IOWA CITY, Iowa — In most cases, there are two ways for a recruiting class to stand out: the number of impact players and depth.
For Iowa, the Class of 2018 contains both. It is a rare feat for any program, let alone one that is known more for development than hoarding 5- and 4-star prospects. It is why this class has a chance to be Iowa’s highest signing class since 2011.
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Note: 2018 rankings are as of Wednesday morning.
Land of 10 graded the Hawkeyes’ 23-player signing class, heavily factoring in impact performers and depth. Iowa likely will want to hang these marks on the fridge in the football complex.
Grading Iowa’s 2018 offensive signing class
Quarterback is the most important position on the field, and arguably Iowa’s top signee is Spencer Petras. Rivals rates him as a 4-star prospect and tied as the team’s highest signee, along with defensive end John Waggoner and defensive backs Julius Brents and Dallas Craddieth.
Petras, with his 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame and strong arm, has the makings of a potential multi-year starting quarterback.
The Hawkeyes are bringing in four wide receivers with a common trait: playmaking ability. Tyrone Tracy could play right away after posting a 1,000-yard rushing and receiving year as a senior. Samson Evans is the definition of an athlete and may need time to transition from being an option quarterback to a wide receiver. Nico Ragaini holds the benefit of arriving early for the spring semester. Calvin Lockett is the downfield threat.
The offensive line is full of the athletic, big-bodied players Iowa signs year after year. There is no All-American such as Tristan Wirfs in the group, but the group makes up for it with depth. Cody Ince and Jack Plumb project to tackle, and Jeff Jenkins is slated for the interior line.
Running back Henry Geil shows the burst to run past defenders and isn’t afraid to run over them as well. The 6-1, 211-pound back could earn playing time as a freshman in a young backfield.
Besides Petras, the offense is stacked with the typical 3- or 2-star players Iowa hopes to develop into Big Ten starters. Still, there is plenty of upside at every position group.
Grading Iowa’s 2018 defensive signing class
Without a doubt, the strength of the class is on defense, with at least one impact player at seemingly every level.
The level of depth and number of potential impact players in the defensive backfield is rarely seen in an Iowa class. 247Sports rates Craddieth and Waggoner as the top prospects. D.J. Johnson and Brents also are candidates to play right away.
Terry Roberts is the latest in a long line of Pennsylvania products heading to Iowa City. Kaevon Merriweather is the wild card of the group, a surprise signing who committed five days before National Signing Day.
The defensive line is nearly as deep and full of potential impact players as the secondary. Waggoner of Dowling Catholic High School (Iowa) was considered to be the top player on Iowa’s board in this class. He held offers from Ohio State, LSU, Florida and Penn State.
Defensive tackle Tyler Linderbaum was a U.S. Army All-American, and his athleticism and quickness are rare for a 6-2, 255-pound prospect. Defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon is the best bet to see playing time this season on the line. He originally signed in 2017 but spent a semester at Iowa Western Community College because of academic issues. Nixon developed into a disruptive force at the JUCO level. Defensive tackle Noah Shannon may require a year or two to develop, but he arrives with a 6-0, 305-pound Big Ten-ready body.
Depth was a priority at linebacker. Iowa landed four: Dillon Doyle, Seth Benson, Logan Klemp and Jayden McDonald. Athleticism and a high football IQ are traits shared by most of the group.
The Hawkeyes didn’t address special teams or sign a specialist in this class.
Grading Iowa’s 2018 overall signing class
There is the chance this class forms the backbone of Iowa’s defense, especially in the secondary, for multiple years. For this class to exceed expectations, the wide receivers must contribute significantly on offense.
The pieces are in place for this to be one of the best groups signed by coach Kirk Ferentz. Time will tell if that is the case.