There's been a strong family theme to this year's recruiting class for Iowa. The centerpiece of the class is a set of twin brothers, Landon and Levi Paulsen, who in an ideal world will become all-world ass-kickers and provide bookends for Iowa's offensive line for years to come. One of Iowa's earliest verbal commits -- and one of the more intriguing members of this class (for bloodlines alone) -- is lineman Brady Reiff, who is of course the younger brother of Riley Reiff, a guy who had a pretty solid career at Iowa. Family hasn't always worked in Iowa's favor in this class, though -- mega-recruit Justin Hilliard chose Ohio State and national celebrity over Iowa and his brother, RB C.J. Hilliard.
But it looks like family has worked in Iowa's favor once again -- and this time it helped Iowa nab a recruit away from Ohio State. James Daniels, the younger brother of Iowa RB LeShun Daniels, gave his verbal commitment to Iowa earlier this morning, becoming the 14th member of Iowa's 2015 recruiting class.
WE WON A HAT DANCE, YOU GUYS!
Per the recruitniks, Daniels immediately becomes one of the best recruits in Iowa's 2015 haul. Rivals pegs him as a high 3*, and that's pretty much where 247, ESPN, and Scout also slot him. And by "high 3*," I basically mean "just a hair below a 4* ranking." Daniels' projected position in college might have something to do with that rating, too -- he's being considered as a center, which is not a spot that tends to generate a lot of gaudy star ratings in the recruiting biz.
More impressive than Daniels' star rating is his offer sheet -- aside from offers from pretty much the entire Big Ten (most notably, Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State), he also has offers from the likes of Miami, Auburn, and Alabama. Despite all those glittering names, the race for his services has essentially been down to Iowa and Ohio State for a few weeks. Iowa offers a chance to attend school with his brother* and a sterling pedigree when it comes to placing offensive linemen in the NFL. Ohio State offers a chance to stay closer to home (Daniels is from Warren, Ohio), as well as a pretty solid rep in their own right when it comes to NFL placement and -- oh yeah -- serious contention for Big Ten and NCAA championships.
Honestly, the family angle may be somewhat overstated and I sort of hope that Daniels isn't relying on it too strongly to make his decision. Assuming LeShun doesn't redshirt in 2014 or 2015, the only year in which their Iowa careers would overlap is 2015, when LeShun would be a senior and James would be a freshman, likely redshirting. The family angle certainly doesn't hurt, but if James chooses Iowa I hope it's because Iowa feels like a good fit, with or without LeShun's presence... because in all likelihood LeShun won't be in Iowa City after 2015 and James will still have another 3-4 years to go here. EDIT: And it turns out I was mistaken -- LeShun will be a sophomore this year, so he'll have at least two years with James (2015 and 2016), with the potential for another year if he redshirts for some reason. So we could see freshman James Daniels opening holes for senior LeShun Daniels to run through -- that would be fun.
Daniels is listed at 6-4, 275, so he certainly has a good base to work from in terms of size. As noted, Daniels projects as a center in college. Assuming Daniels sticks as a center, there's certainly a clear path to early playing time for him. Iowa's current starter at center is Austin Blythe, who has two years of eligibility remaining; according to this week's depth chart his backups are Tommy Gaul (one year of of eligibility remaining) and Eric Simmons (two years of eligibility remaining). A redshirt year is a virtual certainty for almost all of Iowa's OL recruits and it seems especially likely for Daniels if Iowa has a senior Blythe ready to go at C when Daniels is a true freshman. But the starting job could be wide open for Daniels as a redshirt freshman in 2016.
The Iowa staff has struggled to close the deal on high-profile skill position players in this class, but they've done a bang-up job with recruits in the trenches. Daniels joins the Paulsen twins, Jacob Newborg, Brett Waechter, and Brady Reiff in this year's crop of big uglies; it's not much of a stretch to envision them being the core of Iowa's line in a few years. It's also immensely satisfying to see Iowa go up against the big boys for a recruit and actually land their man. Welcome aboard, Mr. Daniels. We're excited to watch you pancake some fools in a few years.