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Iowa Football Recruiting: Evaluating the Hawkeyes’ Class of 2020

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The Hawkeyes loaded up on commitments with their big official visit weekend. Where does that leave them heading into the fall?

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Iowa
The Hawkeyes have already added 20 members to the Swarm in 2020. Where will they go from here?
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes are on a year on the recruiting trail. As was detailed earlier this week, they’ve ramped up their spring and summer campaigns with much success. The staff landed ten commitments in the month of June to take the class to a total 20 commits already.

It’s a group both extensive and high in quality. Overall, it’s rated the third best in the Big Ten as things currently stand and 15th in the nation. While that’s in let due to the sheer volume of commits, when things are all said and done the class is on track to finish in the high 30s or low 40s nationally. For perspective, if it finishes in the top 40, that would be the first time since the incredible 2005 class that finished ranked 11th in the country.

So, where does that leaves things for the rest of the year? Well, the short answer is nearly done. The class is expected to end with 22-24 total members. On the surface, that leaves 1-3 scholarships available. It’s likely they’ll end up in the higher end of those numbers. Where those scholarships may be allocated is a bit more complicated.

To better understand where things are headed, let’s revisit how they stand today.

Quarterback

Need: 1
Committed: 1

As has become the standard in recent years, the Hawkeyes were looking for just one QB commit in the class of 2020. They got that out of the way over a year ago when 4-star Texan Deuce Hogan became the first commitment in the class.

Hogan has prototypical size for an Iowa QB. He’s not a dual threat, but has some escapability in the mold of current QB Nathan Stanley. His biggest asset is a big arm that’s gaining accuracy heading into his senior year.

With Hogan in the fold early, Ken O’Keefe will have nearly two whole years to focus on finding his QB in the class of 2021.

Running Back

Need: 2
Committed: 2

Much like quarterback, the Iowa staff will be looking for at least one running back in every class. Unlike QB, however, Hawkeye fans have learned over the years you can never have too many running backs in the stable. In the class of 2020, Iowa is looking for depth and class spacing. That means 2 backs most likely with a third only in the event they find a best available player late in the cycle.

As things stand today, Iowa already has those two opening spoken for with a pair of Williams. Gavin Williams is a big time back out of the Des Moines area who had offers from Michigan, Nebraska and Iowa State before committing to Iowa.

He’s joined by another Williams - Leshon Williams of Oak Lawn, Illinois. While Gavin was more highly sought after and is perhaps a bit more electric in terms of sheer speed, Leshon brings a great balance of power and explosion. Together, the two are a very good fit for what Iowa needs in this class.

Wide Receiver

Need: 2-3
Committed: 1

If there’s one position group where elite talent has seemed to evade Iowa for the last decade, it’s the wide receiver group. The Hawkeyes are looking to change that by adding through any means necessary.

There’s already some very promising talent in the room with Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marietta and young guys like Nico Ragaini and Tyrone Tracy, but Iowa went out and added a trio of transfers this offseason, including the storied addition of Oliver Martin.

In 2020, the Hawkeyes are looking to bring in 2 or 3 more receivers to continue building depth and look for the next breakout. They’ve already got one of those in Florida native Quavon Matthews, who flew under the radar due to injury, but flashes dynamic playmaking ability when healthy.

That leaves two spots open for receivers in this class. The Hawkeyes had Illinois native and former NIU commit Kaevion Mack and Connecticut native Diante Vines on campus for their big visit weekend in June. It’s unclear if Iowa would take commitments from both given their limited number of openings.

Mack was slated to announce his decision on Monday, but the 1st came and went without any news. Vines, meanwhile, narrowed his list to 4 schools, including the Hawkeyes and is expected to announce in the coming weeks. Iowa will almost certainly land at least one of these two. The question remains whether they would have room if both want to be Hawkeyes.

Tight End

Need: 2-3
Committed: 1

With the success Iowa has had putting tight ends into the NFL (people often forget, T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant were the first tight end duo from the same team to be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft ever), the Hawkeyes have a lot of ammunition when pitching tight end prospects these days.

But those early departures have also left some holes on the depth chart. As such, Iowa is looking for at least 2 and possibly 3 tight ends in this class.

They've already got one spot taken by a tremendous talent in Texas native Elijah Yelverton. He’s listed as a 3-star but that’s pretty comical given his offer list, which includes the likes of Michigan, Penn State, Georgia, Auburn, Florida, LSU and on and on. Yelverton is a great get.

And the Hawkeyes are looking to add to that haul with one or possibly two of their recent visitors. That includes Ohio State legacy Luke Lachey who was on campus the 21st and is choosing between Iowa and Michigan State, and Canadian star Theo Johnson. Johnson, who visited prior to the big weekend and was feeling some pressure to potentially commit ahead of Lachey’s visit for fear of losing his spot, has now reported Iowa will hold a spot for him given he plans to wait until at least the end of July to announce a decision and may take things into the fall.

Johnson is worth waiting for as he looks like a Noah Fant clone. Though Lachey is also a potential star in the making and this the possibility Iowa takes both. The rewards of producing NFL talent at a position.

Offensive Line

Need: 3-4
Committed: 3

The bread and butter of Iowa football has long been taking underrated recruits and turning them into NFL linemen. While the Hawkeyes still do that, they now find themselves able to attract some high level talent out of the gate.

Like with every class, Iowa is hoping to find a little of both this year as they search for 3 to 4 offensive linemen in 2020. They’ve already got 3 in the bag with Cedar Rapids native Josh Volk, Illinois native Tyler Elsbury and most recently Kansas native Mason Richman.

It’s possible Iowa still takes a 4th OL in 2020, though things have been pretty quiet on that front since Florida native Connor McLaughlin committed to Stanford. It’s equally likely the Hawkeyes stock with 3 OL and convert someone down the line. The defensive line in particular has a few potential converts in its ranks.

Defensive Line

Need: 7
Committed: 7

Speaking of defensive line, the Hawkeyes are looking for a whole bunch of them in 2020. Seven, to be exact. And candidly, they would take more than that if the right guys wanted to join the swarm. That’s what happens when you start losing guys to the NFL in back-to-back years.

Fortunately for Iowa, they’ve already been able to lock down commitments from seven defensive linemen. The group is both similar and different at the same time with commits from four different states across the upper Midwest but each have similar characteristics. Most are long with only Isaiah Bruce listed under 6’3” and Lukas Van Ness, Aaron Witt and Yahya Black all listed at 6’5”.

Each brings some versatility with the potential to bulk up and move inside or even to the other side of the ball. While the aforementioned Richman was already stolen away to the offense from Kelvin Bell and the defensive line, Yahya Black is a guy some schools were looking at as an offensive tackle and could end up there at Iowa.

With all that versatility and the unfortunate possibility Michael Lois ends up on a medical scholarship due to his neck injury, Iowa May still take another defensive lineman before it’s all said and done. Michigan native Bryce Mostella and Indiana native Deontae Craig both were recent visitors and would make great additions. While Mostella is likely to end up at Penn State, Craig is a realistic possibility and has states Iowa intends to keep a spot open for him.

Linebacker

Need: 1
Committed: 1

Linebacker is the mirror image of defensive line. It’s a position group that’s shrinking with Phil Parker’s shift to a 4-2-5 look as more of a base defense with that 5th defensive back being more of a hybrid safety than a linebacker.

As such. Iowa is only looking for one backer in this class. They got that wrapped up after the big June visit weekend when they landed a commitment from their top target in Indiana native Jay Higgins. Look for the Hawkeyes to focus their attention on 2021 for this group moving forward.

Defensive Back

Need: 4
Committed: 4

Last but not least, Phil Parker’s position group is his playground. Over the years he’s found some of the best examples of diamonds in the rough at Iowa and now he looks to do it again.

With that previously discussed shift in the defensive philosophy and defensive backs’ natural ability to fill holes on special teams, Iowa is always going to take a handful of DBs. This year that looks like 4, possibly 5.

As of two weekends ago, the group is full as Iowa landed four commitments at the position within a week. First it was Florida native Keylen Gulley getting in before the big weekend, then the floodgates opened after the visits. Iowa landed defensive backs from Alabama, Illinois and from current Hawkeye Kaevon Merriweather’s high school in Michigan.

None are particularly highly rated but all being solid length, decent speed and either a knack for sticking to receivers like glue or level guys in the run game. In Phil we trust.

Overall

In total, that’s 20 commitments to date with 3-4 most likely still to come. There will certainly be another WR and another TE. The question then is where those last two spots go. They could be for a third WR or TE or both. Or they could be for yet another DL or OL. At the end of the day, it will be for a guy who fits a need and is ready to make a decision.