IOWA CITY, Iowa — Three days before National Signing Day, Iowa had 15 commits and a half-dozen maybes. By Wednesday afternoon, the Hawkeyes had 22 signatures in the class of 2017.
That’s not an easy way to accumulate talent in college football, and Iowa’s staffers recognize that. But they also were confident in the program and the process that the players they sought would choose the Hawkeyes.
“You are never quite sure how it’s going to pan out but coincidentally (around Jan. 25-26), 22 was the number we were shooting for; (but we) weren’t sure we were going to get there,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We did.”
Last Monday, Iowa flipped Iowa City High QB Nate Wieland — who projects to linebacker — from Northern Illinois. Later that day, athlete Trey Creamer picked Iowa over Minnesota. That night, RB Kyshaun Bryan — a former South Carolina commit — picked Iowa over Pittsburgh.
On Tuesday, the momentum continued. Pennsylvania DB Geno Stone de-committed from Kent State and picked Iowa. Punter Ryan Gersonde, who lives in Milwaukee, also tabbed the Hawkeyes. Wednesday, DT Daviyon Nixon, a Northern Illinois commit also from Wisconsin, announced for Iowa.
And in the most unpredictable late recruitment, New Jersey WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette signed with Iowa on signing day. Smith-Marsette initially was committed to Rutgers, then traveled to Iowa on Jan. 20 and opened up his options. He visited Minnesota on Jan. 27 and committed to the Gophers on that trip. By the next day, Smith-Marsette changed his mind and opted for the Hawkeyes.
Three days, six states, seven commits. One was an in-city prospect. Two were from Wisconsin. Two were from the east. Two more — Bryan and Creamer — were from Florida and Georgia, respectively. Few were on Iowa’s radar before December, yet all seem to fit for what the program is looking.
Recruiting director Tyler Barnes described the late process as calculated.
“You kind of know where those guys are and kind of who we’re up against and kind of where they’re leaning going into it,” Barnes said. “Part of it is a little risky when it takes place. But two weeks ago, we had a good feeling with where we were and we kind of knew this last week how it was setting up and how it was shaping up. We felt like we were in a good position.”
Iowa did stick with its prospect list as signing day approached. There wasn’t a wide-spread effort to corral just any prospect because scholarships were available. All five uncommitted prospects who visited Iowa on the final weekend picked the Hawkeyes. The other two visited from Jan. 20-22. There weren’t any surprises.
“At that point we didn’t want to be searching for the next guy. We didn’t want to be desperate,” Barnes said. “When you get desperate at the end you make bad decisions, and we certainly didn’t want to do that. So we felt good with the guys we had on campus and for some reason if we weren’t going to get one or two, we were just going to stay with where we were and luckily we finished how we wanted to finish.
“There’s times you’ve got to move fast. At the end of the cycle, we had to move with some urgency.”
The staff targeted perimeter positions with 10 of the 22 scholarships earmarked for either receivers or defensive backs. The late finish had similar balance with three defensive back/receiver types.
“I won’t say the distribution is perfect, but it was close,” Ferentz said. “I think we did well on those projections and a lot did take place in the last few weeks, certainly, the two-plus weeks. That’s typical for us.”