Just over three weeks ago, the Iowa Hawkeyes won the first college football game of 2019. Since then, there have been plenty of football-related headlines, but Hawkeye fans have slowly had their attention drawn toward the basketball program and its recent success. As the hoops squad prepares for perhaps its most difficult stretch of the season, it’s easy to let the football program drift out of sight and out of mind.
But we sit here today less than two weeks away from college football’s final signing day for the recruiting class of 2019. This is a key group for Iowa. Well, as key as any recruiting class can be for a program built on recruiting classes ranked in the 40s and 50s nationally. As we’ve seen over the years, recruiting rankings do matter, but for Iowa, the most important factor is the fit of the individual recruits.
That’s of particular focus for the coaching staff during the second signing period as they have an ability to focus in on a select few recruits to fill out the class. In the first signing period back in December, Iowa inked 20 commits in the class of 2019.
That group, as it stands today, makes up the 39th-ranked recruiting class by both 247 Sports and Rivals. That’s one spot ahead of where the class of 2018 finished when it was all said and done.
It’s a group that includes commitments from 11 different states and every position group excluding the specialists. But there’ve been some changes to the current roster since the initial group signed in December. Four players have announced they’re leaving for the NFL draft. Others have announced an intention to transfer.
As things stand today, there are five available scholarships yet to be filled in the class of 2019. That assumes there’s no additional turnover, which seems unlikely given we’ve yet to get through winter workouts or spring ball. At least one player, Daviyon Nixon, is in the transfer portal despite not having announced an intention to leave.
That’s quite the shift from the fall, when the Hawkeyes were expected to sign a class of only 20. Now it seems likely the ultimate number will be closer to 25. Those last five spots have surely been under close examination over the last several weeks. Now we are two final recruiting weekends away from signing day, which means we’re about to get a much better idea of who exactly the coaching staff feels is best to fill those final spots.
There are dozens and dozens of prospects from across the country the staff has been monitoring with only a handful of new offers since the early signing day. There are very few remaining recruits who held offers ahead of the December period who have not already pledged to another school. But there are a few who have been on the staff’s radar for some time and remain uncommitted. Expect a number of them to find their way to Iowa City for official visits each of the next two weekends and the coaches look to decide on their top targets and close on a commitment in a very short period of time.
Those top targets are likely to consist of players from a few position groups in particular. At the top of that list is likely to be defensive linemen. Despite signing three in the early period, including 3-star prospects from Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, the staff is likely to take at least one more in this class after the recent departures of Anthony Nelson, Brandon Simon and the potential loss of Daviyon Nixon. Those losses leave the Hawkeyes with only three scholarship defensive ends other than the incoming freshmen and a group of 6 defensive tackles who have played minimal snaps. That’s not ideal for a position group that’s found a lot of success with a deep rotation.
Defensive back is the other position group likely to see a late signing period addition. The Hawkeyes already signed a pair in the early period, but both Sebastian Castro and Dane Belton spent much of their prep careers at safety. With the departures of Josh Turner and Trey Creamer, Iowa could use some additional depth at corner. Expect Phil Parker to pull off one of his patented last minute specials here.
Beyond those two groups, it’s likely the staff will take the best available athlete. A case could be made for taking another wide receiver in the later period. Iowa was close to taking another in the early period, but have yet to publicly show their hand on targets for the later period.
The other thing to watch is the transfer market. It’s entirely possible the staff doesn’t fill all five current open scholarships and instead takes a couple into the summer to take a late grad transfer. That worked well with Nevada transfer James Butler, who joined the fold over the summer. It could work well again this summer if there are additional departures following spring practice, creating a new need.
One we know of already is in the specialists group. Kicker Miguel Recinos has graduated, leaving no scholarship kickers behind and an open competition for his spot. And while there was some improvement at times in the punting game, we’ve seen Iowa dip their toes into the grad transfer market there before to great success. There’s a compelling possibility there again this year in Arizona State grad transfer Michael Sleep-Dalton, who averaged nearly 44 yards per punt last season.
Regardless of who specifically the staff is able to reel in down the stretch, there is sure to be a flurry of activity. While we are in the depths of basketball season, the football program is likely to be thrust near center stage over the next two weekends as the class of 2019 is completed.