IOWA CITY, Iowa — The final recruiting weekend before Signing Day is here. At Iowa, the Hawkeyes are …
Not hosting anyone.
No known players with scholarship offers are heading to Iowa City. It seems unusual, but it may become the norm. The early signing period is changing plenty about recruiting. The importance of the last days before the February signing period is likely one of them.
Then and now
The final days of the recruiting period used to have a Lord of the Flies element to it. Teams needed to hold on to committed prospects, sway their top uncommitted targets into their program and try to convince someone else’s commit to flip.
Take 2017. The Hawkeyes entered January trying to convince top in-state prospect Oliver Martin to commit before he ultimately chose Michigan. The Hawkeyes landed seven commitments in eight days prior to Signing Day.
Now contrast it to this year. Nearly the entire class signed in December. Iowa picked up a stealth commitment from wide receiver Nico Ragaini before the January contact period began.
The Hawkeyes’ one need is at linebacker. Only two prospects, linebackers Jayden McDonald and James Miller, took official visits in the last month. Iowa is being patient and letting things play out.
This level of inactivity — Iowa is yet to extend a 2018 offer this calendar year — is rare. It may be a one-year blip, and things could pick up in 2019 with more offers and names on the recruiting board late in the process, but don’t expect a return to the wild old days.
“This is the future, especially at places like Iowa where they basically have the whole class done,” said Bellevue West (Neb.) football coach Michael Huffman, whose 2020 wide receiver Zavier Betts picked up an Iowa offer in January.
Walk-ons and the future
The Hawkeyes haven’t completely ignored the Class of 2018 recently. They made visits to McDonald and Miller. In fact, the Iowa defensive staff went to McDonald’s house on Wednesday.
The Hawkeyes did, though, focus on walk-ons. The Hawkeyes hold 16 walk-on commitments.
Most of the work during the January recruiting period was on the future. This isn’t new. Teams tried to devote as much time as possible to high school juniors and sophomores in years past.
But it was never to this extent. Iowa has thrown out 23 offers to Class of 2019, 2020 and 2021 prospects since Jan. 21.
There isn’t an obvious backup option for the Hawkeyes if Miller or McDonald go elsewhere, which is a concern because neither is a lock to sign. Miller is visiting Florida State this weekend, and McDonald has four finalists and said he will announce his decision on Monday.
Iowa is never caught off guard. There is always a backup. It’s one of the most important tenets for the Hawkeyes and recruiting.
“The biggest thing is making sure you have depth, the same way you are trying to build depth on a football team,” Iowa director of recruiting Tyler Barnes told Land of 10 in December. “You are trying to build depth in recruiting, too. Otherwise you will be scrambling, and when you scramble, it’s typically a miss, and that’s what we try to avoid and really hope to avoid that.”
If Miller or McDonald goes elsewhere, don’t be surprised if the Hawkeyes position themselves for another quiet commitment. They already did it once with Ragaini. They also could offer a scholarship to a current walk-on or one of the committed walk-ons.
There is some intrigue with how Iowa rounds out its recruiting class, but with no visitors, it’s not at the level of the past.
And it likely won’t be that way again.