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Iowa Football Recruiting: Class of 2018 Update

As the second national signing day looms, the Hawkeyes have their top remaining targets for #Swarm18 heading to Iowa City this weekend.

NCAA FOOTBALL: OCT 01 Northwestern at Iowa
Who are the best bets to join the #Swarm18 as the last signing period looms?
Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With only two weekends standing between us and the last signing period, things are really heating up on the recruiting trail. The Hawkeyes only have a couple of spots remaining (the exact number is up for debate and depends largely on any departures from the team we may not be aware of yet) and they’ve been working hard to fill them.

A big piece of that lately has been adding to an already strong group of walk-ons in this class. In the last week, the Hawkeyes have added four more walk-ons, all from the state of Iowa. The additions include Goose Lake native Luke Empen (TE), Des Moines native Mitchell Riggs (LB) and Waukee natives Kyle Sorensen (OL) and Nathan Nelson (DE) who is the younger brother of current Hawkeye Anthony Nelson.

Below is an updated list of the 11 walk-ons in this class, courtesy of Blair Sanderson at

As we’ve noted previously, the only real need that remains in this group is at linebacker. That’s where the staff has spent most of their time and energy and this weekend is the culmination of that effort. The Hawkeyes will be hosting a trio of 2018 linebackers for visits as they look to fill the void.

Jayden McDonald

Hometown: Suwanee, GA (North Gwinnett)
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 210
Stars: 3

At this point in time, McDonald would appear to be the top priority for the Hawkeyes in this class. As I said in our latest update, he’s a versatile outside linebacker with good speed and athleticism to either play in coverage or help in run support.

The staff has made him a priority with both linebackers coach Seth Wallace and head coach Kirk Ferentz making an in-home visit to see McDonald earlier this week. That came only a day after McDonald returned from his official visit to Kansas State last weekend.

The Georgia native looks to round out the recruiting process with an official visit to Iowa City this weekend, followed by his final visit to Ole Miss next weekend. The staff for the Rebels were also in to see McDonald this week. He’ll decide between those three schools before national signing day on February 7th.

James Miller

Hometown: Seffner, FL (Armwood)
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 220
Stars: 3

Miller is another name mentioned in the most recent recruiting update as a LB target for the Hawkeyes. As I mentioned then, Miller is the only remaining target who projects as an inside linebacker at the collegiate level. He’s a heavy hitter who is excellent in run support and his offer list, which includes Oregon, LSU, Mississippi State, South Carolina, West Virginia and others, is reflective of his talents.

I mentioned in the comments I thought he was a bit of a long shot for the class of 2018. That has more to do with his desire to stay in the south than his relationship with the Iowa staff or anything else. That desire is due to his relationship with his younger brother, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and is a freshman at Armwood. Moving away will be difficult for both brothers, as well has Miller’s mother.

Nonetheless, Miller likes what he’s heard from Iowa enough to make the official visit to Iowa City this weekend. As we all know, getting prospects on the visit is the biggest hurdle to landing them. Even if the visit goes well, it may be tough to lure Miller to the north. He received an offer from the new staff at Florida State this week and they’ve put on the full court press, sending several assistants to visit him in an attempt to keep him in Florida.

Jaden Snyder

Hometown: Inwood, IA (West Lyon)
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 205
Stars: NA

The Snyder name is one familiar to Hawkeye fans. Jaden is the younger brother of current Iowa safety Brandon Snyder. While younger, he isn’t the littler brother. As a high school senior, Brandon was listed at 6’ and 190 lbs. Jaden, as noted above, is both two inches taller and 15 pounds heavier at the same age. While Brandon is a safety at Iowa, Jaden projects as an outside linebacker.

The Snyder brothers are close with Brandon spending time at his alma mater West Lyon when he can to help instill some of the work ethic he’s learned under Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle. The younger Snyder will make his official visit to Iowa City this weekend where he hopes to earn a scholarship offer.

At this point, he’s choosing between a preferred walk on opportunity with the Hawkeyes and scholarship offers from UNI, South Dakota and South Dakota State.

Abraham Beauplan

Hometown: Boynton Beach, FL (Boynton Beach)
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 225
Stars: 3

Beauplan is a new name to follow for the Hawkeyes. He appears to be a bit of a fallback at this point with so much attention focused on McDonald and to a lesser extent Miller. He’s listed here despite not being a confirmed visitor because there have been reports of him visiting. It sounds like, at this point, he would make the trip if the Hawkeyes had a commitable offer for him.

Beauplan has a good mix of size and speed. He shows solid coverage skills for a linebacker and good closing speed when he makes a decision. He also delivers some big hits. His skillset has earned him offers from Georgia Tech, Pitt and Indiana among some mid-majors. He visited FAU last weekend. We’ll see if he makes his way to Iowa City this weekend.

In addition to the LB position, the staff has said they will be taking the best available athletes to fill out the class. Right now, that’s looking like a wide receiver.

Nikia Jones

Hometown: Wagoner, OK (Wagoner)
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 210
Stars: 3

Nikia Jones is a name I brought up in our most recent recruiting update as someone new to follow. As of now, he still doesn’t have an offer from the Hawkeyes, but WR Kelton Copeland was out to visit him last week and now Jones is may find his way onto the list of official visitors to Iowa City this weekend. The major question around his attendance is not whether he wants to visit, but whether the Hawkeyes have a spot for him if he wanted to commit.

If there are spots available, I would expect Jones to to come to Iowa City and leave this weekend with an offer. Whether he will accept remains to be seen. He is slated to visit Oregon State next weekend, only a few days ahead of signing day.

Rankings Update

For those concerned about recruiting rankings, the late additions to the class of 2018 should be met with open arms. While Nico Ragaini was unrated when he committed to the Hawkeyes, he has now been fully evaluated and has a 3-star tag according to Rivals.

That moves Iowa up to the 33rd spot nationally and 8th in the Big Ten. For some perspective, the Hawkeyes now sit four spots ahead of Wisconsin and 22 ahead of Iowa State. The Big Ten overall has a very good group of athletes coming in. Ohio State and Penn State both have classes ranked inside the top 5. Michigan, meanwhile, is sitting at #14. Maryland is inside the top 20 and both Michigan State and Nebraska are close behind, both inside the top 25.

If the Hawkeyes were to add another 3-star to the class of 2018, they would jump 3 spots nationally to #30. They would also leapfrog Minnesota, who is ranked higher based on volume, but has a lower average recruit ranking. That would put Iowa 7th in the conference behind the aforementioned OSU, PSU, Michigan, MSU, Maryland and Nebraska.

Rivals is also slated to make their final updates and evaluations for class of 2018 prospects this week. Any changes there would have an impact on overall team rankings. We’ll keep you apprised of such changes.