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Iowa Football Recruiting: Early Signing Period Postmortem

The first ever early signing period is still in progress, but the Hawkeyes appear done until February. We evaluate everything about the class and where things stand for the final signing period.

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Florida vs Iowa
The class of 2018 is shaping up to be one of the better ones in recent memory for Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday marked the opening of the first-ever early signing period in college football. While the period officially runs December 20-22, Iowa inked all 17 of its current commitments yesterday. Here’s the scoop on how everything went down, how things currently stand and where we go from here.


The day got off to a quick start with signings beginning to roll in around 7 am CT. There was a steady flow from the prospects we had known were committed for some time. As expected, every member of the class of 2018 seemed to be signing. All except for three.

The holdouts were Florida WR Calvin Lockett and Indiana defensive backs DJ Johnson and Julius Brents. The holdouts were cause for much debate and consternation among Hawkeye fans. Not only are the three commits at positions of need, but they are all talented athletes with an opportunity to contribute early.

So what gives? Was somebody swooping in to steal them? Not exactly. While all three had a number of other suitors, that had nothing to do with the delay. Instead, each had planned ceremonies with their respective high schools and despite signing their national letters of intent, asked the Iowa staff to hold off on their official announcement until they could hold their individual ceremonies.

For Lockett that means just a short wait until tomorrow. For the pair of Indianapolis DBs, the wait will be longer. They are expected to have their ceremonies in February with the rest of their schools’ February signees.

But fear not, Hawkeye fans. All three are reported to have signed and we can confirm that Calvin Lockett, Julius Brents and DJ Johnson were all listed on the Hawkeye Football roster for 2018 as of yesterday afternoon before the webpage was taken down.

Late Surprise

As frantic as Iowa fans may have been worrying about potentially losing 2-3 of their prized recruits, they were equally ecstatic to learn of a new commit on signing day.

Dallas Craddieth was a name we had been following for some time, but the 4-star St. Louis defensive back had given every indication he planned to hold out until February to make his final decision. In fact, following officials to Iowa City and Champaign, Craddieth had made plans for an official visit to Indiana in January.

That all changed yesterday as Craddieth announced his commitment to the Hawkeyes in the midst of all the signing announcements. As great as that news was, Hawkeye fans were treated to even better news when we learned a few minutes later that Craddieth wasn’t just verbally committing, but had already signed his NLI to join Iowa’s class of 2018.

Closing Strong

The signing day addition of Craddieth was yet another late coup for the Iowa staff as they finished out the early period incredibly strong. As noted above, he was rated a 4-star safety by Rivals. The signing day announcement marked the fourth commitment for the Hawkeyes in the month of December and the third 4-star according to Rivals.

Craddieth joined the likes of California QB Spencer Petras and Des Moines defensive end John Waggoner as 4-stars to commit in the month. All three signed yesterday. Iowa also added 3-star Florida receiver Calvin Lockett. While there’s not been an official announcement for Lockett, he is rumored to have signed as well.

The strong finish is evidence the early sign period could be a boon for the Hawkeyes going forward. Rather than having prized recruits poached away at the last minute, Iowa was able to lock down some big time recruits with signatures in December. And while they did lose 3-star linebacker Ben VanSumeren to Michigan only a few days ago, they now have more than a full month to identify and close on a replacement recruit. Furthermore, with 17 commits already signed, the staff is able to focus all their attention on those top priority recruits still available at positions of need.

The Rundown

So, how exactly did things end up for the class of 2018 as of the early signing period? Let’s take a look by the numbers.

The class of 2018 currently stands at 16 members. Add in Daviyon Nixon, who was originally a member of the class of 2017 and you get to 17. That’s a bit on the small side for a typical Iowa class. But remember, this is just the early signing period.

In yesterday’s press conference, head coach Kirk Ferentz confirmed he expects the final class size to be between 20-22 commits. That’s in line with what I’ve been saying most of the fall. We’ll know more about a firm number following the bowl game when we may see some people leaving the team.

So, how good is this class? Well, it boasts four different 4-star recruits according to Rivals. That’s the first time since 2012 the Hawkeyes have had more than two in a single class. The group’s lone 2-star (again, per Rivals - he’s a 3-star everywhere else) is Samson Evans. You’ll recall Evans played QB for his high school team, Prairie Ridge of Crystal Lake, Illinois. Prairie Ridge, behind Evans and fellow Hawkeye commit Jeff Jenkins, took home their second consecutive state title this year. Evans? He was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Illinois after setting state records for career rushing yardage and TDs. The relatively low star rating is clearly a reflection of the difficulty projecting a high school QB who almost exclusively runs at the next level, not his talent.

Evans isn’t the only Gatorade Player of the Year in the class. He’s joined by 3-star athlete Tyrone Tracy, who earned the honors for the state of Indiana. Like Evans, Tracy is a versatile athlete. He lined up primarily as a running back for his Decatur Central team, but was also utilized as a receiver, amassing more than 2,500 yards and 29 TDs on the ground and through the air.

If you aren’t one to measure a class’s quality by its stars (Iowa is notorious for outperforming the star ratings so that’s a very fair stance), you should still feel assured the commits in this class are high quality based on the desire of other D-1 programs to have them on their own rosters. This year’s class boasts a total of 103 power-5 offers (again, according to Rivals) for its 17 commits. That’s more than 6 offers per recruit. For some perspective, last year’s class which included all-world prospects such as Tristan Wirfs and AJ Epenesa had only 72 power-5 offers for its 21 members (3.4 offers per commit). That’s 31 more offers for 4 fewer commits this year. Going back to the class of 2015, there were only 30 reported power-5 offers for the 21 members of the recruiting class. Clearly, the class of 2018 is full of talent and a step up from prior years in perception by other programs if nothing else.

Positionally, the class is heaviest on defensive backs with four. But those are split evenly between guys who project as cornerbacks (Johnson and Roberts) and those that project as safeties (Brents and Craddieth). There are two each of running backs (assuming Evans starts out there, along with Henry Geil) and wide receivers. Each side of the line has three commitments and there’s one each at QB and LB. Total that up and you get to 16 commitments. Those are the prep commits - add in JUCO transfer Daviyon Nixon on the defensive line and you’re at the 17 total. Here’s the graph breakdown relative to perceived need (note the graph does not include Nixon as he originally committed a year ago).

Geographically, the class has a very distinctive midwest feel to it. That tends to be the case for Iowa and much of the Big Ten. But this group also has some talent from each of the coasts sprinkled in. They say all good things come in threes and the coaching staff must have taken that to heart with this class.

There are four different states with three commits - Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. Add in one each from Missouri, Pennsylvania, Florida and California and you’re at 16 prep commits. If you include Nixon and his original home state of Wisconsin, the state has a cheesier flavor to it. You can thank offensive line coach Tim Polasek for that influx as he covers the area. Ditto for Kelvin Bell and the pipeline flowing from Indianapolis to Iowa City. New WR coach Kelton Copeland is looking to build something in Florida. Lavar Woods put in a ton of work in Missouri with the loads of talent the state has in the next couple classes. Unfortunately, a good portion of the talent in this class opted for bluebloods, but the inroads are there for good things in 2019 and beyond.

Here’s a look at the class geographically:

Here’s the full list of prep commitments. Again, JUCO Daviyon Nixon is not included as he signed his LOI in last year’s class.

Iowa Football Class of 2018 Commitments

Name Pos Hometown Ht Wt Stars Commitment Date Signing Period
Name Pos Hometown Ht Wt Stars Commitment Date Signing Period
Jeff Jenkins OL Crystal Lake, IL 6'4" 272 3 1/22/2017 Early
Dillon Doyle LB Iowa City, IA 6'3" 215 3 3/20/2017 Early
Henry Geil RB Green Bay, WI 6'0" 211 3 4/23/2017 Early
Tyrone Tracy Jr. ATH Indianapolis, IN 6'0" 187 3 4/29/2017 Early
Tyler Linderbaum DT Solon, IA 6'2" 255 3 5/1/2017 Early
Samson Evans ATH Crystal Lake, IL 6'1" 190 2 5/21/2017 Early
Terry Roberts DB Erie, PA 5'10" 169 3 6/5/2017 Early
Cody Ince OL Balsam Lake, WI 6'5" 260 3 6/19/2017 Early
Jack Plumb TE Green Bay, WI 6'8" 245 3 6/26/2017 Early
Noah Shannon DT Oswego, IL 6'2" 285 3 7/4/2017 Early
DJ Johnson DB Indianapolis, IN 6'0" 170 3 8/22/2017 Late*
Julius Brents DB Indianapolis, IN 6'2" 180 4 9/1/2017 Late*
John Waggoner DE West Des Moines, IA 6'5" 245 4 12/5/2017 Early
Calvin Lockett WR Largo, FL 6'2" 170 3 12/13/2017 Early
Spencer Petras QB Kentfield, CA 6'5" 225 4 12/15/2017 Early
Dallas Craddieth DB Florrisant, MO 6'1" 180 4 12/20/2017 Early
Seth Benson LB Sioux Falls, SD 6'1" 210 2 12/21/2017 Early
Nico Ragaini WR West Haven, CT 6'0" 190 3 1/8/2017 NA
Logan Klemp LB Jewell, IA 6'3" 210 2 2/2/2018 Late
Kaevon Merriweather S Belleville, MI 6'2" 195 2 2/2/2018 Late
Jayden McDonald LB Suwanee, GA 6'1" 210 3 2/5/2018 Late

Curious what the head man thinks of the group? Well, he had a presser yesterday afternoon. As you might imagine, he sees good things ahead. We’ll have coverage of the Q&A later today, but here’s a snippet of his interview with the BTN.

Is there a better visual than Captain Kirk spotting Samson Evans running wild on his 1987 15” Zenith on the kitchen counter? No, no there’s not.

Class Rank Redux

So how does the class stack up? Well, it’s early so it’s tough to really tell. It’s ranked 39th nationally by Rivals and 34th by 247 Sports. It’s important to note that each of those sites uses a formula which relies on total stars accumulated (typically through the top 20 commits for each school). So Iowa with only 17 commitments to date sits a little lower than they will finish, provided they fill out the class with primarily 3-star or higher recruits.

Within the Big Ten, the class ranks 9th according to Rivals and 7th by 247 Sports. Again, these will continue to climb as the class fills out. For example, in Rivals (where the class ranks lower) the class would rank 6th in conference based on average stars. Adding 3 more members in the 3-star range would likely jump Iowa to around the top 30 in the country and 6th in Big Ten. That’s a highly plausible scenario and would be a very good finish for Iowa.

What’s Next

With the early signing period coming to a close tomorrow, Iowa now turns its attention to the traditional signing period that runs from February 7th to April 1st, 2018. Much like we saw in the month of December, things are sure to heat up leading up to that final signing day. An interesting dynamic will be just how much and when things heat up.

College football recruiting is currently in the midst of a dead period. That may seem strange given we are in the middle of a signing period, but it makes more sense when you dive into the meaning of “dead” period. Dead, in this sense, means college coaches aren’t permitted to visit recruits and recruits aren’t allowed on campus. In short, no face-to-face contact is permitted. Note that calls, texts, etc. are all still allowed.

The current dead period began on December 18th and runs through Thursday, January 11th. After that, we enter a contact period where recruits would be allowed to visit campus. This is when things should really pick up, especially for high school prospects. JUCO prospects looking to transfer in at semester will have a very short window from January 12th to the beginning of classes (January 16th at Iowa) if they wanted to visit and then commit. Coincidentally, the beginning of classes at Iowa is also the last day for JUCOS to sign an NLI in 2018.

The primary remaining need is at linebacker. The staff has been pretty focused on JUCO Will Honas of Kansas. He was reportedly down to Iowa, Kansas State and Nebraska. The news yesterday that KSU head coach Bill Snyder may not return can’t help their cause. But it’s not all good news for Iowa. Wisconsin slipped in this week with an offer and there are rumors Honas will try to take a visit in that tiny window from January 12th when the contact period begins and the end of the JUCO signing period on January 16th. Look for Iowa to begin extending additional offers to linebackers if they aren’t able to secure a signature from Honas.

A name to potentially watch to fill the linebacker void is Seth Benson. He’s a South Dakota State commit, but is planning to hold off on signing until February. He recently earned an offer from Iowa and will likely visit in January. Iowa may also seek out other JUCO or graduate transfer options at linebacker to fill the void left by the three departing seniors in terms of experience.

Beyond linebacker, there aren’t many pressing needs. Remaining spots will likely go to best available athletes. One name to keep an eye on is Oklahoma receiver Drake Stoops. Yes, that’s Drake of the Bob Stoops family. He will likely wait until February and it seems he’ll be choosing between Iowa and Oklahoma.

Those few weeks between the start of the contact period in January and signing day in February should come with a similar flurry of activity to what we’ve seen recently. While all the attention will be focused on a few top priority recruits, the pressure to fill remaining needs will mount. As always, we’ll have all the updates as information becomes available.

As a reminder, everything you need to know about the early signing period and Iowa’s class of 2018 can be found on our EARLY SIGNING PERIOD HEADQUARTERS.