Biggest Fish Caught: OL Mike Jones
Make no questions about it; the offensive line was a huge concern in recruiting this season. The Hawkeyes, who were considered to have the top offensive line in college football during 2002, graduated four out of out five seniors. With another projected three starters graduating after next season, there was not considered to be a lot of young depth with only one commitment in OL Clint Huntrods. Jones' late January decision was the biggest news to hit the Hawkeye program, in terms of recruiting, since landing the duo of Blake Larsen and Matt Roth two years ago. Many insiders believe Jones will be the biggest impact lineman to enter the Hawkeye program in a very long time.
Biggest Fish Lost: (Tie) DT Trevor Laws and WR Andrew Weatherly
This time last year, in evaluating junior film, it did not take long for the Hawkeye coaching staff to mark down DT Trevor Laws as their top overall prospect. After bringing him in for an unofficial visit on more than one occasion, there was a lot of optimism he would be wearing a Hawkeye jersey. That all came to a halt with the fast start to the 2002 season for the Notre Dame Fightin' Irish where Trevor eventually committed to. The Hawks also found their top receiver prospect in Georgetown, Delaware 6'4 190 WR Andrew Weatherly. An unknown nationally, Andrew was one of the best-kept secrets on the east coast. The staff viewed him as the perfect compliment to Clint Solomon in having two tall rangy receivers to stretch the field. Andrew ended up signing with long time heavily favored across the bay Maryland Terrapins.
Most Underrated Hawkeye Signee: DE Bryan Mattison
Last spring, you would not have found DE Bryan Mattison on the wish list of many internet Hawk fans. Why? He was not mentioned much at all by any of the recruiting services largely due to the fact many felt he'd end up playing for his father, Greg, at Notre Dame. That held no truth, though, with his father, whom happens to coach the D-Line at Notre Dame, deciding his son would be best suited to play elsewhere. After choosing the Hawks over the Colorado Buffaloes, Bryan went on to a have a very impressive performance in the US Army All-American Game with four sacks and multiple tackles. He has quickly emerged onto the Top 100 list of prospects on many recruiting services now, and in a couple years, could very well be noted as one of the top performers from the 03' class. Bryan also played a large role in landing OL Mike Jones and finishing second in CB Tommy Zbikowski.
Biggest Sleeper in 03' Class: DT George Eshareturi
The staff quickly recovered from the loss of DT Trevor Laws when viewing the film of George Eshareturi, a 6'3 290 DT from Mount Saint Michael Academy in the Bronx. George showed more mobility for his size than any other lineman scouted by the Hawks, and also presents good strength. He could figure into the Hawkeye D-line equation a lot earlier than believed, even perhaps as a true freshman.
Biggest Sleeper in Big Ten Class of 03': (Tie) Minnesota's WR Ernie Wheelwright and FS Brandon Owens
Both prospects, although major talents, were not recruited by more prestigious programs due to lack of academics. The 6'5 190 Wheelwright and 6'2 190 Owens both will likely play as true freshman next fall. Wheelwright was considered by many insiders as the top receiver prospect in Ohio, and held the potential to be recruited by any school in America. Owens reminded a lot of scouts of former Oklahoma FS Roy Williams, and was ranked by TheInsiders.com Recruiting staff as the #1 Safety prospect in America.
Best Recruiting Sell: Coach Ferentz and O'Keefe's Job on DT Richard Kittrell
There was an unbelievable amount of pressure on the Kittrell family to send son, 6'5 280 DT Richard, to the University of Connecticut. After receiving over thirty offers, Richard had finally narrowed his choices to Iowa and UCONN around the beginning of January. Even though he continued to list Iowa as his favorite, it was well known how much his mother would have liked for him to stay near home. It was a decision for Richard that not many make in deciding whether to travel half way across the country to a new home. Richard made the tough choice, which many Hawk fans hope was the wise choice as well, and it was done, in large part due to the tag team recruiting effort done by Coach Ferentz and Coach O'Keefe. Their strong connections in the state of Connecticut showed their recruiting ability in this victory.
Best Assistant Recruiting Job: Defensive Line Coach Ron Aiken
I was told nearly three years ago, that many Hawk fans may be incorrect in naming at that time LB Coach Bret Bielema as the top overall recruiter. That title, as my source informed me, probably belonged to assistant Ron Aiken. As Coach Ferentz mentioned in his press conference, "Coach Aiken has taken me places I never imagined being." Aiken has helped create a southern influence among the Hawkeyes, and has quickly built his name up as one of the most effective recruiting assistants in the nation. His job done this year helped land two of the winter's most surging prospects in QB Eric McCollom and DE Kenneth Iwebema, Jr. Ron also played a key role in landing WR Herb Grigsby, the second prospect in the Ferentz era to sign from Arkansas.
Most Interesting Recruiting Story: The Supposed "Soft Commitment" of a Florida Offensive Lineman
It happens from time to time when recruiting services and publications are fooled into reports given to them. I experienced my first real go around this past month when dealing with a certain OL prospect from Florida. After initially being informed he had been invited to an Orange Bowl practice, I quickly turned up the heat on my coverage. Over the next few weeks, he told me on numerous occasions of the Hawkeye calls and letters he continued to receive. Then, the week before Signing Day, he stated to me he had finally received a Hawkeye scholarship offer, and told Coach Ferentz that his intentions were to attend Iowa. He even told me the time of departure of his flight to Iowa City for an official visit, and DT Fabian Dodd as the host of his visit. All the reports were quickly put to a halt, however, when sources finally came through to inform that Iowa had not been recruiting the OL prospect since last spring.
Best Athlete Signee of 03' Class: WR Herb Grigsby
Although short in stature, there were not many that contended with Grigsby in terms of being athletic in this class. The 6'0 167 receiver continually showed that extra gear while out on the field, and has the ability to keep his 4.4 speed while carrying pads, unlike many other prospects. The best attribute about Herb may be his special teams play, where that extra gear a lot of times comes in hand. Coach Ferentz has not yet produced a special performer on special teams. Many thought that would be RB Ray Perkins this fall until he was dismissed. Herb has the potential to be the first to be placed in that category, and it may come sooner rather than later.
Most Likely to Contribute Next Year: WR James Townsend
The Hawks will be looking to replace the playmaking of departed WR CJ Jones. Maurice Brown, Clint Solomon, and Ed Hinkel are all projected to return. Although there has been talk of Hinkel moving to free safety, that will be determined by the start of spring practice. The move will largely be due to the confidence the staff has that Townsend will qualify to play next season. He is the most physically ready of any incoming Hawkeye WR, and there is an open slot in the two deeps.