Thus far into the ‘summer', and we call it the summer even though it's not officially that time of year, Iowa's football team is getting more respect than I anticipated.
Athlon has Iowa third in the Big Ten and 16th nationally. Phil Steele, my vote for the best preseason mag in existence, has Iowa third and 15th. The Sporting News has Iowa second and 11th and ESPN's Ivan Maisel rated Iowa 10th in the nation in his post-spring poll. Lindy's has Iowa fourth and 25th. Word has it that Lindy's didn't have Iowa in its top 25 until a few contributors raised their voices.
Prior to the magazines coming out, I guessed they would have Iowa between 15 and 25, so thus far, the national pundit predictions have outpaced my expectations. I expected a bit of a backlash against Iowa due to last year's ‘over hype' that occurred within the ranks of the national talking heads.
That is not Iowa's fault, as many writers and broadcasters within the state's borders that cover the team on a regular basis felt that 9-2 was probably a best case scenario. Iowa was two plays away from a 9-2 regular season finish, with the overtime loss at home to Michigan and the onside kick loss at Northwestern being games that could have and should have gone in the win column.
But the national pundits being wrong about Iowa is nothing new.
In 2004, Iowa was the 5th most underrated team in college football, finishing 8th in the final polls while starting out the season an aggregate 19th. Iowa also finished 8th in the final polls for the 2003 season and was not ranked in the preseason aggregate, making the 2003 Hawkeyes the most underrated team for that season. The final 2002 polls saw Iowa once again being ranked 8th and they were not rated in the preseason aggregate, making them the second-most underrated team for that year.
So that makes it four straight years where the ‘national' folks have gotten it wrong about Iowa. My bet is that Iowa finishes somewhere around 15 or 16 in this year's aggregate preseason rankings, and makes a run at a Top 10 finish after all is said and done.
SOLID RECRUITING START
Iowa is off to a very fast start with regards to filling out its recruiting class of 2007. They are also dominating instate recruiting.
With instate commitments from Tyler Nielsen, Cody Hundertmark and Colin Sandeman, the Hawkeyes have shut down the state borders. All three of those players had common offers from both Iowa and Iowa State after a year where just one player, Ames' Austen Arnaud, was the lone common offer between the two state rivals.
Sandeman will be one of the Midwest's more highly rated receiving prospects, while Hundertmark will be a highly rated defensive linemen. Hundertmark might flirt with four-star territory, while Nielsen and Sandeman are solid three-star prospects at worst. Bernstine will also flirt with a four-star ranking as his recruiting stock continues to soar.
The players listed are currently the lone instate prospects with a Hawkeye offer.
Iowa also landed Illinois offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga, another highly coveted and sought after prospect.
Should the Hawks land Sash and Bernstine, that will turn up the heat on the gang from Ames a little bit. It will also ensure that Iowa is off to its best recruiting ‘season' since the Top 10 class from 2005, and beyond. Iowa and Iowa State will both host their football camps in June, and expect more offers and commitments to come within the span of the next few weeks.
There are some solid rumblings that Kirk Ferentz may receive some type of contract extension of contract sweetening soon. Rumors of this have come from numerous sources within the last 10 days that lead us to believe there is something to it. Still no word on how things are going with Steve Alford's seemingly impending contract extension…there is also word that some high-level members within Iowa's athletic department were not unhappy to see an investigation into alleged meddling on the part of Michael Gartner, head of the Iowa Board of Regents. This is in regards to David Skorton and Bob Bowlsby's decisions to leave Iowa.
It also sounds as though the Virginia Tech wrestlers that were denied their scholarship releases will wind up transferring to Iowa anyway, or at least the majority of them. They would be required to sit out one year as a redshirt and would be eligible to wrestle during the 2007-2008 season.
Major kudos are due to Steve Alford and his men's program. Faced with decimating departures due to graduation, he signed a highly rated recruiting class that is full of instant candidates to contribute from the Juco and prep school ranks. Landing Tyler Smith was one of the biggest recruiting gets of the Alford era and came at a time when good news along that front was desperately needed.
DID YOU KNOW…
Did you know that five of Iowa's seven top scorers from last year's women's NCAA tournament qualifying team will return next year? Throw in Johanna Solverson who sat out last year and in 2004-2005 became only the second Iowa player to amass over 350 points, 125 assists and rebounds and 70 steals in a single season, and there is reason to be very, very excited about Iowa Women's hoops next season.