IOWA CITY, Iowa — Two signing periods ushered in a new era of college football recruiting and Iowa acquitted itself well to
the changing landscape.
The Hawkeyes landed their best class in years — and when combined with the Class of 2017, it’s a strong foundation for the future.
Iowa learned a lot from the introduction of the early December signing period and the last year on the recruiting trail. Here are five of key takeaways.
Signing early beneficiary to the Hawkeyes
As most expected, the majority of Class of 2018 recruits signed in December. It was certainly that way for the Hawkeyes. They had 17 of their 23-man class locked up before the holidays.
The early signing period proved to be advantageous. Iowa is a mid-sized fish in the recruiting waters. The biggest ones, such as Michigan, try to come and wrestle away some of the key Iowa commits late in the process.
The Wolverines did flip 3-star linebacker Ben VanSumeren in December, but the early signing period ensured the Hawkeyes didn’t have to babysit most of the class until February.
It’s a win-win for the coaches and the commits.
“It’s good for the guys we sign with to get it done, out of the way,” Iowa director of recruiting Tyler Barnes told Land of 10 in December, “They can go enjoy their holiday and their Christmas and finishing their last semester without having their doors banged on by schools.”
Understanding the new recruiting timetables
The experience helped solidify what the final year of recruiting a class is going to look in the future. It’s a benefit because Iowa recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell expects recruiting to move a little faster than ever before going forward.
“Every kid, if he has the right makeup, from August to December of his senior year should be worried about winning a state championship and not where he is going to sign,” Bell said.
Translation: Most prospects will commit before their senior year starts.
While that is already a common occurrence, Bell thinks the new recruiting calendar is all but designed for a player to commit by August.
With so much of the Class of 2018 locked up, a lot of programs — including Iowa — used the January evaluation period to essentially recruit 2019 prospects. Programs are further ahead on the next class than ever before.
The new spring official visit period, starting in April, gives seniors-to-be a chance to take officials earlier than before, too. Combine that with unofficial visits and players taking part in team camps and Bell believes the start of the calendar year now matters more in recruiting.
“It really puts a crunch on from late January to basically July you need to get on campus and see these schools,” Bell said. “That’s not a lot of time with a couple of dead periods put in there. That’s not a lot of time.”
December is the new January
Before, the January recruiting period was extremely hectic. Now, December is the new January in recruiting. The December recruiting period is a mad dash to secure face time with prospects, official visits and commitments.
It adds to an already busy month with bowl prep also taking place in December. Barnes liked how more official recruits saw Iowa bowl practices in December.
Yet, he wants to alter how the staff utilized the December recruiting period.
This past year, Iowa sent coaches out throughout the month. He would prefer to front load those recruiting trips.
“Maybe go right after Nebraska [and the regular season finale],” Barnes said. “Get out immediately, go hard for two weeks and then slow it down and concentrate on our guys and focus on bowl prep.”
January recruiting is still the same
Coach Kirk Ferentz was curious about the early signing period impacting Iowa’s recruiting in January.
It turns out not much changed. The Hawkeyes take pride in their ability to unearth late recruiting gems and watch them turn into stars.
Just like in years past, Iowa identified players it liked and closed the deal in the 2018 cycle. Georgia linebacker Jayden McDonald was the top recruiting priority entering January and Iowa secured his commitment. The team also landed wide receiver Nico Ragaini in January and linebacker Logan Klemp and safety Kaevon Merriweather in February.
“Quite frankly in recruiting, we’re not looking at 5-star, 4-star [prospects],” Ferentz said. “We look at guys that have reminded us of guys that have done well in our program, that’s usually our approach to things.”
And it still works, even in January.
Yet, it’s not
But not everything about January remains as it was.
First, teams spend more times looking at future classes. Secondly, with the majority of the 2018 prospects off the table, more teams were circling some of Iowa’s final targets for possible flips than in years past.
“There is a lot more interest in those prospects,” Iowa director of player personnel Scott Southmayd said. “The number of prospects available has decreased. So it has caused a lot of last-minute changes and prospects visiting other places and things like that.”
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