Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa football team have the ball officially rolling. Fall camp kicked off last week and while there are no more two-a-days, they’ve been getting after it. But Ferentz’s staff, and more precisely recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell, have been getting after it off the practice field as well.
Since the official start to summer marked by Memorial Day Weekend, the Hawkeyes have landed 5 commitments in the class of 2018. They’ve also reeled in 3 more for the class of 2019. On top of all that, they recruited a pair of graduate transfers in former standout Nevada RB James Butler and versatile New Mexico WR Matt Quarells.
At the center of all that activity is the aforementioned Coach Bell. Bell isn’t exactly a new face around the coaching complex, having joined the staff back in 2012 as a graduate assistant. But he was named Recruiting Coordinator and Assistant Defensive Line Coach back in 2016 and is part of a group of younger assistants who appear to be breathing a breath of fresh air into the program. He brings a fresh perspective and a personality recruits can relate to, and it’s paying off big time in the classes of 2018 and 2019.
Nowhere is that more evident than in one of Bell’s core recruiting responsibilities: the state of Indiana. Of those summer commitments Iowa has gotten, a quarter have come from Indiana. Of Iowa’s entire class of 2018 (now sitting at 11 members), nearly 20% hail from Indiana - as many as the home state of Iowa. And for those of us who follow recruiting perhaps more closely than we should, the most exciting part is not what he’s already done in the state, but what is just around the corner.
Two weeks from today, a big time Indianapolis defensive back will announce his college decision. He’s a a 4-star prospect who’s considered the 4th-best player in the state. He has offers from the vast majority of the Big Ten and several other power 5 programs. His name is DJ Johnson and he could be the next big get for Kelvin Bell and the Iowa football staff in the class of 2018.
Johnson is a talented CB with pretty typical size for the position at 6’0” and 170 lbs. heading into his senior season at North Central High School in Indianapolis. He’s considered the #1 corner in the state of Indiana for 2018 and a look at the tape makes it pretty clear why. He shows really solid technique and the athleticism to recover from almost any mistake he might make at the high school level. His instincts put him in a really good position to make plays on the ball and his speed and agility allow him to make things happen when he gets the ball in his hands.
Given the profile and the offers he has on the table, (Notre Dame, Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois, Duke, etc. etc.) Hawkeye fans leaning to the cynical side might say this is a waste of time. Iowa doesn’t typically win recruiting battles with the likes of the Fighting Irish for big time players from the state of Indiana, but here we are in August and he’s announced he’ll be choosing between Notre Dame and Iowa.
Another point in the Hawkeyes’ favor? After making a couple of visits to Iowa City (and South Bend), Johnson was back in town last weekend as fall camp kicked off on July 30th. It might seem like a small detail, but it’s pretty big given the timing of things. It allowed DJ to see the Hawkeyes actually practice with coaches interacting with players and working them through drills, something he hasn’t been able to see anywhere else, and it came on the last day prior to a visit dead period, meaning he won’t be able to do the same at Notre Dame before his senior season begins. Even more important than the start of that senior season was Johnson’s announcement the next day that he has a decision date set.
I WILL BE COMMITTING ON AUGUST 22nd ☘️ STAY TUNED— DJ JOHNSON (@DjJohnson1127) July 31, 2017
August 22nd might seem like an arbitrary date, but it’s birthday gift to his mother, who Johnson says has done so much for him. It’s a pretty cool gesture and I think speaks to the character of Johnson. We all know how important character and personality fit are for this staff. It seems like this is a solid match.
All those signs seem to point to another big time get out of the state of Indiana for Kelvin Bell and the Iowa Hawkeyes. We’ll see come August 22nd. But if nothing else, Iowa fans should feel pretty good about the work this staff is doing on the trail, especially in the state of Indiana. Should they land Johnson, there are rumblings that fellow 4-star Indianapolis DB Julius Brents may follow suit. Brents has Iowa in his top 6, along with the likes of Michigan State and Vanderbilt.
The ball is certainly rolling on the recruiting trail for the Hawkeyes. Let’s hope that momentum continues throughout the 2017 season and into the class of 2019.