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Iowa Football Recruiting: Class of 2018 Big Board

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The Hawkeyes have made some big moves on the recruiting trail this summer. We take a look at who’s left on the board and what Iowa’s priorities are in the remainder of the 2018 class.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Iowa
Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa Hawkeyes are keying in on a few players to fill out the class of 2018.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Over the summer, we’ve been updating you on some of the various recruiting targets the Hawkeyes are after in the class of 2018. In case you missed it, we broke down the situations, including potential candidates to fill holes for each position group.

What may be difficult to discern from those individual position group breakdowns is exactly how things fit together from a team or class standpoint. As of now, the Hawkeyes are sitting with 11 commitments in a class you’d expect to be around 20 on the high end. So where do those 9 remaining scholarships go?

Iowa will likely look to add a QB in this class, though who is still pretty wide open. Look for more offers to be extended during the season. They’re done at RB with the addition of Wisconsin back Henry Geil. They already have Tyrone Tracy on board at WR, and Illinois athlete Samson Evans projects there as well, but I’d expect the Hawkeyes to take 1-2 more in this class. They’ve got a pair of TE commitments in Indiana product Anthony Torres and Wisconsin big man Jack Plumb. Plumb projects at tackle though, which leads me to believe Iowa is done at both TE and the OL. To go with Plumb, they also have Cody Ince and Jeff Jenkins on board. They’ve been in on Michigan OL Carlos Vettorello, but I’m not holding my breath there and don’t expect additional offers.

On defense, the Hawkeyes have a pair of commitments on the defensive line from Illinois product and former Minnesota commit Noah Shannon and Solon native Tyler Linderbaum. Given the depth chart on the defensive line, I’d think they’ll take 1-2 more. In the secondary, Iowa has Pennsylvania native Terry Roberts in the fold. Look for them to add 2-3 more defensive backs in this cycle. And at linebacker, they’ll need to replace the 3 starting LBs after this season. Local Iowa City product Dillon Doyle is a start, but they’ll likely take 1-2 more in this class.

For you math majors, that’s a range of 5-9 spots they’ll be looking to fill out. A lot will depend on potential departures. If a few folks leave, look for the staff to start offering guys opportunistically rather than based on positional needs.

Here’s a breakdown of the positional needs for the Hawkeyes in the class of 2018, as well as where they’ve already gotten commitments locked up.

With all that in mind, here’s my take on the Iowa Football staff’s recruiting big board for the class of 2018 as of today:

DJ Johnson

Johnson is a guy I’ve written about a few times. He’s at the top of the Hawkeyes’ priority list for a couple of reasons. He’s a really talented player with a 4-star rating by most sites. But he also fills a position of need for Iowa, who are likely searching for 3-4 defensive backs in this cycle. They’ve got one on board already with Terry Roberts, but would love to add this incredibly talented Indianapolis CB to the mix to both bolster the class, and continue to build in-roads into Indiana.

Johnson is set to make his announcement next week.

Julius Brents

Julius Brents is another big time defensive back from the Indianapolis area in the class of 2018. He’s a 4-star by several recruiting services and projects as a safety at the college level. He preps at Warren Central High School, where Iowa is targeting a couple big time 2019 prospects. He’s also good friends with DJ Johnson and the two are rumored to favor playing together at the collegiate level.

A look at his film shows you why the Hawkeyes are after him so hard. He’s got good size at 6’2” and 180 lbs, but he plays tough, physical football out of the secondary. He sniffs out plays and is really strong in run support. He’s quick and athletic to makes plays on the ball.

Brents has been thought to be playing things out on the recruiting front. He announced a top 6 back in June that included Iowa alongside Michigan State, Vanderbilt, Indiana, Louisville and Cincinatti. He was expected to take his official visits this fall and make a decision some time during the college football season. Something seems to have changed for him, though.

He’s expected to make an announcement later this week. He could be the first domino to fall in what could be a huge week for Iowa in the Indianapolis area for the class of 2018. Stay tuned.

**Update: Brents informed Blair Sanderson of HawkeyeReport he is moving back his decision date two weeks. Take that for what it’s worth.

John Waggoner

We’ve all seen the hype on current freshman defensive end AJ Epenesa. I won’t say Waggoner is as good as Epenesa, but he is close. He’s a 4-star from West Des Moines that measures in at 6’5” and 230 lbs. That’s on the slimmer side for a defensive lineman, but he’s only heading into his senior year of high school. If he were to come to Iowa, expect Coach Doyle to have no problems adding 25-30 pounds without impacting his signature speed on the edge rush.

Speaking of edge rush, that’s the first thing that will jump out at you when you take a look at his junior season film. Waggoner has good length given his height at 6’5” and uses his hands really well to keep offensive linemen off of him and create enough separation to get into the backfield. He’s really quick around the edge, but also shows good ability to shed blocks or rush up the middle via stunts. He’ll need to add strength to be able to add more to his arsenal at the college level, but with his frame and speed, that shouldn’t be a problem. There’s a reason he’s the top priority on the defensive line right now for Iowa.

He just got an offer from Nebraska this week, but he is said to have already trimmed his list to Iowa and Ohio State.

Originally, he had planned to make a decision at the end of summer, but has since backed off that plan. There are rumors abound that he’s holding out hope for an offer from Notre Dame, which hasn’t come for some reason. He’s camped in South Bend and clearly has the talent to merit a scholarship from just about any program in the country. Keep an eye on other defensive linemen the Fighting Irish might reel in this fall to give an indication whether they may extend that offer to Waggoner. If they don’t, I think the Hawkeyes are in great shape.

Bryce Oliver

As noted above, Iowa is looking to bring in 1-2 additional WRs in this class. Both of their top targets hail from Florida. Bryce Oliver is a big target at 6’3” and 202 lbs out of Ft. Lauderdale. As I pointed out last week, Oliver recently cut his list to 7. The Hawkeyes made the cut, along with Louisville, Kentucky, Syracuse, Iowa State, Central Florida and Florida International.

As I said in my previous post on Oliver, you can see from his film he has some really good athleticism to go with that superb size. He shows pretty decent top-end speed and Iowa fans should love what he shows in the way of blocking. More than a third of his highlight tape is footage of him blocking downfield for other receivers or run blocking at the point of attack. That’s a great sign.

Oliver is expected to take his recruitment well into the fall. Look for him to find his way up to Iowa City for an official visit at some point before making a decision later in November or December.

Calvin Lockett

Calvin Lockett is the other Florida receiver the Hawkeyes are high on. Like Oliver, Lockett has good size for a receiver, measuring in at 6’2” and 180 lbs headed into his senior season. But unlike Oliver, Lockett is built more on speed and agility than suing that big frame to be a possession and blocking receiver.

Looking at his junior film, you’ll see great ball skills both as a receiver and in the return game. He looks to have good top end speed and the ability to change directions. We don’t see the blocking highlights as with Oliver, but we do get a glimpse of him playing some defensive back. That may indicate a willingness to take on some contact, and certainly that he has some versatility.

Lockett will be a senior this season at Largo High School, where former Hawkeye Marcus Paschal is the head football coach. That connection has given Iowa an inroad in the state of Florida. Lockett, like Oliver, will likely stretch his recruitment well into the fall, but I’d expect the Hawkeyes to get a visit. I’d love to see both Oliver and Locket end up in Iowa City if there are scholarships available.

Elijah Collins

Elijah Collins is another name you should all be familiar with by now. He’s a RB/LB from Detroit we wrote about last week when he trimmed his list to 6, including the Hawkeyes. The other schools to make the cut were Michigan State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Mississippi State and Pittsburgh.

Collins plays both RB and LB on his University of Detroit Jesuit prep squad, but Iowa is recruiting him as a linebacker (as noted above, they are full at RB). The fact he can play RB is some nice versatility that I think this staff appreciates.

He has good size at 6’2” and 195 lbs. Most of his highlight film is from the offensive side of the ball, but on defense, he has a nose for reading the play and getting into the backfield. He’s athletic with a really good frame for a linebacker.

As I said in our last update, I’d look for him to stretch his recruitment into the fall. Despite the list of 6, he is rumored to be down to Iowa and Michigan State. Certainly a name to watch as official visits start to occur.

Carter Bradley

A name we haven’t mentioned around here previously is Carter Bradley. Bradley is a pro-style QB from Jacksonville, Florida who didn’t make the list of names I threw out in my initial rundown of the QB position in this class. As I indicated at that time, there were four guys with offers, and Will Levis seemed the most likely to join the Hawkeyes. A few weeks later, Levis attended a camp at Penn State and left with an offer. He’s now committed to be a Nittany Lion. The other guys were not likely possibilities, and while they are still listed as having an offer (though Ruder is now a UNC commit), they still aren’t likely. Iowa does still need a QB in this class though, and that’s where Carter Bradley comes in.

Bradley is a 6’3” 205 lb QB who preps at Providence High School in Jacksonville. What really jumps out right off the bat in his junior year film is his athleticism. He’s listed as a pro-style QB, but he shows really good athleticism in his very first highlight, escaping pressure, running several yards and then hurdling a defender. That’s followed up by a series of nice throws showing both touch on fade routes and the ability to hit tight windows.

He consistently shows good arm strength, but I think his biggest asset is the ability to get out of the pocket and complete throws on the run. Added bonus for Iowa fans: there’s footage of him actually taking snaps under center in an era where high school teams seem to either run exclusively or produce QBs who operate solely out of the shotgun.

Bradley doesn’t currently hold an Iowa offer, but does have a pretty nice list, including Indiana, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin and Pittsburgh, among others. I would expect Iowa to continue their evaluation into his senior season and potentially extend the offer.

Dallas Craddieth

The final name I’ll include on the big board this go around is St. Louis defensive back Dallas Craddieth. You’ll recall Iowa made a strong push for a number of St. Louis-area prospects in the class of 2018. Craddieth is sort of the last man standing at this point (although additional offers could still go out, obviously).

He’s a 6’1” 190 lb safety at Hazelwood Central High School. That’s the same Hazelwood Central that produced former Hawkeye great Marvin McNutt and current WR Matt Quarells. He’s really athletic and his video shows some great versatility. You’ll see him returning punts, catching passes on offense and playing out of the safety spot on defense.

Iowa is recruiting him at safety, where he shows good instincts in run support and a willingness to stick his nose in the middle of things and bring the wood. He’s got decent coverage skills from what we can see and really good ball skills when it’s in his hands.

Craddieth would be a great addition to the class of 2018, but as noted above the Hawkeyes are really only looking to take 2 more defensive backs in this class. With both Brents and Johnson set to commit in the next week, we could see some movement on Craddieth as well.

He is rumored be down to 6-7 schools, including Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois and Vanderbilt, but recently received an offer from Nebraska. If Iowa lands both Brents and Johnson, look for Craddieth to go elsewhere. If one of them decides to go with another top option, expect the Hawkeyes to push hard to land Craddieth.