It’s been some good days on the recruiting trail, but there is one thing Iowa didn’t do: land a commitment from a 2017 scholarship player.
National Signing Day is Feb. 1. Iowa still can hand out as many as seven or eight scholarships. Here are the Hawkeyes’ five biggest needs as they try to fill out the 2017 class.
1. Wide receiver
Yes, it’s a big need. Iowa needs an influx of talent at the position. Last season, Hawkeyes receivers struggled to get open. Plus, many experienced receivers are not returning, including Jay Scheel.
Returning wide receiver stats from 2015
There is a potential instant impact player on the recruiting trail: 4-star wideout Oliver Martin. However, there is no guarantee he will sign with the Hawkeyes.
The Iowa City West High School product would be a perfect fit for the Hawkeyes, but his recruitment is heating up. Ohio State recently started recruiting Martin, and he is taking his time to assess his options before making a decision.
The Hawkeyes don’t have a linebacker in the 2017 class. Alabama linebacker Thomas Johnston is the team’s top target, and Iowa is one of his three finalists. Johnston will announce his decision on Wednesday.
Iowa may continue its pursuit of Iowa City High School’s Nate Wieland, a Northern Illinois commit, if Johnston goes elsewhere. Wieland was scheduled to visit Iowa last weekend, but he canceled when the Huskies objected to the trip.
3. Running back
Iowa made tailbacks an emphasis in the 2017 class, picking up commitments from Texas back Eno Benjamin and Illinois back Ivory Kelly-Martin by last summer.
But Benjamin de-committed in October, and the Hawkeyes still are looking for another one to pair with Kelly-Martin.
Running backs matter more to a power running team like Iowa than others around the country. Strong RB play, as LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley showed last season, can help the team with its desire to control the game with ball control, defense, field position and special teams.
The Hawkeyes are making punters a priority this month. They visited Tennessee punter Joe Doyle and California punter Ryan Stonehouse in mid-January. Former standout Ron Coluzzi only had one season of eligibility as a graduate transfer, averaging 41.1 yards on 58 punts in 2016.
This is different than the recruiting services’ designation of a player’s position as an athlete. Iowa needs to grab the best player or two it can to round out the class. Minnesota cornerback commit Trey Creamer and former Indiana tight end commit Kurt Rafdal fall into this category.
Good talent can be added late. That is what Iowa is trying to do by targeting these type of players.