Over the years, Kirk Ferentz and staff have developed a reputation for finding overlooked, under-recruited players and turning them into NFL prospects. It’s always hard to know exactly who those guys are when a recruiting class signs. If you did, they wouldn’t be the under the radar recruits they are.
But there have been some common characteristics we’ve seen over the years. Typically, it’s the guys who were from small schools where bigger programs don’t have to spend there time. Maybe the player has less than prototypical size at his age. They always seem to be smart, coachable guys who are good athletes and compete in multiple sports.
Enter Isaiah Bruce, an undersized, under-recruited defensive lineman from a small school in Illinois. He checks all the boxes.
As a 6’2” 270 pound defensive lineman, Bruce is on the shorter side for a defensive end in the Big Ten. That, along with the fact he competed in Illinois class 1A at Lena-Winslow High School, has led to him being overlooked by most big time programs.
So what does Iowa see? They see a 6’2” 270 defensive lineman who also ran for more than a thousand yards and 16 touchdowns as a running back his senior year in high school. They see a state champion, a hard-worker and a guy they can mold into exactly what they need on the defensive line.
On the defensive side of the ball, Bruce shows good explosion off the ball. He plays with a mean streak and uses his body to maximum capacity. He finished his senior season with 63 tackles and 15 TFL (his high school does not track sacks) to go with those 1,050 yards and 16 touchdowns on 84 carries (12.5 ypc) on offense. Lena-Winslow ran the table to finish 14-0 and win the Illinois class 1A state title.
Now, Isaiah Bruce is officially a Hawkeye.
Bruce is listed as a defensive end, but his build looks like he could project nicely inside. At 270 pounds as a high school senior, it won’t take much time with Doyle to mold Bruce into a 290+ pound tackle, where his height at 6’2” won’t be an issue. For comparison, current starter Brady Reiff is listed at 6’3” and 277 pounds.
While Bruce was under-recruited, that was in part due to his commitment to Iowa early in the process. The Lena, Illinois native verballed to the Hawkeyes back in November of 2018, becoming just the third commit in Iowa’s class of 2020.
He only holds three offers, including Iowa. Bruce chose the Hawkeyes over offers from Iowa State and Northwestern, though he surely would have added more offers after the senior season he had.
Welcome aboard, officially, Isaiah Bruce!