IOWA CITY, Iowa — With wide receiver suddenly becoming a position of need in the Class of 2018, Iowa assessed its options. One name jumped out: Nico Ragaini.
The Hawkeyes knew him, previously looked into him and felt he was the kind of recruit coach Kirk Ferentz cherishes. Just as important, Ragaini was interested.
From there, the rest took care of itself, and Ragaini signed with Iowa in January.
“He was out there, we knew about him, and available, and it became a position of need for us,” Iowa director of player personnel Scott Southmayd told Land of 10 on Thursday. “We were able to get him going right away.”
Iowa filled out most of its Class of 2018 on Friday night, securing commitments from in-state linebacker Logan Klemp and Michigan safety Kaevon Merriweather. They did it in the same way they landed Ragaini a month earlier.
Iowa identifies prospects it is familiar with. Quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe watched Ragaini, a Connecticut native, last spring. The relationship grew from there.
“Nico actually came to one of our football camps in June and did a great job,” Southmayd said. “He was always on our radar.”
Klemp’s story is similar. He also camped with the Hawkeyes last summer. He was in contact with the program for a long time.
The length of the relationship proved to be important for both Ragaini and Klemp. Both play positions of need. Linebacker was always one in this class with Iowa losing four seniors to graduation following the 2017 season.
The Hawkeyes followed Ragaini’s progress at Avon Old Farms, a prep school in Connecticut.
That proved to be important when wide receivers Adrian Falconer and Matt Quarells left the program after the Pinstripe Bowl.
The Hawkeyes followed Ragaini’s progress at Avon Old Farms, a prep school in Connecticut. Iowa vigorously vets all of its potential players and were comfortable with Ragaini.
It was the same way with Klemp. Iowa needed a linebacker and as Signing Day approached securing the position took precedent over waiting for the recruitment of linebackers Jayden McDonald and James Miller to play out. Klemp received an offer on Friday and quickly jumped on it.
A large part of the recruiting process for Iowa is identifying players are at home in the kind of no-nonsense, blue-collar culture that exists at Iowa.
“We are still just trying to sort out who is the best fit for our team, who we feel positionally and then character and development and all the things that go into bringing a prospect here,” Southmayd said. “That has kind of been our focus the last few days, who are those guys and who will sign with us.”
Ragaini’s name never made it outside the Iowa football office walls. His commitment was a surprise. The fan base didn’t know much about him when he signed in January. The same thing happened with Merriweather.
Iowa was his first football offer. Colleges recruited him primarily for basketball He holds offers from Western Michigan and Ferris State.
And like with Ragaini, the Hawkeyes believe Merriweather fits into the Iowa culture. The Hawkeyes don’t sacrifice it at any point in the recruiting cycle, even at the end.
Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle summed up the traits the team seeks in prospects extremely well in 2016.
“There have been so many guys in our program that have had uncommon endurance, uncommon grit and commitment over time and they were rewarded for it,” Doyle said.
One scholarship remains. McDonald or Miller could fill it.
McDonald is a new recruit, receiving an offer in December. He doesn’t fall into the same category as Ragaini.
But Miller does. Iowa offered him in January 2017. Both sides knew each other before the Hawkeyes circled back this month with an in-home visit.
Neither is a sure bet to select the Hawkeyes. They may end up turning elsewhere for the final spot. It’s unclear who it would be. Iowa hasn’t offered a 2018 prospect during the January recruiting period.
But what that player will be like is easier to picture. He’ll look like Ragaini, Klemp or Merriweather. His recruitment story will probably be the same, too.