Just under a week ago, college football held its second and final signing day for the recruiting class of 2018. Most of the attention around the day has been focused, and rightfully so, on the scholarship athletes who signed national letters of intent to play for their respective schools. Here at The Pants, we did recaps on both the early signing day and the late signing day.
But with all that attention paid to the scholarship athletes, a key group of signees may have unjustly fallen through the cracks. That group, of course, is the class of walk-on athletes who signed letters of commitment to the University of Iowa last week.
As I’m sure you can tell, the nature of a letter of commitment is slightly different than a national letter of intent. For starters, it’s non-binding for the student athlete. If any of these players were to choose to go elsewhere, they could still theoretically do so. It also doesn’t come with the same athletic financial aid agreement granting a scholarship that a NLI would.
But beyond the difference in exactly what the athletes sign on signing day and the scholarship aspect, there is little difference between a scholarship athlete and a walk-on. They now have the same access to the training table and nutrition planning. They partake in the same practices and play alongside each other on Saturdays.
That’s why this year’s walk-on class for the Hawkeyes is such a big deal. They will have an opportunity to contribute and if recent history is any indicator, a number of them will.
Furthermore, this year’s group of walk-ons is unusually big, with 20 members, and unusually talented. Iowa has traditionally done a good job of attracting quality athletes from around the state, but this year’s group includes a number of players who turned down full scholarships from FCS programs and stretches beyond the state’s borders into Illinois and Wisconsin.
Here’s the full list of walk-ons in this year’s class from the high school ranks:
As mentioned above, the full group of walk-ons is at 20. Only 18 are listed above as a pair of JUCO walk-ons from Iowa Western are already on campus. Nick Anderson and Colton Dinsdale are both linebackers who are looking to make an immediate impact at a position of need for the Hawkeyes.
Other notable names include some which should be familiar to Iowa fans. Jaden Snyder, who spurned offers from UNI, South Dakota and South Dakota State, will look to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Brandon Snyder and earn a scholarship with the Hawkeyes. Jaden is rumored to be bigger, faster and stronger than his older brother and has a chance to contribute at safety or linebacker depending on how he develops.
The Nelson name is another familiar to Hawkeye fans. While current defensive linemen Anthony Nelson and Matt Nelson are not brothers, new walk on Nathan Nelson is the younger brother of Anthony. Unlike the Snyders, the younger Nelson is not as big as his big brother. He comes in at 6’4” and 230 lbs (vs. 6’7” and 260 for the current Iowa DE), but is also a defensive lineman.
Some other names for fans to familiarize themselves with are Ben Subbert, Mike Timm and Mitch Riggs. Subbert is a big tight end out of Williamsburg coming in at 6’4” and 235 lbs. He already has a Big Ten body and his film shows a lot of potential as both a blocker and a pass catcher. He turned down offers from Northern Illinois, North Dakota State, Northern Iowa, Illinois State, South Dakota, South Dakota State and Western Illinois to walk-on for the Hawkeyes. Iowa has a dearth of talent at the position, but Subbert has the potential to contribute before his time in Iowa City is complete.
Mike Timm is a similar story on the other side of the ball. Hailing from Wales, Wisconsin, Timm comes in at 6’1” and 220 lbs. Like Subbert, he turned down some legitimate scholarship offers to join the Hawkeyes, including Cornell, North Dakota, Northern Iowa, Northern Michigan, South Dakota State, Bemidji State and a walk-on opportunity at Michigan.
Timm projects as an inside linebacker and a look at his film shows why. There aren’t a ton of highlights of him in coverage, but there’s plenty of tough-nose football from the middle of the field. He’s great in run support and shows good instincts sniffing out plays and getting to the ball-carrier. Iowa has a history of utilizing former walk-ons in the 2-deeps at LB - could Timm continue that tradition?
Another name to keep an eye on is Mitch Riggs. Like Timm, Riggs projects as an inside linebacker. While he didn’t have the offers of Timm (he had none reported, but interest from North Dakota State, UNI and ISU), he has a slightly bigger frame to work with. He comes in at 6’2” and 215 lbs. The added height should allow Doyle to add a little more bulk to Riggs.
Riggs plays somewhat similar to Timm with a focus on downhill attacks on the ball-carrier. We do get a little more of a glimpse at him in coverage and he looked fine, even returning an interception for a touchdown. Riggs prepped alongside Iowa signee John Waggoner at Dowling Catholic in West Des Moines. We’ll see if the two are re-united on the field in Iowa City.
Perhaps more interesting than any single player will be watching who is invited to camp this fall. NCAA rules only permit 105 total athletes in fall camp (there are current proposals to raise that to anywhere from 110 to 125). With 85 scholarship athletes allowed, that leaves room for only 20 walk-ons.
I promise to not make math a regular staple of this site, but I will point out one more time that there are 20 walk-ons in the 2018 group alone. Given there are walk-ons already on campus, several will not get invited to fall camp.
Here’s a look at the current list of walk-ons for the Hawkeyes:
To get to 105, there will likely be a combination of scholarship and walk-ons who don’t participate in fall camp. From the scholarship group, it’s possible we have further departures (actually, it’s almost a certainty as there are currently 87 scholarship players). There will also be injuries. We don’t know the status of RB Toks Akinribade and any major injuries players suffer in spring could hold them out of fall camp.
At the end of the day, a lack of a camp invite doesn’t stop a walk-on from continuing his efforts to contribute. Recent history tells us a number of this year’s group will do just that. Furthermore, it’s a good bet a few of them will earn a scholarship before their time is done. Several starters from a season ago began as walk-ons, including offensive tackle Boone Myers (before he was injured), Bo Bower at LB and Drake Kulick at FB.
This year, Nick Easley will be on scholarship after joining the team as a walk-on a year ago and promptly starting at WR. Kicker Miguel Recinos was also placed on scholarship back in December. Brady Ross will take the baton from Kulick as a former walk-on to earn a scholarship at FB. And the defense will have a distinctly walk-on feel to it with safeties Brandon Snyder and Jake Gervase both earning a scholarship, as well as defensive lineman Sam Brincks.
Keep your eyes peeled, Hawkeye fans. This is a great group of incoming walk-ons. Someone is going to contribute. Someone is going to earn a scholarship. Who will it be?