Iowa had a sensational season on the gridirion. They reeled off an undefeated regular season befor falling to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game. Those results and performances gave them a berth to the Rose Bowl against Stanford. The Hawkeyes take on the Cardinal on January 1.
It is starting to benefit them on the recruiting trail. The buzz on the 2017 targets has been very positive and they are squarely in the mix for their top target in 2016, four-star offensive tackle Matt Farniok.
First off, the commits that currently compose the class is a very, very good group. Defensive tackle Cedrick Lattimore is a four-star prospect from Michigan. Linebacker Amani Jones is a big thumper from Illinois. Cornerback Emmanuel Rugamba is extremely athletic and has a chance to be a good one. Tight end Noah Fant, quarterback Nate Stanley. and running back Toren Young are all on the borderline of possibly becoming four-star prospects.
In-state lineman Spencer Williams is as powerful as they come. Athlete Amani Hooker of Minnesota has put up insane numbers this year and has a ton of potential. He's a guy with a high ceiling. I personally like the two other tight ends committed as well, Shaun Beyer of Cedar Rapids and T.J. Hockenson of Chariton. With those two and Fant, one probably moves to defensive end at some point but those are three very good receiving weapons at the position.
Now, do I think there are any concerns out there about possibly more de-commits? No. K.J. Sails already did so and I think the buck stops there. Nothing has come to my attention that would lead me to believe any other defections are coming. Wisconsin is showing interest in Toren Young and Nate Stanley but I think they're solid. Nebraska wanted Beyer but he chose the Hawkeyes instead, his dream school. But, if there's anyone to keep an eye on, I think it would be Noah Fant. He's from Omaha and never ever seemed amazed by Nebraska but they are close to home and there's a lot of tight ends and defensive ends in this class. It could give him pause at some point. I haven't heard anything to think it's on verge of happening, but it is something that has the potential to develop given the situation.
What else is left for Iowa? They already have 24 commits so there's not a ton of space left. I think they may try to add Ja'Chai Baker as a walk-on. He's a 6-foot-7 defensive end from Lewis Central High School in Council Bluffs. He's a project with some very strong potential. Scholarship-wise, I can only see them adding one more, possibly two. Also, remember that the return of cornerback Jalen Embry is still possible. It would be after Spring or the year following that. He is still in contact with assistants Phil Parker and Reese Morgan.
For the last spot or two, the top priority is four-star offensive Matt Farniok of South Dakota. I have intel that clearly states that Farniok has been Iowa's top target overall regardless of position over a year. So landing him would be a big coup for the Hawkeye staff. It's a battle with Nebraska. Florida State and Michigan State aren't really in the picture. He's taken an official visit to Nebraska, and it was for the Iowa game. Don't let that dampen the feelings of anyone. Iowa is very much a player and I do still believe they host him on an official visit before he makes a decision. Not that one game matters, but Iowa defeating the Huskers didn't hurt. Them competing at a high level this year s impactful in this case.
Iowa can land Farniok. They'll work on that even more tomorrow as some of the Iowa staff will conduct their in-home visit with the four-star senior. I imagine an official visit could be scheduled at that point. I like how this is trending for the Hawkeyes' chances.
A lot of folks have wondered about alternative options, and especially recent Minnesota de-commit Sean Foster of Illinois. The offensive tackle hasn't received a whole lot of interest from Iowa since defecting from the Gophers' class. Iowa has shown a good amount of interest in offensive tackle Alaric Jackson of Detroit. He seems like the preference if Farniok does not go their way. However, Jackson really likes Michigan State and is awaiting a green light to commit from them. If that does not come, Iowa would be in good shape along with Wisconsin.
Iowa now has three commits from the junior class already. The first two came from in-state defensive tackle Juan Harris and in-state defensive end Coy Kirkpatrick. Harris has been in and out of the class a few times already but he's reaffirmed his stance once again recently as a Hawkeye pledge. I still expect him to sign with Iowa at the end of the day.
A third commit joined the group last night. Four-star offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs, the top player in the state, made the call last night to speak with Kirk Ferentz. He assured the head coach he was ready to be a Hawkeye and that he would lead the class and help on the recruiting trail the rest of the way. That's a big coup for Iowa. Wirfs is a heck of a prospect with a ton of potential. He's already rated as one of the top 300 players in the country for the 2017 class.
Is there more good news on the way? There could be. There's nothing on the record here but I really, really like where Iowa stands with four-star safety Djimon Colbert after speaking with a source. He also has offers from Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa State already. The Kansas City native hails from the same high school as Aaron Mends. That has helped as well as the admiration that his high school coach has for the Hawkeyes. Iowa has impressed Colbert this year and they've impressed him on his few visits so far. If an early decision happens, and it could, I expect Iowa to be the pick. However, that probably wouldn't be the end of his process. An offer from Missouri at any point could alter things, but being the leader in the clubhouse is never a bad thing.
Iowa has already done very good work in-state for 2017. One more target in Iowa will be Solon's Jacob Coons. He likes the Hawkeyes a lot, and is familiar with the commits already in place. Iowa obviously has a very good track record with tight ends as well. We'll see if the large number of tight ends Iowa plans to take in 2016 impacts the situation at all, but I think it is a matter of when, not if, Coons becomes a Hawkeye.