hooker

RS Freshmen: Noah Clayberg

MLB - 4 Scholarship Players

Seniors: Josey Jewell

Juniors: None

Sophomores: Angelo Garbutt

RS Freshmen: Barrington Wade and Kyle Talor

OLB - 7 Scholarship Players

Seniors: Bo Bower and Ben Niemann

Juniors: Aaron Mends and Jack Hockaday

Sophomores: Amani Jones and Kristian Welch

RS Freshmen: Nick Niemann

DE - 7 Scholarship Players

Seniors: None

Juniors: Matt Nelson and Parker Hesse

Sophomores: Anthony Nelson and Garret Jansen

RS Freshmen: Romeo McKnight, Brandon Simon and Chauncey Golston

DT - 6 Scholarship Players

Seniors: Nathan Bazata

Juniors: None

Sophomores: Cedrick Lattimore, Michael Slater, Jacob Newborg and Brady Reiff

RS Freshmen: Austin Schulte

NCAA Football: Michigan at Iowa
Despite the heroics from Keith Duncan in 2016, he doesn’t have a scholarship. Yet.
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Special Teams

K - 1 Scholarship Player

Seniors: None

Juniors: Mick Ellis

Sophomores: None -  Duncan isn’t on scholarship, but I could see him with one by the fall

RS Freshmen: None

P - 0 Scholarship Players

Seniors: None

Juniors: None

Sophomores: Colten Rastetter is on the roster, but not on scholarship

RS Freshmen: None

LS - 1 Scholarship Player

Seniors: Tyler Kluver

Juniors: None

Sophomores: None

RS Freshmen: None

The Needs

A cursory look shows a few positions of need.  The glaring one, from a numbers standpoint, is defensive back.  Iowa is low on both corners and safeties.  They do, however, return a fair amount of talent and any newcomers are likely to only see work on special teams as true freshmen.

The reverse can be said for WR.  The position group has 6 scholarship players, but we all know how well they played in 2016.  This is a major need just to play the numbers game.  The more guys you get the better chance you have at finding a difference maker (one of many reasons the SEC was so good for so long, you sign enough kids a few are sure to pan out).

Despite the return of likely Heisman winner Akrum Wadley, we all know the Hawkeyes can never have too many RBs. The departure of Mitchell makes RB look especially light and I would expect Iowa to bring in 2-3 RBs in this class.

Defensive tackle is a position where the overall numbers aren’t bad, but the distribution makes this a need.  Bazata is the lone senior leaving this year, but there are no other upperclassmen.  With 4 guys logjammed in the sophomore class, you could see some attrition based on playing time.

The linebacking group is the reverse.  The Hawkeyes will lose three to graduation next year and all three are listed as starters on the pre-spring depth chart Iowa released a little over a week ago.

Finally, the specialists are a bit of a mixed bag.  Keith Duncan, Mick Ellis and Miguel Recinos are back at kicker, but only Ellis is on scholarship.  Colten Rastetter is the only punter on the roster and he currently doesn’t have a scholarship.  And Tyler Kluver is the only long snapper on scholarship and will graduate this year.  Expect at least one scholarship to be handed out to a specialist, either through a new commitment or a walk on.

Current Commits

So, how has the staff addressed those needs to date?  Here’s another recap of where the class stands to date.

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 4-star OT from Mt. Vernon, Iowa

Tight End - 1 Total

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

Wide Receiver - 3 Total - 2 Walk-Ons

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
  • Tommy Herrion is an unrated QB from Wilmette, Illinois - walk-on

Who’s Left?

As you can see, the staff has already done some work addressing the needs identified above.  So where do they go from here?  I would expect the staff to add 1-2 more WRs, probably another RB and 2 or more DBs.  On the low end, that gets you to 18 scholarships with 19 openings as of today.  That last spot likely goes to a LB or an additional RB just based on the recent activity by the staff.

Who are the names to follow to fill those spots?  The name at the top of everyone’s list is Oliver Martin.  He hosted the Captain for an in home visit this week and then Michigan rolled into town the next day.  The fact that Iowa is still in the discussion at this point is a good sign, in my opinion.  There were rumors he didn’t love Bobby Kennedy and with his departure, new OC Brian Ferents can sell the opportunity for early playing time in a revamped offense, even if it’s still unclear just what that will look like.  Here’s to hoping BF is a good salesman.

Another name to watch at WR is former Rutgers commit Ihmir Smith-Marsette.  He was all set to play CB at Rutgers and that versatility (and his speed - he is also a very good track runner in New Jersey) is something Iowa tends to like.  The fact they need both WRs and CBs in this class could make Smith-Marsette a very nice late find.

There is an outside chance Iowa gets involved with Denzel Fondungallah, a WR from Minnesota who had previously committed to UNI.  He made some news this week when he announced the staff there told him his offer was pulled.  He has since said they called to say it wasn’t pulled.  Weird situation, but Iowa had some previous interest and he could be a last second addition.

Jafar Armstrong is the last guy worth mentioning.  It’s a long shot and I’ve mentioned him a few times before, but the staff did recently visit him when they were in to see his teammate Djimon Colbert.  Colbert, for his part, seems to still be lobbying hard for Armstrong.  We’ll see if it pays off.

Right up there behind Martin has to be Thomas Johnston.  Johnston is a 3-star LB out of Alabama who holds the career tackles record in the state.  He has offers from a very nice list of suitors and recently took an official to Auburn.  That may sound like bad news, but apparently the Tigers are looking for him to play H-back.  It’s a bold strategy, Cotton, let’s see if it pays off.  I like Iowa’s chances on this one and this kid could be the next Josey Jewell in my uneducated opinion.

At corner, Raheem Layne is a Minnesota commit who just received an offer from Iowa last week. He’s a 3-star from Florida who will be visiting Wake Forest this weekend. Look for the Hawkeyes to make a push for a visit next weekend.

Trey Creamer is another CB out of Atlanta who recently got an offer.  He is currently committed to Minnesota but he’s getting an in-home visit from Tyler Barnes today and is visiting Iowa this weekend.  Grabbing a pair of corners is a need and taking them at the expense of the Gophers would be a nice way to do it in my personal opinion.

The departure of golden boy Ron Coluzzi leaves a void at punter for next year.  The staff is out looking for his replacement.  They’ve been in to visit an Under Armour All-American in Joe Doyle out of Tennessee and Ryan Stonehouse, a punter from California with punting in his blood.  Either one could end up with an offer and I think they’d take it.

Speaking of Coluzzi, Ron’s younger brother Marshall is a long snapper and is planning to walk-on at Iowa.  Given the LS situation it’s possible he gets a scholarship.  If not this year, likely next.

And finally, running back.  Iowa still has to replace the loss of Eno Benjamin.  The staff has been turning over rocks on this one.  They have been after former Rutgers commit John Lovett basically since cutting bait with Benjamin.

Over the last week or so we’ve seen them also get involved with Kyshaun Bryan, a RB from Florida who is currently a South Carolina commit.  He is set to take an official to Iowa City on Januray 27th, the same date as Josh Turner, Brandon Smith and several others. visiting 1/27 with Turner and Smith and a few other commits.  Bryan got an offer back on the 13th.

Davion Johnson is a RB from Michigan who is currently committed to Miami of Ohio and is visiting them this weekend.  He got an offer from the Hawkeyes earlier this week and it sounds like he has some interest in exploring Iowa.

Ra’Von Bonner is a RB from Cincinnati who is currently committed to Illinois. He got an offer from Iowa last week as well.  Expect the Hawkeyes to get one of these guys in for a visit on the 27th with Bryan.

Morgan Ellison is a 3-star RB from Pickerington, Ohio.  He’s a former Ohio commit who may have had more options had he not missed so much time to injury.  As we come down the stretch, his interest is picking up big time.  He has picked up offers from a number of power 5 schools and has the talent to be a real diamond in the rough with this class if Iowa can get him.


There are a handful of others receiving interest and even offers. In the final days leading up to NSD, things change by the hour. There are reports that Kade Warner may walk-on at WR. There are some options at DT, where Iowa has missed on some solid prospects like Kendrick Green and Damion Daniels. There’s a TE who may be a late add and a number of WR and DB prospects who could get offers as signing day approaches and doors are shut. It’s time to start the countdown to signing day. Keep your browsers tuned in here and your Twitter feeds refreshed.