Iowa enjoyed a 12-0 season a year ago and that has created some momentum on the recruiting trail for them, having a top 25 class committed currently. It's full of talent, including a handful of prospects rated in the Scout300, four-star prospects, and even one five-star prospect.
There's no secret to what they've done. They haven't changed their approach from a year ago. They're just reaping some of the rewards of their success.
"I think last season really put us on the map," recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell said at media day. "We got more exposure on ESPN and people talk about you on talk radio."
"When you go 12-0 in the regular season and get the type of exposure that we did, regardless of what state you go into, people are going to recognize you and recognize Iowa," he added. "I think it's a shame that it took a 12-0 season for people to realize that, because a lot of great things have been going on in Iowa City for a long time. But we're going to take advantage of that."
Desmond King has also put the Hawkeyes on the map after being awarded the Jim Thorpe Award Trophy given to the nation's best defensive back. He went on the celebration circuit after the season and his fame grew exponentially. He became a well known figure across the college football landscape. That carried over onto the recruiting trail where he had no problem being a nice, shiny recruiting tool for the Iowa staff.
"Desmond is such a good kid," receivers coach Bobby Kennedy stated. "He has a great personality and heck, he's a consensus all-american. Kids look at that and think something good must be going on there. He's not only a good player but they see that Coach Parker has done a great job with him."
Some of that recruiting has taken place in the state of Texas. Of Iowa's 16 verbal pledges, five reside in the Lone Star State. It was never an emphasis for the Hawkeyes as they jumped into identifying targets for the 2017 class but they found who they were looking for when they combed that part of the country.
"For us, it's not necessarily about getting into this state or that state, it's more so about finding the right kids," Bell shared. "We're going to be in our areas, and the areas we recruit. It's our responsibility to find the right kids that fit Iowa football, that fit what we're trying to do. Once we find those kids, regardless of area we're going to go after them."
Assistant Bobby Kennedy has recruited the state of Texas for a long time, being a former assistant with the Longhorns under former head coach Mack Brown. He gave his own impressions of the success Iowa has had.
"I've been down there for three years (recruiting Texas for Iowa) and it's a process," he noted. "Some years it's hit and some years it's miss. The thing with us I think is Iowa has always had a very good national name and nationally recognized logo with the tigerhawk. Kids know about Iowa and who the Hawkeyes are. Obviously last year was a really good year for us and we played on a national stage in the Big Ten Championship Game and the Rose Bowl. We go down to Texas now and kids are like 'oh Iowa is here'. It's always been a good name but kids live in the moment."
A blossoming recruiter on the national stage has been LeVar Woods, the Hawkeye tight ends coach. He played for the school and now coaches for the school, and also has NFL experience. He's young and very relatable to top recruits. That's helped him become one of the best in the nation in a short amount of time. He's been at the forefront of a lot of major recruiting wins in the 2017 class for Iowa.
Of course Woods would remain humble and not admit to that kind of glory, telling Scout, "I would never say that," about his rise to fame. However, his colleagues on the staff certainly see the impact he's having on the trail.
"I think LeVar, not unlike myself or Brian (Ferentz), is a guy who has a lot of pride about this university," Kelvin Bell explained. "He was a graduate here, a player here, and a captain here. He can sell this place. When he gets down in front of a young man and tells him about the University of Iowa, they can sense the sincerity and genuineness coming from him. It's a great sell. It's a match made in heaven."
Another key aspect for Iowa is that the product they're selling is better. But the coaches are the same. The campus is the same. The stadium is the same. Sure, the Hawkeyes went undefeated a year ago but it's been status quo around Iowa City for the most part. That is except for the facilities to sell. It's been key on visits and it's been blatant. Iowa has had a much higher hit rate lately with kids that step foot on campus. Most of the prospects that hold offers that make that visit to Iowa City end up Hawkeyes.
It's been clear to the staff as well and they take pride in that.
"No doubt about it," Bell shared about the higher hit rates with prospects that make the visit. "Iowa City is a special place. I tell kids all the time about it on the recruiting trail. Once you get a kid to visit and once they understand and see what you've been selling them, the place sells itself once we get them here. The hard part is getting them here (on a visit)."
"Sure," assistant LeVar Woods agreed. "Once you get here and once you get to Iowa, not just the university but the state of Iowa, it's phenomenal. There's not a better place to be than Iowa in the summer."
Is it a better program overall to sell now? LeVar Woods would know best having played for and coached at Iowa now. He's seen many different college programs, NFL organizations, and been around. He shared his thoughts.
"That's a good question," he responded. "This program has been going on under the direction of Coach Ferentz for 17 years. I think that's a big thing to do with it. The stability of this program, and how there's not a lot of turnover with people or when former players come back. It's the same coach, the same staff, the same trainer, the same equipment manager. That means something. That resonates with people. It's stability. It's what this program's foundation is."
Iowa is clearly way ahead in recruiting rankings for the 2017 class than they were in the 2016 class at this same time a year ago. But as always, college coaches don't pay attention to that. And they wait to judge their work.
"As far as resurgence, there's no buzz about it," recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell admitted. "We're not going to say we're bringing in a higher caliber player than what we have been in the past. I judge recruiting by four or five years from now (after they sign). If you look at the classes of 2010 and 2011, those classes that catapulted us in the 2015 season, there's something to be said about that."
Woods prefers not to put the cart in front of the horse, so to speak. He won't breathe easy until the first Wednesday in February.
"We're far from Signing Day," he pointed out. "It's about six months away, actually more than that. Right now they're verbal commitments. I'll feel much better on Signing Day. I think the staff has worked real hard on recruiting and it's been a focus for us."