In case you missed it from earlier today, big breaking news was announced as the top defensive end in the country for the 2017 class, A.J. Epenesa, committed to Iowa. His father 'Eppy' played for the Hawkeyes so this was not a huge surprise but the timing was surely shocking. It was believed that Iowa was a frontrunner in his recruitment but that he would take his time and consider his masses of offers from schools such as Alabama, Florida State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Michigan, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio State, Tennessee, UCLA, USC, Utah, and Wisconsin.
A lot of times a commitment of this magnitude can be over-amplified. But I don't think that is possible in this case. This is an extraordinary pick-up for the Hawkeyes and it couldn't come at a better time. The earlier, the better, especially when it comes to A.J. Epenesa. He's not only the the top defensive end in the nation for the 2017 class, but he's also the 16th best player overall for his class, the best player in Illinois, and the second best player in the Midwest.
Iowa now has a building block for the 2017 class and they grab it early so that they can use that momentum in one of the busier portions of a recruiting process, the spring evaluation period. Coaching staffs can visit schools and watch them, recruits participate in the big national camps such as the Nike Regionals where they are around many other top recruits, and prospects can visit for spring practices.
Epenesa will be a regular presence in some of the bigger events of the recruiting year most likely, such as the Nike Regionals in Chicago or Columbus, The Opening, and possibly the all-star games towards the end of the process. He'll become a top recruiter for Iowa, a big name presence, and for a considerable amount of time because he jumps aboard the Iowa class at such an early time.
It also gives Iowa even more national recognition. The Hawkeyes just finished a 12-0 regular season, appeared in the Big Ten Championship Game, narrowly missed out on being a participant in the College Football Playoff, played in the Rose Bowl, and now have landed a possible or eventual five-star player. And he's not the only well-known name already committed to the Hawkeyes in 2017. Four-star offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs is also already an Iowa pledge. Iowa has two four-star prospects committed already for 2017. They only have two four-star commits total for the 2016 class with less than a month remaining until National Signing Day.
There's some historical relevance to the commitment of Epenesa as well. He's the highest rated prospect to commit to Iowa since Tony Moeaki did so in the 2005 recruiting class. Moeaki was the country's 20th best prospect in his signing year. Epenesa is ranked 16th overall in the country at this point. That 2005 class was very highly rated by Hawkeye standards, offensive line commit Dace Richardson was also rated 25th overall, and fellow lineman Dan Doering was rated 48th overall. Additionally, wideout commit Trey Stross and lineman commit Rafael Eubanks were also top 100 prospects in the 2005 group. The Hawkeyes landed five top 100 players in the 2005 recruiting class.
With Epenesa already on board, along with fellow four-star junior Tristan Wirfs, Iowa hopes to collect a haul like that once again.