When Paul Rhoads announced the four early JUCO signees of the 2014 class in December, he singled out the visiting weekend of Nov. 22-24 as a program-changing couple of days.
Three of the four early signees were in Ames for officials that weekend, plus two more commitments (Dale Pierson and Qujuan Floyd) who will graduate in May and sign in a few weeks.
Two months later, the Cyclones find themselves on the eve of another huge visiting period, nine confirmed prospects heading to Ames for officials. For some, like longtime commit Allen Lazard, it's no big deal; just one last party before Signing Day in two weeks.
Iowa State has done a nice job with its 2014 recruiting class, the current No. 54 group nationally. A few holes remain, though, and this weekend offers the chance to plug many of them.
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First, take a quick look at Iowa State's commitments in 2014 (we'll wait).
|ISU 2014 Recruiting Class Recruiting - 2014|
|Wendell Taiese||OG||JUCO Jr|
|Dale Pierson||DE||JUCO Jr|
|Gabe Luna||DE||JUCO Jr|
|Jordan Harris||LB||JUCO Jr|
|Devron Moore||S||JUCO Jr|
|Qujuan Floyd||S||JUCO Jr|
Notice anything missing, other than our being lazy and omitting for this practice the hometown and measurables?
Well, the Cyclones need a defensive tackle in the worst way and while they have David Moala and Antonio Guy coming to Ames on Jan. 31, it's Terry Ayeni who may be at the top of their wish list.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Ayeni can rush the edge but could also add some weight and slide inside. Paul Rhoads, Louis Ayeni and Shane Burnham visited New Mexico on Monday (the same group saw Warren in Oklahoma). The Cyclones signed Gabe Luna and have a commitment from Dale Pierson, but don't view Ayeni as another defensive end. He's a hybrid player who can contribute immediately anywhere along the line.
USF is next for Ayeni after Iowa State and he could also take some mid-week official visits. The JUCO player has three years to exhaust two seasons of eligibility.
Michael Warren: Could Tommy Mister's decision to commit to Indiana be a blessing in disguise? It appears that way. Mister was supposed to visit this weekend. In his place steps Warren, who we consider an equal player (No. 78 to Mister's status as the No. 75 running back) and a more electric runner, which would nicely complement Martinez Syria's power in the 2014 class.
Warren told AllCyclones.com on Monday night that it was down to Iowa State and Tulsa, but we expect other schools (keep an eye on Ole Miss) to attempt and enter the race now that Warren's transcript is A-OK. There's hope Warren will end his recruitment at the end of the weekend. If he remains uncommitted, it sets up the possibility for a final official visit elsewhere the following weekend. At that point, Warren might wait until Signing Day.
J.T. Gray: A few weeks ago, it didn't look like Gray was going to get to Ames, despite a friendship with Cyclones linebacker Jordan Harris. Gray tweeted three official visits for January, and Iowa State didn't make the cut. It turns out two of those trips — Arizona State and Cincinnati — aren't going to pan out, leaving the Cyclones to battle with Mississippi State for Gray, a two-way player who'll be a cornerback in college.
Mike Johnson: Here's a name that's flown under-the-radar for sometime, the expectation being Johnson wouldn't stray too far from one of the many eligible Florida schools.
However, the No. 129 cornerback in the class and a three-star is down to Iowa State, Louisville and Marshall and will be in Ames this weekend for an official visit.
Wait: Two cornerbacks?
You got it. Gray and Johnson will be in Ames the same weekend, and while the odds suggest one will end up signing with the Cyclones, it's not likely there's a spot for both.
Iowa State would surely be ecstatic with either — the Cyclones rescinded Dedric Brinson's scholarship offer a week ago — and so it's tough to say if there's a preference, although fans have certainly grown excited with the thought of the versatile Gray joining the crew the last few weeks.
The Cyclones have commitments from De'Monte Ruth and Brian Peavy, two Texas-bred corners who will also be in town on official this weekend.
So, who else is coming?
Allen Lazard, Jauan Wesley and Reggan Northrup are the three names we haven't mentioned, and it absolutely helps the Cyclones' cause that Lazard will be on campus this weekend.
Good players want to play with other good players, and Lazard is, by all accounts, the best player in the 2014 class. Lazard has been on campus numerous times in the past year and knows the program inside and out; don't be surprised if the guys who commit this weekend cite Lazard as a reason why.
Also, Gray is driving up in a packed car from Clarksdale, Miss., with high school teammates. There are others but one name we've tracked down is offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins, who doesn't have any offers.
Here's the full vistors' list. It will be the first Ames visit for three commits: Ruth, Northrup and Peavy.