IOWA CITY, Iowa — This is supposed to be a story grading Iowa’s 2017 recruiting class. The thing is, it’s impossible to grade a class until the players actually take the field. Time is needed to see how players develop, who becomes stars and which players transfer or fail to make an impact.
The only way to grade a player on signing day is to assess whether a program filled positions of need and to gauge the general consensus among the recruiting experts.
Here are the Land of 10 grades for the 2017 Iowa class with all rankings from 247Sports.
The top two signings on offense are tackles Tristan Wirfs and Mark Kallenberger. 3-star Koy Kirkpatrick is the other offensive lineman in the class. Building a sound foundation on the line is a key to success in the Big Ten and it’s especially important for the Hawkeyes. They look to win games by controlling both sides of the line of scrimmage. Wirfs, a 4-star prospect, very well could be a cornerstone on the line for years to come.
Three-star quarterback Peyton Mansell is a top-five player in the class. He fits the mold of the developmental quarterbacks the Hawkeyes have had success with, including C.J. Beathard.
It’s hard to give the offense a higher grade because so many of the players will require development over the next few years to make an impact on game day, including 3-star running backs Ivory Kelly-Martin and Kyshaun Bryan and 3-star tight end Jacob Coons.
How good the offensive class looks in retrospect may very well come down to the wide receivers. Iowa, with only five scholarship wideouts on the roster, could use a player to step in and contribute from Day One. It’s uncertain if wide receivers Brandon Smith, Henry Marchese, Max Cooper and Ihmir Smith-Marsette can do so as true freshmen.
Iowa is a developmental program and it will need to bring along this offensive class to improve the re-rank grade.
Bringing in what appears to be a star in the making in 5-star defensive end A.J. Epenesa pumps up the grade. He dominated at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and is the only incoming freshman who recruiting analysts think can play right away.
Iowa went heavy at two positions of need — defensive end and defensive back. The Hawkeyes landed six 3-star defensive backs (Djimon Colbert, Trey Creamer, Matt Hankins, Camron Harrell, Geno Stone and Joshua Turner) and 3-star Levi Duwa joins Epenesa at defensive end. Iowa also added 2-star defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon on National Signing Day.
The Hawkeyes are bringing in multiple players at each spot with the hope that one or two can develop into the kind of consistent starter Jaleel Johnson was on the line and Desmond King was in the secondary.
Nate Wieland played quarterback at Iowa City High. Iowa is relying on his athleticism to help him as he transfers to linebacker.
This turned into a really good Iowa class the closer it got to signing day. The Hawkeyes were No. 37 nationally following the rash of commitments just before signing day. Three of Iowa’s past six classes were ranked No. 58 or worse nationally.
The problem is Iowa held a top 25 class for most of the year. Four de-commitments in October and November hurt. Four-star prospects Eno Benjamin, a running back, and Chevin Calloway, a defensive back, looked like potential impact players. Three-star wide receivers Beau Corrales and Gavin Holmes were potential diamonds in the rough. The de-commitments really impacted the offense. Benjamin arguably would be the best offensive player in the class.
The Hawkeyes negated the impact of those in-season defections in the January recruiting period. Iowa’s 2017 class always will be tied to these four players who won’t make it to campus. Whether they become minor notes or major talking points in the years to come depends on what happens over the next several years, especially with the wide receivers and defensive backs.