College football signing day is a lot like the start of baseball's spring training. It's perceived that everybody has a shot to succeed.
That often is true at Iowa. The Hawkeyes rarely reel in a lot of big name recruits. You won't see their guys announcing on ESPN Wednesday.
While Iowa, like most schools, missed out on some of its targets, the program also landed many that it liked. The Hawkeyes addressed needs at defensive end, linebacker, defensive back and offensive line. They even picked up a solid quarterback prospect late in the process.
Iowa is bringing in a lot of talent in this class, albeit that much of it raw. It's always interesting to see who emerges early or develops later. I have my thoughts:
INSTANT IMPACT: Last year, Desmond King jumped in for an injured Jordan Lomax in the season opener and held down the starting cornerback position for the rest of the season. That would have been difficult to predict at this point last year seeing as the Iowa coaches viewed King as a safety.
Yes, a lot of things can change between now and August. That doesn't preclude us from speculating on which '14 recruit might contribute the most this upcoming season.
My choice would be Torey Hendrick should be qualify academically. We likely won't know that until the summer. So, let's look beyond he and incoming JUCO punter Dillon Kidd. Their eligibility clock is ticking and urgency and team needs suggest they'll be looked to early.
As crazy as it might sound, I'm going with Markel Smith. It's a crowded backfield with everyone returning from last year, I'm just not sure I see one of the veterans offering a complete package. They all have their strengths but also there are holes.
Smith is a home run threat that can run between the tackles or get the edge. He'll need to show he can block and hang onto the football.
MOST UPSIDE: Rarely does Iowa receive recruits ready to jump into the mix and excel. The coaches develop talent and players perform their best as upperclassmen.
I'll go with Jay Scheel here. If he were playing in a bigger state, I think he would have been more hyped as a prospect. He also didn't attend many camps or combines where tsar ratings get built up.
Scheel reminds me of James Morris in that he's being overlooked by some folks based on his home state and level of competition in high school. I'd be surprised if he isn't at least a solid contributor for the Hawkeyes with a chance to become a lot more.
TWO SLEEPERS: This category is so popular, let's pick two. If they pan out, I'll be sure to remind you. If they don't, I'll never bring it up again.
To qualify for this section, the player(s) cannot be hyped in any way. Sometimes receiving a lot attention as a sleeper can disqualify a player. Four- and five-star recruits do not fit here.
I wrote about how much I like Parker Hesse in my breakdown piece. He's ranked as Scout.com's 110th OLB nationally and that's largely because he's an unknown. I've seen him twice in person and loved what I watched.
My second sleeper also comes from the linebacker position. Aaron Mends is a typical Iowa recruit in that he produces on the field but may fall short in the cookie cutter measurables. I see a lot of Anthony Hitchens in this kid as a physical player on the field and humble off of it.
SPECIAL TEAMS HELP: Players frequently break in at Iowa by delivering on special teams. Reggie Spearman serves as a good recent example of that. He has the inside track at being a starting linebacker this fall.
These players usually emerge in summer camp. It can be tough identifying them in early February, but it's fun trying.
This class actually features a lot of contestants for those jobs. That has to do with there being so many defensive back and linebacker types.
Like the sleepers, I'll limit my selections to two. I'll go with Miles Taylor and Aaron Mends. I think both young men are physically ready, play fast and bring toughness to the table.
Other Candidates: Omar Truitt, Parker Hesse, Joshua Jackson.
TOUGHEST LOSSES: Plenty of guys on Iowa's board will be signing elsewhere on Wednesday. Cedar Falls OL Ross Pierschbacher will be one of them.
Pierschbacher verbally committed to the Hawkeyes last January only to flip to Alabama in the summer. A blow was dealt to Iowa.
Despite a perception that Pierschbacher represents the Hawkeyes' toughest loss in this recruiting cycle, I think his absence can be absorbed. He's good and he's local, but he's likely a guard at the next level and Iowa develops offensive linemen as well as any school in the country. And I really like the upside of Lucas LeGrand and Keegan Render as inside guys not to mention players already on the roster.
A coveted position in this class that hadn't been addressed as of the writing of this analysis was offensive tackle. For that reason, I picked Brian Wallace and Chukwuma Okorafor as the toughest losses in 2014.
Fortunately for Iowa, Brandon Scherff is returning for his senior season. The Hawkeyes can again make OT a priority in '15.