A weekly insider's column full of Iowa State program and recruiting news, exclusive to AllCyclones.com subscribers.
Iowa State will add Jake Ortale as a preferred walk-on, and the vibe around Ortale is that the Cyclones have uncovered a diamond in the rough. A 6-foot-4, 215-pound dual-way player from Palo Verde High in Las Vegas, Ortale played tight end for a mostly-grounded offense and didn't have much of a chance to show off his mitts. Three schools offered — Northern Arizona, Southern Utah and Weber State.
Come Signing Day in February, Ortale made the decision to bypass those offers and walk-on at Nevada.
That was the plan until "like three weeks ago," says Ortale. The Cyclones had struck up a relationship in October, as Paul Rhoads and Ortale's father played high school football together, but there hadn't been much contact since then. The Cyclones called Ortale out of the blue once spring football ended and informed him he had a spot on the team's 105-man roster, if he wanted it.
"They invited me to visit this past week," Ortale said. "I went out there, I talked to coach Mark Mangino and Coach Rhoads, toured the facilities and the locker room and the campus, and I fell in love with it.
Suddenly, Ortale was a Cyclone.
"I couldn't turn it down," he said. "It's Big 12 football. They welcomed me with open arms. I'll give it my all and see what happens."
Ortale, who does have family in Iowa, plans on redshirting this year as a member of the scout team and bulk up from 225 pounds to 250. Eventually, he hopes to be a weapon in Mangino's offense.
"I definitely consider myself a pass-catcher," he said. "I'll get bigger and work. Coach Rhoads makes sure every player gets treated the same. Walk-ons and scholarships mean nothing."
- Murray (IA) defensive end Seth Nerness and Cedar Rapids Washington (IA) offensive tackle Julian Good-Jones each picked up Kansas State offers following today' camp in the Little Apple. While the news of course makes things harder for the Cyclones, it's really not the worst thing in the world. As much as they'll say they don't, recruits care about offer lists and rankings, and it's common to see a player wait until a second offer comes in to make a decision — for self-validation purposes as well as to have something to compare their first choice with. It happened a few classes ago with Charlie Rogers, who picked up a Minnesota offer and promptly committed to Iowa State.
Nerness was busy in June, camping at Iowa, Iowa State, Missouri and Kansas State. He's done for the summer, eschewing tentative plans to go to Oklahoma and UCLA.
"I've done four camps," Nerness said Thursday afternoon," so I'm probably good."
A decision for Nerness, a quick-twitch defensive end, might not be too far off.
Good-Jones has family in Oregon and is expecting to visit Oregon State sometime this summer.
- The nation's No. 17 prospect in 2016, West Des Moines Valley offensive guard John Raridon, is excepted to get to Ames for a camp before all's said and done this summer.
- The state's second-best guard for 2016, Urbandale's Jake Heinrich, will camp June 20 and then attend an elite Junior Day on June 21. The Cyclones became his first offer Tuesday. He grew up an Iowa State fan, so they're in the lead here.
- Fellow Urbandale 2016 guard Caleb Bright will camp in Ames this weekend. Bright has performed well at camps this spring and is looking to parlay that into an offer.
- More camp notes … As every young writer learns in elementary school, frame your old-fangled essays and papers as such: Grab the reader's attention with your first "body" paragraph, and make it good. Hide the least-compelling point in the second paragraph. Knock it out of the park with the third paragraph.
The Cyclones, inadvertently, are following a similar guideline for their June camps. If you'll remember, last weekend was quite productive: Two offers went out, each resulting in commitments, and many future college football players at a variety of levels ran wild: Billy Bahl, Demry Croft, Taryn Christion, Ryan Schlichte, Michael Daniel, Seth Nerness, Alec Ingold, Josh Corcoran, Brady Ross, Jack Darnell and others.
This weekend's features Lake Travis (TX) quarterback Dominic DeLira, Waukee running back Trevor Allen, Bright and the inevitable surprise or two. That's really it. DeLira is one of five quarterbacks legitimately vying for an Iowa State offer (Croft, Bahl, Sage Attwood and Christion, who doesn't have the best chances at this point). Allen is most likely to play FCS football, and he'll be good, but Iowa State is looking at many top-100 backs for this class. After the success in that department in 2014, the Cyclones proved they're capable of reeling in top-notch national talent at that position.
Next week features a Friday night camp under the lights and then an elite Junior Day on Saturday, so let's combine the two. Attwood and Heinrich will be at that Friday camp while Saturday will see a TON of previously-offered players rolling into Ames. Copiah-Lincoln (MS) defensive tackle Demond Tucker is trying to get up here, as AllCyclones.com reported recently.
It should be an nice way to end the summer camp circuit and ought to result in a few commitments.
- Yesterday, I wrote about three players who I considered Iowa State leans at this point: Tucker, Nerness and Good-Jones, and teased this forum to focus on players who haven't officially listed the Cyclones as their favorite but have a good shot to end up in Ames. The caveat: These players need to have offers, or the list would balloon (and would include like five quarterbacks).
Classify these guys as ones to feel good about. Home state in parens:
Denver Johnson, WR (Oklahoma): Coming to Ames for camp June 20. Currently committed to Tulsa but hinting that could change.
Marcel Spears, LB (Kansas): Visting on June 21. Cyclones and Idaho are his only offers. You do the math.
James Bailey, LB (Texas): Willing to leave the state and will be in Ames before the summer ends.
Antonio Shenault, CB (Illinois): Getting a good vibe on this one, but hasn't officially nailed down a date to visit.
Malik Vaccaro-Dixon, S (Florida): Very rangy and physical. Cyclones are in his top four and share that list with UCF, USF and Appalachian State. My thinking is (and it's early) it'll either be USF/UCF or Iowa State. The allure of the Big 12 is big for him.
Joshua Little, DE (Oklahoma): Iowa State is among his best offers.
Chris French, JUCO TE (California): ISU is his only offer.
Chris Carson, JUCO RB (Kansas): Told Scout.com his two favorites are Iowa State and Utah State.
Timmy Hamilton, JUCO DL (Kansas): An Arizona vs. Iowa State battle for now.
Paul Magloire, JUCO SS (Arizona): Currently committed to Arizona but really likes the Cyclones. If he decides to visit, look out.
- By my count, Iowa State has offered three JUCO cornerbacks. They all have something in common. Something big.
Antoine Albert, a longtime offer, is 6-foot-2. Dane Cruikshank, the most recent is a hair under 6-foot-2. Josh Fuller, who plays at Scottsdale in Arizona, is 6-foot. The Cyclones are clearly trying to get bigger in the secondary and, particularly, at cornerback, where Nigel Tribune is the only sure thing on the roster. They signed three good prep corners in 2014, the tallest being Mike Johnson at 5-foot-11. They're banking on Brian Peavy and De'Monte Ruth being good enough athletes and leapers to survive at 5-foot-9.
Anyway, back to the JUCO guys. There's a fear that Albert blows up and signs with a Pac-12 power once all is said and done. ISU has targeted Cruikshank — not to be confused with Crookshanks, Hermione Granger's cat — and seems to like him just as much as Albert, despite the belated offer.
"I got my Iowa State offer on Tuesday," Cruikshank told AllCyclones.com. "Todd Sturdy called me and he offered me, then I had to call the head coach and he offered me, too. They said I'm a big cornerback, a tall cornerback, that I can get off my breaks fast and I have a lot of speed."
Cruikshank did not qualify out of Ayala High school in Chino Hills as a class of 2013 member, but not that it mattered too much. He didn't have any offers.
"I had a lot of interest but I was a utility player and a lot of colleges didn't know where to put me at," he said. "In high school I played all over the field.
"I grew at lot, so I want to play corner."
Cruikshank says the plan for now is to use an official visit on Iowa State come football season. He's visiting BYU on June 17 for an unofficial. Arizona is also interested.
"I'm saving my officials for the season so I can really get a feel for the school," he said.
- Another offensive line offer went out earlier in the week, to Taylor (TX) tackle Zach Lucas, a Houstonian. The Cyclones are immediately facing an uphill battle for Houston, an aspiring engineer, who lists a top three of Missouri, Oregon State and Rice.
"That hasn't changed," Lucas said of his top three. "But as of right now nothing's set in stone. I'm considering everything, but [the top three comes] from all the research I do and how I like the school and the football program and how I see everything that's planned out."
Lucas, if ISU can begin to sway him, would be a big prospect for Tommy Mangino to reel in. He's the No. 89 tackle in the 2015 class and one of the few high school juniors who's more advanced as a pass-blocker than a run-blocker.
Taylor's pass-happy offense — and really, the state of Texas' infatuation with airing it out — is the key to Lucas' skill.
"For the past three years in high school we've run the spread offense so it's forced me to do pass-blocking as well as I could. We work on it every single day — I've been on varsity for two years — so it's kind of hard to not do well."
Taylor begins its summer workout program Monday, the advent of which will limit Lucas' summer visits. He might be able to get away for a few weekends but at this point hasn't made plans to visit Ames.
- Lake Travis (TX) linebacker/defensive end James Bailey will make out-of-state visits in July and Iowa State is expected to be on the docket. Bailey recently added offers from Fresno State and Stephen F Austin.