It's always an exciting time. It parallels the beginning of the season in many ways. The possibilities seem endless and many of the opinions are positive.
Give it time. There will be disappointment. It's impossible to meet all expectations.
The Hawkeyes are likely to sign three U.S. Army Bowl All-Americans in quarterback A.J. Derby, tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz and offensive lineman Andrew Donnal. Anything less than stardom at Iowa will be viewed as failure by many fans and media who follow recruiting.
Predicting football success from prep players heading to college has to be one of the toughest – if not the toughest – tasks performed by coaches. The levels of competition vary so much from coast to coast.
In basketball, you can watch a kid play AAU against similar competition and get a pretty good feel for his future collegiately. Football has combines and camps, but it's much more difficult to project than hoops.
With all of that said, it's enjoyable to predict the future. We do it in all walks of life and the fondness for recruiting prognostications is what keeps sites like this one going. It's healthy if kept in perspective.
I get requests on radio shows and from fans asking my thoughts on the '10 Class. Wondering who I think will impact the program the greatest out of the group is a popular inquiry.
It's a fair question, so I decided to sit down and rank the incoming recruits in the order I believe they will influence future success of the Hawkeyes. I considered player opportunity as well as prep accomplishments. I ranked them based on their projected careers in Black and Gold not solely on playing early.
Here we go from 20-1 (scholarship players only):
20. Austin Vier, 6-7, 220, ATH, Huxley, IA - Unfortunately, somebody needs to go in this spot. Vier played quarterback in high school, but it's uncertain where he might make a mark in college. Is he a tight end? Is he a tackle? What is he? Until we find out, it's tough to project how successful he might be.
19. Kevonte Martin-Manley, 6-0, 198, WR, Michigan - Maybe Martin-Manley got a little lost in the shuffle in a talented state for prospects. But you have to wonder why a kid with good size, good numbers (43 catches, 745 yards, 10 TDS) and decent speed (4.58 40) waited until late December for his first Big Ten offer. He backed out of a verbal to Bowling Green to commit to Iowa.
18. Anthony Hitchens, 6-1, 195, S/LB, Ohio - Similar to Martin-Manley, Hitchens waited a long time for an Iowa offer. He did have an offer from Kansas before the coaching change, but the only other ride he held before the Hawkeyes jumped in was from Akron. Like Vier, he also might be a man without a position. He perhaps isn't fast enough to play safety or big enough to play linebacker.
17. De'Andre Johnson, 5-8, 210, RB, Miami - I like this kid as a back, but he's coming into Iowa City off of an ACL injury and joining a crowded position. He posted good numbers against excellent competition, but he's really going to have to fight for his opportunity with the Hawkeyes at running back and he doesn't look like a candidate to change positions.
16. Christian Kirksey, 6-2, 195, LB, St. Louis - Kirksey's presence at this slot probably has more to do with a strength of this recruiting class and less to do with his talent. I like this kid's potential and he has the size and speed to make an impact on special teams.
15. B.J. Lowery, 5-11, 175, CB, Cincinnati - I think I might regret having B.J. ranked this low when we get down the road, but he has some question marks despite his excellent athletic ability. An all-state performer in football, basketball and baseball, the Queen City product was so busy year-round that he didn't get a chance to be evaluated at camps and combines on the gridiron. He also didn't play against the best competition in high school.
14. Don Shumpert, 6-2, 180, S, St. Louis - Like Lowery, Shumpert could be a sleeper in this class. I rank him here because the Iowa coaches are viewing him initially as a free safety, one of the toughest positions on the Hawkeye defense. Players need intangibles, to spend a lot of time in the film room and the ability to adjust on the fly. I'm not saying that Shumpert isn't capable of doing these things, there's just a lot to prove before he gets on the field.
13. Donavan Johnson, 6-4, 245, DT, Texas - Plenty of strong defensive programs, such as Nebraska, pursued and offered Johnson. He's shown the potential to succeed on the next level. His place here was determined by adjusting to tackle in college, which means work in the weight room. It's not likely he will be able to kick out to end if he doesn't develop inside.
12. Brandon Scherff, 6-5, 275, OT, Denison, Iowa - Perhaps I'm penalizing Scherff for the lack of success from in-state tackles in the Kirk Ferentz era. I just think that it's a tough projection to make, especially for kids at smaller schools because the jump up in talent from the D-Ends they see in high school to college is huge.
11. Louis Trinca-Pasat, 6-3, 235, DE, Chicago - Louis will be making the switch from prep linebacker to college end. For some, it's a natural progression. Others find it difficult to add the weight and maintain speed. This kid plays hard all of the time, so he appears to have the desire required to make the change successfully.
10. Anthony Ferguson Jr., 6-2, 260, DT, Baltimore - Here's another guy along the defensive line. No, I'm not picking on that position. It's a difficult transition, though. Ferguson Jr. played well in a pretty good area for prep football, but playing inside in the Big Ten against physical offensive fronts will be a big step up.
9. Mike Hardy, 6-4, 255, DE, Wisconsin - Regarded by some as the top player in his state, Hardy secured some nice offers before settling on Iowa. I think he comes out ahead of some of the other D-Linemen in this class because he could potentially move inside if he can't find his way at end. He has the pedigree to become an Aaron Kampman type.
8. Carl Davis, 6-5, 300, DT, Michigan - Big Carl is my sleeper in this class but there are a few things keeping me from placing him higher on this list. First, he has to make the grade and then stick with it when he gets to Iowa. Second, he's not your prototypical tackle during this coaching staff's reign. Personally, I love the idea of a big run stopper up in there, but will the Iowa coaches be too tempted to move this athletic big man to offense?
7. Jim Poggi, 6-2,212, LB, Baltimore - Ferguson Jr.'s teammate at the Gilman school held offers from Penn State, Ohio State, Auburn, Tennessee and Virginia. If that alone determined college success, he'd be higher on this list. Poggi might be another player caught between positions. He needs to show he belongs either inside or out, not in limbo.
6. Marcus Coker, 6-0, 230, RB, Maryland - He'll get a lot of attention because of the numbers he put up in high school, but he'll need to show he's a complete back to move ahead of a talented stable of talent already on the roster. He's also likely to have one or two top backs coming in behind him in the '11 class. Coker is a big back with some surprising speed, so the potential is there.
5. Andrew Donnal, 6-7, 280, OT, Ohio - Donnal showed well in San Antonio at the Army Bowl, making a seamless transition from tackle to guard for the week. Donnal is big and athletic, but it was obvious that he'll need some time with Strength Coach Chris Doyle. He's got good feet and uses his hands effectively. The potential is there for Andrew to be a fixture on the line for at least three years.
4. Austin Gray, 6-2, 210, LB, Michigan - I know, he's smaller than Poggi, whose size I questioned. The difference with Gray is that by all accounts he's a natural middle man. Gray also played against tough competition in high school and is a gym rat with a nose for the ball. He'll be behind Troy Johnson and Bruce Davis this season, but don't be surprised to see him stepping into the starting MLB spot as a redshirt sophomore or true junior at the latest.
3. A.J. Derby, 6-5, 220, QB, Iowa City - The son of former Hawkeye Linebacker John Derby boasts the potential to be the best player in this class. The reason he sits at No. 3 is because of the uncertainty of him handling the quarterback position in college. I believe that he can after seeing him in San Antonio. If it doesn't work out, he could excel at other spots on the field, including tight end, linebacker or possibly even rush end. One thing is for sure, he'll probably be the most talked about recruit in this class.
2. James Morris, 6-2, 200, Solon, Iowa - The only thing keeping me from putting James at the No. 1 spot is his competition level in high school. He dominated, but is that because he was that good, the competition was not up to par or does the truth sit somewhere in the middle? I think he's that good, but he'll have to prove it against much better talent. I think he'll play special teams and linebacker as a true freshman before taking over the starting WIL LB spot during his sophomore year.
1. C.J. Fiedorowicz, 6-7, 240, TE, Johnsburg, IL - If this kid shows up as an adequate blocker in college, look out. He hasn't been asked to do it a lot, but he showed an aptitude for it in San Antonio. As a receiver, he's ahead of any tight end I've seen at this stage in the Ferentz era. He runs excellent routes and is ultra smooth. He looks like he's gliding with his long strides as he cruises past linebackers and safeties. I think he's good enough to contribute during his first fall on campus.