One year later, on June 23rd, 2005, Iowa has a grand total of one commitment; Julian Smith of Milford Prep Academy. As with most prospects who make their way to prep school, you feel a lot better about their being in the fold, well, once they are in the fold. In Smith's case, we will know for sure come December.
That means that Iowa has ZERO commitments from high school seniors-to-be. We would not have been surprised if Iowa would have picked up a commit or two this week, the first week after the Hawkeyes finished their week of football camps, but as of yet it's been crickets and darkness.
Is this cause for alarm?
I don't think so, and we have been saying for months that this was probably going to be the case.
The first reason is that Iowa is low on scholarships to award for the class of 2006. I have done pretty well prediction the outcome of Iowa's football games week to week over the last four years, but one thing I have not been great at is predicting how many scholarships Iowa has to give out in a given year. That number is fluid, as players will come and go and you never know what year you might see more defections than normal for whatever the case may be.
But the general consensus is that Iowa has between 14-16 scholarships to award, at present, for next year.
OK, so we have a ballpark figure. But the funnel continues to narrow, with regards to the scope of the recruiting class.
Iowa had a haul last year along the offensive and defensive lines, so it stands to reason that they are not going to load up there again this year. They may only take one offensive linemen and some prospects are saying that Iowa is telling them they are only looking to take one defensive linemen. So in another year where you have more rides and more of a need at those positions, you might already have a commit or two in place, but that is not the case this year.
Iowa has a big time need at linebacker, so it should come as no surprise that Iowa has several offers out at that position, compared to only a handful along the lines. Iowa also wants to add a few receivers this year, so they have several offers out at that position, as well.
So the fact that Iowa has fewer offers is not the only reason for the low number of commits, it's the fact that they are also targeting the specific positions. And for the most part, it would appear Iowa is elephant hunting at this stage of the game, as the majority of players with Iowa offers also have offers from other big name schools. Historically, players that garner such attention are not as prone to making early decisions, save for the quarterback position.
Another factor that is in play this year is the lower number of high-major prospects at the positions that Iowa is targeting from states like Iowa and Illinois.
To date, I know of but one Iowa offer to an Iowa high school prospect, and that was Austen Arnaud of Ames who selected Iowa State this week. The Clones have several commits from in state prospects to date, all of them save Arnaud did not have an offer from the Hawks.
You also have a different recruiting landscape this year in the Midwest, as Illinois has a new coach in Ron Zook, a man with a strong recruiting resume. You also have a new coach at Notre Dame in Charlie Weiss who is saying all the right things and has brought some of the swagger back to a program that has not had it for a long time. Who knows if that swagger will be fleeting, like the rush you get from drinking a can of Red Bull only to feel like someone kicked you in your stomach a while later.
Both of those men and the renewed interest in their programs will make life harder on Iowa than it was last year when you had Ron ‘Dead Man Walking' Turner on the sidelines at Illinois and Ty Willingham being fired heading into recruiting season in South Bend.
Iowa is recruiting the state of Ohio as aggressively as I can remember, but that is a state that is heavily targeted by all of the major programs in the country. Iowa was able to land Trey Stross and BJ Travers from the Buckeye State last year. Stross was an All American and Travers had a ton of offers, including one from two-time national champion USC.
This is going to be a very interesting recruiting season to follow. I don't know that I expect Iowa to come close to the consensus Top Ten recruiting class ranking they had from a year ago, due to the size limitations this class will have. Iowa is always going to take some kids that are not considered ‘blue chips' by the ‘experts'. They have an eye for talent and knowledge of development that always has me as excited about those below the radar commits as I am for the blue chippers.
What will be most interesting is to see how many of the so called ‘blue chippers' that Iowa does land in this class. If Iowa can add a Top 25 recruiting class this year in light of some of the obstacles they face with limited rides, a narrowing target scope with regards to positions, the injection of life in floundering programs at Illinois and Notre Dame and the other standard challenges, it would be a successful year.
It's going to be much more difficult for Iowa to finish in the Top 10 of the recruiting rankings in back to back years as it was for the team to finish in the Top 10 in the polls in back-to-back-to-back years, as it has done the past three seasons.