Iowa recruiting: Hits & misses from the Class of 2014
To have sustained success in college football, you’ve got to recruit like a champion. Whether you’ve got a nationally-ranked class or you’re pulling up the rear in your own conference, every class has hits and misses that ultimately define it.
Who have been the biggest surprises – good and bad – in your favorite school’s recent classes?
We continue our recruiting series with Iowa, and we’ll keep looking at one a team a day. (Friday is Penn State.)
When you have to say “lowest Big Ten ranking ever,” that’s never a good thing, but that’s what happened to Iowa in 2014. The Hawkeyes did so poorly recruiting that year, they ranked 12th in the Big Ten in the 247Sports composite rankings and 59th in the nation.
Granted, because of expansion there are 14 Big Ten teams now, but the Hawkeyes had NEVER been ranked as low as 12th within the conference.
That’s not good, but it’s also no reason to pout for the Hawkeyes. Because one thing the Iowa coaching staff often gets credit for is getting the most out of its recruits and that’s certainly the case with the 2014 group. Despite not having recruited a single 5-star or 4-star recruit – they had 18 3-stars – the Hawkeyes still went 12-0 last year and won the Big Ten West, getting a good bit of help from several people from the Class of 2014, especially on defense.
Here are three recruits who have stood out so far, and three others who never lived up to their modest 3-star hype:
Who has stood out
PARKER HESSE, defensive end: Hesse made a good first impression in 2015 after redshirting his first year. He played solidly in the defensive line rotation and registered 44 tackles and two sacks. His biggest moment – and it probably saved Iowa’s season – came against Nebraska when he tipped a pass, intercepted it and returned it for a 4-yard score in the 28-20 win against the Cornhuskers that sealed the Big Ten West race for the Hawkeyes and completed their unbeaten regular season.
That play helped earn him the Big Ten Conference’s weekly honor of freshman of the week. For the season, he made Big Ten Network’s All-Freshman team, and he received Academic All-Big Ten honors. Big things are expected of Hesse in 2016.
DILLON KIDD, punter: Kidd came to Iowa City as a junior college transfer in 2014 and contributed mightily to special teams in both 2014 and 2015. He struggled a bit his first year, but had a good 2015 season.
He was named honorable mention All-Big Ten by league coaches and media in 2015 and helped solidify the Hawkeyes’ special teams. Kidd upped his average to 40.2 yards per punt in 2015. With Kidd and placekicker Marshall Koehn both gone, the Hawkeyes will be starting over in the kicking game in 2016.
BEN NIEMANN, linebacker: Niemann, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder from Sycamore, Ill., was a solid contributor to Iowa’s staunch defense all year, starting all 14 games at outside linebacker. He was named honorable mention All-Big Ten by the league coaches.
Riemann recorded 45 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss, four quarterback sacks and two pass breakups.
Who didn’t live up to the hype
OMAR TRUITT, defensive back: Truitt came to Iowa City as a 3-star recruit out of Fort Washington, Md., where he earned first team all-state honors as a senior. He redshirted in 2014 and did not record any stats in 2015. Now he’s off the team.
He did have some legal issues and was arrested on a drunk driving charge last year. But he’s now chosen to walk away from football to pursue a career in music. There were high hopes for Truitt coming out of high school, but nothing ever materialized.
C.J. HILLIARD, running back: There was a lot of excitement when Hilliard committed to the Hawkeyes, for several reasons. Not only had he had a nice high school career, but he was also the older brother of Justin Hilliard, a 5-star recruit the Hawkeyes wanted badly, as did everyone else in America.
But Hilliard could never break through the heavy depth chart at running back and never saw the field. Then his brother committed to Ohio State and the Hawkeyes went 0-for-2 with the Hilliard family. His departure didn’t really hurt, with the Hawkeyes so loaded at running back. He transferred to Ohio University.
JALEN EMBRY, defensive back: Embry was another one of those 3-star recruits who simply couldn’t work his way up the depth chart and left. The Detroit native was heavily recruited by several Big Ten schools before picking the Hawkeyes, but it never worked out.
The somewhat surprising transfer decision didn’t impact the Iowa secondary, an area of strength for the Hawkeyes. Still, it was another guy who was thought to be a future starter, but ultimately fell short.