IOWA CITY, Iowa — Dallas Craddieth kept saying he wanted to sign in February.
But the Iowa coaching staff always sensed something different. Based on their interactions with Craddieth and his family, they felt the Missouri safety wanted to come to Iowa and might decide sooner rather than later.
“We had a hunch the whole time it very well could have been in this [early signing] period,” Iowa director of recruiting Tyler Barnes said. “To be 100-percent certain you never know, but we felt pretty good about it.”
And that is why the Hawkeyes weren’t surprised when he called to commit at about 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
With the shock of Craddieth’s signing the following day wearing off on the fan base, here is something that shouldn’t come as a surprise:
The defensive backfield is arguably the strength of the signing class.
Yes, not every defensive back is officially signed yet. Don’t worry, the holdouts will be unveiled soon.
Yes, the defensive line is just as strong. But Craddieth may push the defensive backs in front of them.
Craddieth and Julius Brents, whom Iowa is yet to officially announce, are 4-star star safeties. Each is a playmaker and potential difference backer on the back end. Iowa was content with three defensive backs and only took a fourth because of Craddieth’s skill set. The Hawkeyes view him as an elite talent at the position.
“He’s a guy that has good two-way [skills], kind of like you think about [former cornerback] Greg Mabin when we looked at him,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He’s a guy we thought receiver, DB, not sure what. We all agreed that Dallas is better on defense.”
D.J. Johnson (his signing is yet to be officially announced) and Terry Roberts are both intriguing prospects. Johnson and Roberts are both ball hawks, with Roberts hailing from Erie Pa., the city that produced former Iowa defensive backs Bob Sanders and Jovan Johnson.
“We saw him out in camp and really liked what we saw,” Ferentz said. “His dad was here with him. That familiarity, Jovon knew the young man pretty well, too. If you get those things going, that sure helps.”
Each possesses star potential. Each is also versatile. It’s an underrated aspect, one that allows them to potentially rotate between positions. That strengthen Iowa’s nickel, dime and various sub packages.
The Class of 2018, along with future gray shirt defensive back Riley Moss, combines with the six-player Class of 2017 defensive backfield to form a potential backbone of the defense for years to come.
Freshman cornerback Matt Hankins and safety Geno Stone are in position to either start or potential play in nickel situations next year. In a Big Ten West Division that leans more toward the spread and pass with the Purdue and Nebraska offenses, a stockpile of young, athletic defensive backs is never a bad thing.
In fact, the depth allows Iowa to entertain the notion of moving a safety such as Amani Hooker or Stone to the Leo linebacker position, turning it into more a hybrid position to better tackle the issues an Air Raid offense creates.
That last one is a little bit of a radical idea for Iowa. The Hawkeyes do love their 4-3 and may not veer that far away from their beloved base formation (especially against Wisconsin).
But the option is there. Really, that’s what this defensive back group is about. It gives Iowa options. Plenty of them, all over the defense.
Still, don’t be surprised if Iowa utilizes some of those options to best deploy the talent at its disposal.
It’s a hunch. Just like the one Barnes had with Craddieth.