IOWA CITY, Iowa — In the morning, before signed letters of intent would be flying in on National Signing Day, Tyler Barnes looked up the number of de-commitments nationwide.
The tally, before any last-minute moves, stood at 738, a 30-percent increase, Barnes’ records showed. It served as a reminder Iowa wasn’t the only program to deal with de-commitments.
“As bad as it may seem here, it’s like that everywhere,” the Iowa director of scouting said. “You got to ride the waves, and it’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. You got to keep the course.”
The majority of Iowa’s five 2017 de-commits made big headlines with their decisions tied into the program’s no-visit policy. As the Hawkeyes move past 2017 and focus on future classes, one lesson stands out.
“You keep going,” Barnes said.
‘I know who we are’
It’s not a new or revolutionary idea. It’s the way Iowa, and most programs, operate. Keep trudging ahead, focusing on core tenants and everything, hopefully, falls into place.
For the Hawkeyes, it’s honing in on recruits that are a perfect match for a developmental program not afraid to tell teenagers they’ll likely ask more from them than others seeking their services.
“We try to be straight up front about who we are and what we are, and how we do things,” Ferentz said last November. “One thing, you can’t promise too much, other than opportunity. It’s my 18th year here, so I promise you, I’m not searching for my identity anymore. I’ve been through that. I know who we are and who we want to be.”
It’s why Iowa kept doing what it was doing while filling out the 2017 class. It’s why Iowa plans to do the same going forward.
“We try to make sure for our guys, let’s make sure this is the right decision,” Barnes said. “We don’t want you to commit. We don’t want to pressure you to commit. Make sure you’ve done your homework and make sure this is really, truly where you want to spend the next four to five years.”
Still the same
Quarterback signee Peyton Mansell watched it all unfold. Defensive lineman Juan Harris de-committed three times. He saw both sides having issues as the commitment of running back Eno Benjamin fell apart and the role the no-visit policy played into defensive back Chevin Calloway and wide receivers Beau Corrales and Gavin Holmes heading elsewhere.
“You know you can’t really blame them,” Mansell said in December. “It sucks a little bit because you aren’t going to be able to play with them, but you can’t really blame them, just because you know their situation isn’t the same as yours.”
Iowa’s situation is the same as ever. The Hawkeyes will keep being the Hawkeyes. The no-visit policy isn’t going anywhere. Neither is the Hawkeyes view of a commitment. It’s more like an engagement than a friendship bracelet, which can be taken on and off as often as a recruit pleases.
There could be one change going forward, though. The Hawkeyes could become a little more blunt about their expectations.
“If anything they’ll try to make that even more clear, because I’m sure some kids, when they commit, get caught up in the moment and maybe that isn’t as clear,” Rivals’ Blair Sanderson said. “ ‘We would like to see you taking no other visits.’ That is what their message is.”
And it’s not changing.