The Iowa Hawkeyes have begun to build some serious momentum on the recruiting trail for the class of 2023. After signing a second straight top-25 recruiting class in 2022, the first time in program history that’s happened, the Hawkeye coaching staff has fully turned their attention to the next cycle and it’s paid off in a big way early.
In the span of just three days, Iowa added a pair of commits in Colorado defensive end Chase Brackney and Marion athlete (who’s expected to start at WR) Alex Mota. Now, just eight days later, the Hawkeyes have their third commitment in the class of 2023 in the month of February as Indiana native Leighton Jones announced he’ll be a Hawkeye on Saturday evening.
Iowa City, I’m coming home. pic.twitter.com/FXeVn0yKWy— Leighton Jones (@LJones7676) February 27, 2022
Jones is an intriguing prospect for a couple of reason. First and foremost is his versatility. Jones held a number of MAC offers, all of them coming on the defensive side of the ball. As a prep at Brownsburg High School outside of Indianapolis, Jones played tight end and defensive end, showing a knack for run blocking and getting to the QB.
It’s the former skill that piqued Iowa’s interest, however, as the Hawkeyes offered Jones at center. That should have Iowa fans’ collective ears perking up. There’s a certain center who recently won the Rimington Award and is now headed to the NFL that came to Iowa City as a defensive lineman and recent reports of yet another high level DL (Logan Jones) that’s made the transition to center in the offseason. The Iowa coaching staff has clearly found a recipe they like at the center position and Jones clearly has the ingredients Iowa is looking for.
For starters, he’s not undersized as you might think based on his high school position. Jones measures in at 6’4” and 265 pounds already as a junior. On the offensive side of the ball, Jones used that big frame to really dominate opponents in run blocking. He’s got the kind of mean streak you’d expect out of a defensive end and routinely finishes blocks with pancakes. That comes through on film as well as in his words. Speaking with HawkeyeReport, Jones said he loves the idea of physically mauling people.
“I love the idea of playing center and being a part of such a great tradition of amazing offensive linemen. Mauling people and being held to the highest expectations in the program is a thing that would benefit me greatly.”
That comes as even less of a surprise when you consider Jones checks another of Iowa’s favorite boxes for offensive linemen: he’s a high quality wrestler. As a prep, Jones wrestled at 285 and finished 3rd at state in Indiana.
Seem like a good enough fit? Jones sure thought so. After receiving an offer earlier this week, the Indiana native wasted little time despite growing interest from a number of power five programs, including the in-state Purdue which followed Iowa and offered a few days later.
Again speaking with HawkeyeReport, Jones said the fit was obvious and he was excited to pull the trigger.
“It was a no brainer. My relationship with Coach Barnett and Coach Bell throughout the whole process was terrific. They were 100% honest and transparent the whole time. Another thing that made me comfortable was how Iowa is known to develop guys into NFL-ready players and All-Americans.
On top of that, I’ll have an opportunity to play in the Big Ten and even play for Big Ten championships. I feel like the culture there and the way the program is run just fits perfectly into what kind of player I am and what kind of player I want to be.”
It feels like a match made in Heaven.
As noted, Jones boasted offers from Purdue, Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Miami (OH) and several other MAC programs with his recruitment really picking up when Iowa offered.
Jones is the 7th commit in Iowa’s class of 2023. His addition jumps the Hawkeyes to 11th nationally according to Rivals. That’s good for fifth in the Big Ten and tops in the Big Ten West. Meanwhile, 247 Sports has yet to update the team rankings to reflect the addition of Jones and still has not yet ranked Brackney.
Welcome aboard Leighton Jones!