Many Hawk fans caught the news yesterday of the decision reached by OL Jon Cochran to attend Stanford University. With only one OL commit so far in this class, that being #21 OL Chris Felder, there seems to be more urgency on the Hawks to get an OL.
The Hawks appear to have set their sights on OL Chris Thomas from Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, PA. While Chris may not strike Hawk fans as a "great catch" due to his unknown appearance on recruiting rankings, Coach Ferentz and Philbin are two of the best OL coaches in college football and know how to grade out OL better than most coaches.
"He is a late bloomer," Coach Rimpfel said. "He is a heckuva of a football player, though. I just measured him the other day day at 6'4 (1/2) and 304 lbs. bare foot. He still has a high voice so you know he is still growing."
So what is the reason behind the lack of attention that Chris received heading into his senior season?
"I'll be honest, he did not have that good of a junior season. He really turned it around and became a good player his senior season. I was very proud of him. A lot of big kids end up being late bloomers because they are not done growing and schools fill up so fast. Chris did not begin playing football until ninth grade due to no junior high football program. He was too big to play pee wee football while in elementary school."
"This was my best offensive line in my 30 years of coaching here at Cumberland Valley and Chris was a large reason for that. We finished 13-1 this season and one game away from the state championship. We play in the largest classification in the state of Pennsylvania."
The Iowa coaches love their lineman to be two sport athletes while in high school. They believe wrestling will help build toughness and techinique and basketball helps build quick feet and athleticism.
"Chris was not much of a fan of wrestling, but he has been a good basketball player on our varsity team. I believe he has good athletic ability for his size. We have two 6'8 kids on the basketball team, but they do not combine to weigh very much. Chris is really needed because he really helps the physical aspect and gives us a down low presence."
Many had believed that Chris's visit could have been set-up due to the recent knowledge of Cochran's leaning towards Stanford. However, this visit has been set-up for over a week and it was last month when Philbin actually noticed Thomas.
"The playoffs really put a lot of focus and attention on Chris. Coach Philbin was actually scouting our game against Neshaminy to see their RB Jamar Brittingham. Coach Philbin said he kept noticing a #71 (Thomas) on our team and then decided to just watch him. Coach Philbin fell in love with him and then he viewed highlight film of him back in the office. He made an in-home visit this past week to Chris's home, and asked me to find out if Chris was willing to come to Iowa City. I think Chris is certainly willing to come and I do not think they would be wasting a visit on Chris if they did not intend to offer a scholarship."
"Jamar Brittingham is a 6'1 205 RB and he did very good for Neshaminy as they beat Woodland Highs in the State Championship. Coach Philbin told me he thinks Jamar is a D1 athlete."
"Temple recently called to inquire about Chris and told us to leave open a visit for them. There are a ton of D1-AA schools showing interest in Chris."
So will Chris be a guard or tackle if he decided to come to Iowa?
"He moves well and has pretty good techinique. We ran a Wing T offense here so we ran the ball a lot, but I think he is a good pass protector. I think he could play guard at Iowa very easily."
While Iowa had interest in Chris before Cochran's visit to Stanford, Jon's recent decision may put more pressure on the Hawks to extend an offer to Chris this weekend. With the attention Coach Philbin has put on Chris so far, one has to believe the staff does not feel one bit that Chris is a fallback recruit. Certainly, Temple may not have the privilege of getting a visit if Iowa does extend an offer to Chris.