It seems like just yesterday we were talking about the early signing period for college football. That is, in part, because it was less than two months ago and between the holidays, the Hawkeyes winning a New Year’s Day bowl and the hoops team having a better than expected season, time has really flown.
In that early signing period, the Hawkeyes added 20 members in the recruiting class of 2019. The group was diverse both in terms of geography and position. It included commits from 11 different states and 8 position groups. At the time, it ranked 39th nationally.
Since the early signing period, six of those commits have now enrolled at Iowa, but the Hawkeyes have also had four players declare early for the NFL draft and a handful of scholarship players announce their intention to transfer. Those departures left the Iowa staff with five open scholarships to fill before fall camp.
Last week, one of those spots was taken as Arizona State punter Michael Sleep-Dalton announced he was coming to Iowa as a graduate transfer. The addition filled a need for the 2019 season and also checked the box of the final position group to add a commitment in this cycle. That left four open spots.
Monday, another of those openings was filled as Illinois defensive back Jermari Harris committed to the Hawkeyes. That’s where things stood at the outset of National Signing Day - with 21 members committed in the class of 2019, 20 signed and a graduate transfer already in the fold.
Yesterday, Iowa added two signees. Recent commit Harris made things official by signing his letter of intent. The other addition was Florida defensive end TJ McCall, who visited over the weekend but waited until National Signing Day to make his commitment.
With these two additions, Iowa’s class of 2019 now stands at 22 (Sleep-Dalton counts against the scholarship limit but is not a member of the class of ‘19). It’s fallen in both national ranking and now stands at 41st according to Rivals and 40th per 247 Sports. That’s good enough for 9th in the Big Ten in both rankings, behind Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, Nebraska, Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Indiana.
According to Rivals, Iowa’s class of 2019 includes one 4-star (Ohio linebacker Jestin Jacobs), 19 3-stars and two 2-stars (the two late period signings). It’s likely those two 2-stars get an upgrade to 3-stars by the service, which may bump the ranking up slightly. Over at 247 Sports, Iowa is credited with three 4-stars (Jacobs is joined by offensive linemen Ezra Miller and Tyler Enders) and 19 3-stars.
More important than class rankings and stars though, is how the commits in the class fit the needs of the current roster. This seems to have done a good job on that front, having nabbed at least one commit in every position group and multiple from positions where the depth chart is looking a little thin.
The defensive line, in particular, was in need of depth with the early departure of Anthony Nelson, Brandon Simon’s decision to transfer and graduations. The staff went out and got 3 commits in the early signing period, including a pair of ends and a tackle. They added a third end in the late period with the signing day addition of TJ McCall.
Tight end was another position group hit hard by attrition. With both Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson leaving early for the NFL, Iowa needed to replenish the cupboard. They did so with a trio of tight ends in the early period, all from the Land of Lincoln.
Outside those two groups, it was mostly reloading for the Hawkeyes. The departure of Amani Hooker for the NFL created a bit of a need at safety, but that position group already had solid depth and the staff added a pair of talented DBs in the early period who project well at safety. They also added a talented corner in the early period and another this week. Each has some versatility so it will be interesting to see how things progress with the advent of Phil Parker’s new “star” position.
Along the offensive line, Iowa added four big potential commits, all in the early period. It’s a position group where the staff should be bringing in 3-4 prospects in each class to keep the pipeline full and that’s exactly what we see here. Typically you’d expect the linemen to be developmental guys that will need a season or two with Doyle, but as we saw with Tristan Wirfs, if guys come in ready the staff will play them early. There’s potential we see a guy like Ezra Miller come in and compete for a spot on the 2-deeps almost immediately.
Other position groups have a little more difficulty seeing the field early, though we could see that continue to change with the new redshirt rules. We aren’t likely to see a freshman QB win the job, and having 3 RBs all set to be in the junior class this year makes it difficult for a young back to see the field, but having 4 games to play with may mean we see a glimpse of a back like Tyler Goodson or Shadrick Byrd in a non conference game.
Linebackers, in particular, are likely to see the field early and often on special teams. That, combined with their propensity to make great fullbacks if they don’t pan out, likely explains adding 3 more in this class. Each bring something different and it’s likely we’ll see those skills on display this fall.
Of the 22 members of the class of 2019, five hail from the Hawkeye state. That ties Illinois for the most of any state in the class. Beyond those two, there are three from Florida, two from Michigan and one each from Wisconsin, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Colorado, Alabama and Georgia. If you include the graduate transfer punter, that makes not just 11 states, but 2 continents (Sleep-Dalton May be coming from Arizona State, but he’s originally from Australia).
With the 22 commits and one transfer all signed up, Iowa is still sitting two scholarships under the limit of 85. It’s not likely, however, that they add anyone else in the class of 2019. Instead, look for those final two scholarships to be filled with some combination of JUCO, graduate or other transfers. While Iowa certainly isn’t known for going that route, recent success with guys like punter Ron Coluzzi (grad transfer from Central Michigan), wide receiver Nick Easley and running back Mekhi Sargent (both JUCOs from Iowa Western) and receiver/punt returner Kyle Groeneweg (transfer from the University of Sioux Falls), has built confidence in the staff. That route also allows them to supplement the developmental prospects on the roster with players who can plug minor holes on the depth chart.
There’s also the possibility the staff could use any leftover scholarships (even if they add a transfer or two, there are likely to be departures between now and fall camp) for existing walk-ons. The Hawkeyes brought in nearly as many walk-ons in the class of 2018 as scholarship players. While this year’s group is smaller, it’s still large. There are a number of contributors who could take a scholarship should it be available in August.
However the staff decides to utilize the remaining openings, the class is very solid as it stands. There are some very talented prospects in the fold who are likely to be major contributors down the road. There are also some intriguing developmental prospects who could surprise fans and scouts alike. The staff filled positions of need and added depth in a number of groups. The only thing left for them to do is turn to the class of 2020.