IOWA CITY, Iowa — Brian Ferentz isn’t afraid to speak his mind and, boy, did the Iowa offensive coordinator unload earlier this week.
Let’s just say he’s not a fan of the current trend of early offers in college football recruiting.
“What has sped things up in our state, the guys in Ames and the new guys in Minneapolis seem to have no problem throwing early things out,” he said in a Des Moines Register radio show/podcast. “And what I’ve learned, certainly about the guys in Ames and I think we’ll find this about the guys in Minneapolis, you know, what does an offer really mean?”
The Iowa-Iowa State recruiting rivalry was bound to become interesting. Now, it’s happening.
Consider Brian Ferentz’s comments Round 1.
Targeting the Cyclones
Ferentz didn’t limit his criticism to Iowa State during the interview. He also mentioned new Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck and took aim at Nebraska for its failure to consistently produce NFL talent in recent years.
The Minnesota and Nebraska comments will get plenty of traction in Big Ten country, but the Iowa State lines play more in-state and may matter more in the big picture.
Under head coach Kirk Ferentz, the Hawkeyes win more in-state recruiting battles than they lose, especially with eastern Iowa athletes.
The new Iowa State staff, led by head coach Matt Campbell, doesn’t care about the established order. The Cyclones aren’t just coming at Iowa with in-state recruits. They recruit several of the same Midwest spots as Iowa with more intensity than previous Iowa State staffs.
“I said this from the day I got here: We’re not backing down from anybody in recruiting,” Campbell told the Ames Tribune in December. “We’re going to go up (against everybody) because that’s how you win.”
The Cyclones are getting results. Campbell’s first two recruiting classes were among the highest ranked in program history.
Iowa State has Iowa’s attention. Brian Ferentz doesn’t make those comments otherwise. His opening remarks generated headlines, but what came next was the verbal equivalent of a direct message to recruits.
“I can tell you this much: If the University of Iowa offers you a scholarship and you commit to us, we intend to sign you, and we intend to take your commitment,” Brian Ferentz said. “I think you have to look no further than in-state to see there were a lot of offers that went out in the 2018 class very early out of Ames, and I’m not sure all of those guys were able to commit to them if they wanted to, because some of those guys have since gone other places.”
This boils down to old-school recruiting vs. new-school recruiting. It’s why the recruiting clash between the programs seemed inevitable.
The Cyclones throw out offers like they’re candy at a parade. Iowa State is second in the nation with 321 Class of 2018 offers, according to 247Sports. Iowa is second-to-last in the Big Ten with 93 offers.
The Hawkeyes do offer prospects early. They recently were the first to offer 2019 Cincinnati defensive end Spencer Bono.
But more often than not they take their time. They try to learn as much about prospects’ off-field behavior and character as their football skills before extending offers.
“They just kind of know what they are looking for, and when they find it they are not afraid to be the first offer,” Rival’s Blair Sanderson told Land of 10 in February. “But also because they do that due diligence, they might end up being the third, fourth or fifth, because other teams might jump in there earlier.”
The Cyclones are the opposite. They want to be first in with an offer and hope an early relationship leads to a commitment.
Brian Ferentz questioned that approach. Iowa State did lose a commitment from 2017 offensive tackle Tyler Jost in November when the Cyclones asked him to grayshirt instead of enrolling this summer.
Uncommitable offers are a growing concern in college football, where teams won’t accept commitments from players with offers. It’s a potential issue surrounding the Cyclones and in-state recruits, as Rivals’ Tom Kakert discussed. It doesn’t help that some recruits don’t truly consider programs until an offer is on the table.
That’s not a game the Hawkeyes prefer to play. The Cyclones have no problem throwing out offers.
Boxing analysts like to say styles make a fight. Iowa and Iowa State are polar opposites. Brian Ferentz’s comments only highlight the differences. It’s too early to declare a winner in this battle.
Grab your popcorn. This likely is just the start.