How important is Houston?
So yeah, Houston's important. Strong connections forged with high school coaches can be the gift that keeps on giving, especially for a staff a good 1,000 miles away from a particular area. Sign a player from a high school and you'll have a pretty good talking point for that junior who strapped his pads on three lockers down.
"I think I'm physical enough to play with any big-time receivers in any conference" — Willie Sykes
In the case of Iowa State and two FBS-quality defenders from Spring High School, that's exactly what's happened. Mangino was by earlier in the week to watch spring ball and paid particular attention to defensive back Willie Sykes and edge-rusher Lonzell Gilmore.
They, of course, are former teammates of Darius Lee-Campbell, the dual-threat quarterback who signed with ISU this year after a long courtship.
"Since my sophomore year, Darius has been talking to me [about Iowa State]," Sykes told AllCyclones.com on Wednesday. "Me and him are really close, he's always told me Iowa State has a good campus."
As a junior, Sykes recorded 72 tackles, broke up eight passes, snared eight interceptions and forced four fumbles as a safety. He's also a member of Spring's 4x200-meter relay team that posts times on par with any prep unit nationally.
He's got the skills and the wheels to be a impact guy on the boundary.
"Most division I schools are looking at me to play cornerback," he said. "I do bump-and-run coverage better than anything else. I think I'm good at safety but I play it out of necessity in high school. As far as the next level, I'll play corner because I'm big enough, I can run and I think I'm physical enough to play with any big-time receivers in any conference."
Utah and Southern Miss have offered Sykes. Texas, Louisiana Tech and Fresno State have shown interest in Gilmore. The Cyclones haven't offered either. If they do, it'll likely be at the end of the evaluation period, when the coaches are able to huddle and pore over their field reports.
If Sykes does get an Iowa State offer, he'll have plenty of cardinal voices in his hear. Not only is there Lee-Campbell, but Sykes also knows 2014 ISU signees Martinez Syria and Brian Peavy, relationships that have grown since Pop Warner ball.
Sykes and Peavy, the cornerback from Westfield, grew up playing against each other and their families are "really close."
"I can imagine Darius and Peavy, for sure, telling me to go there," Sykes said, adding Syria's not the kind of guy to meddle much. "They all say good things about Iowa State. … That would be cool."
Said Peavy, via text message, on if he'd potentially recruit Sykes to Ames: "Oh yeah, most definitely. Nothing like teaming up with an old rival … competing against next-level competition."