- We mentioned last week that the Illini had a lot of recruiting momentum going, that only being important to Iowa State because the Cyclones are eying a bounty of targets in Illinois.
Illini remains the smart-money pick for three-star wideout Flynn Nagel, the No. 40 pass-catcher in 2015. In fact, 247's reliable Crystal Ball predictions for Nagel last night registered at 100 percent Illinois for Nagel. I checked in with Nagel quickly to check in on that.
"Ha, that's what they are guessing, I guess," he said. "I'm not [close to making a decision] right now."
- The Cyclones on Tuesday offered JUCO tight end Chris French, of Saddleback College in California. A few minutes after French hung up with Todd Sturdy, Illinois — yep, them again — offered.
"I need to go visit Iowa State and Illinois and see which one I prefer more," French, who believes he's a May grad, told AllCyclones.com on Thursday. "I'm not making any decisions right now."
The 6-foot-4 French caught 32 passes for 364 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games as a freshman. As a sophomore at San Clemente High School, French played wide receiver but eventually filled out, so he's first and foremost a receiving tight end.
"I was tall and skinny so I was always used to being out there catching blocks, never blocking," he said. "I'm able to flex out at the receiver position and be in a two-point [stance] and how I'm a physical, big guy that can get out there and make some plays. [Iowa State] was impressed with that because they want to do that with their tight ends."
Sturdy did mention how ISU used, and plans to use, E.J. Bibbs.
"He said a little about that," French said. "He was saying they have a good tight end right now, he's gonna go in the draft probably pretty high [next year], and they have some freshmen but they need a playmaker to rely on [in 2015]."
High School Highlights
French says he's learned how to block well and is willing to do anything, but if it's an Iowa State-Illinois dance it might come down to how each offense looks this season.
"Illinois is a high-tempo type offense … Iowa State wants to do a no-huddle offense without subs — that's what we do at Saddleback," he said. "So I'm used to that and that's what [ISU] liked about me, too."
- Good amount of double-dipping into Houston schools which Iowa State signed players from in 2014 — I'd expect the Cyclones to eventually offer Spring (TX) defensive back Willie Sykes — and there was a case of that Monday at Westfield High in the Houston area, which just produced Brian Peavy.
Tommy Mangino and Paul Rhoads told offensive guard Cordel Iwuagwu (eee-wah-gu) he had an offer.
His reaction was, literally, indescribable.
"Wow, it was amazing, actually. I didn't think … I mean … I don't know," he said, before I interjected — "Were you not expecting a Big 12 school?"
"No sir, I wasn't," he said.
Houston, Nevada and — guess who — Illinois have offered Iwuagwu, but the Cyclones bid was different.
"Living in Texas, I don't really get out much," he said. "When I hear Iowa, I think of big schools. It's just how I think, I don't know."
The 6-foot-3, 286-pound Iwuagwu said the Cyclones liked his explosiveness and would be happy to have him.
"I do like run-blocking but I'm real explosive in the pass game," he said. "I take pride in never letting the quarterback get touched. That's what I've been real good at since my freshman year. I believe I gave up one sack this past year."
Few schools in Texas play better competition than Westfield, which helps prepare its players for college ball. Brian Peavy will arrive in Ames in June expecting to see playing time as a freshman. The route to snaps is not as direct for offensive linemen, whose bodies need more molding than cornerbacks. Schemes are often difficult to pick up, as well.
Still, expectations would be high.
"I mean, the stuff we go at right now, the stuff we're doing o-line wise, is exactly what they're doing in college," Iwuagwu said. "That's how they do it at Westfield. The coaches always tell us we're gonna thank them one day. We've had plenty of players start their first year. That's just how Westfield rolls."
Location doesn't matter here — "I like going places and I like being at home, it doesn't matter to me" — and there's no news to report on a plan for Iwuagwu.
"I'm trying to get that together as we speak," he said. "I kind of procrastinate a lot about visits and camps. My mother's really pushing me to do it."
- Port Charlotte (FL) safety Malik Vaccaro-Dixon has offers from Appalachian State, South Florida and Central Florida and saw Iowa State coach Shane Burnham this week.
"He was a real good man," Vaccaro-Dixon said Wednesday. "He watched me practice and we talked after. I showed him my range and I showed him how I can break to the ball."
Per his film, Vaccaro-Dixon is a long, fluid prospect who kills it in the middle of the field. At 6-foot-3, if he added 15 or 20 pounds to his 185-pound frame, he'd be one heck of a strong safety in the Big 12.
"I've gotten better at breaking to the ball," he said. "I've always had the instincts at being rangy, playing sideline to sideline."
Playing in the Big 12 is appealing because of its pass-happy nature.
"I'd have a lot of chances to get interceptions and make a name for myself," he said.
Up next for Vaccaro-Dixon is a camp at Florida on June 7 and one at USF on June 12. He could commit as soon as before the upcoming season.
- The Cyclones saw 6-foot Baker (FL) quarterback Sage Attwood this week. Iowa State's 2015 QB board goes Joe Burrow then probably Taryn Christion and Alec Ingold, but Attwood could be close after that. His highlight film is pretty fun; the left-hander has great improvisational skills and is a bit of a Manziel-lite type (or is this just the effect of the NFL draft goggles?
- Versatility is the hallmark of Marlon Gonzalez's game. The three-star defensive end from North Fort Myers is around 6-foot-4, 260 pounds and is playing as an outside linebacker in his team's 3-4 base defense, but also has experience as a five-tech (hand in the dirt) on that 3-4 and has played some 4-3 before, too, as a defensive tackle.
"I'm just trying to see how my body develops," Gonzalez said Thursday night.
Iowa State was by to see Gonzalez earlier in the week, he said. Coach Shane Burnham wasn't able to see him practice but got in a bump.
"They're really excited [about me]," Gonzalez said. "They talked to me about playing time, stuff like that. I'm really considering playing time. He said that he didn't really need to watch me practice — he had to get to other schools — after watching my highlight tape, which was pretty good. I told him I would've put on a show and shown him my great physicality and my high motor."
Gonzalez says he's been offered by Alabama and Tennessee recently. He was briefly committed to Florida State last summer.
"I'm open to anybody," he said. "I'm not gonna make a commitment or anything until an All-Star game (in January) with my mom on TV."
- 2015 linebacker Riley Nicholson of Osceola High in Seminole, Florida, (pictured above) was one of two 'backers offered this week by Iowa State, the other 6-foot, 200-pounder Marcel Spears, a SAM linebacker.