Big Ten recruiting: Iowa

The saying goes, "Success breeds success." Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is enjoying selling recruits on the idea of playing for a winning team. Get lowdown on Iowa's top signees.

Two seasons of big-time success gave head coach Kirk Ferentz the ability to sell recruits on the chance to play for one of the best teams in the country.

Ferentz signed 19 high school players and added one junior college transfer on signing day.

Headlining the class is 6-foot-2-inch, 220-pound Kyle Williams, who was named to Parade and Insiders.com All-America first-teams. Ferentz has been following Williams for the better part of two seasons and he likes what he has seen.

"He's got a lot of notoriety and committed to us at a fairly early pace," Ferentz told the Des Moines Register.

Despite Iowa's lofty status on the field, its recruiting class was rated not better than sixth in the conference. Those kind of rankings — along with preseason predictions — don't bother Ferentz in the least.

"I'm not real big, as you probably know, on the rankings or where we are," Ferentz said. "I think the recruiting rankings are a lot like preseason rankings, in that they spark an interest and get discussion going. I really always have believed and still believe that the end of the process is what's important."

Iowa came close to signing a pair of top prospects, including offensive linemen Jeff Byers (who opted for Southern Cal) and Kyle Mitchum (Ohio State), but came up short on both deals.

Ferentz is much more concerned that his team will show its productivity on the field in the fall than on the recruiting blackboard in February.

NOTES, QUOTES
LB Kyle Williams, Bolingbrook, Ill. — A very smart and powerful hitter who can follow in the tradition of Iowa's run-and-hit linebackers. Williams is not huge — 6-2 and 220 pounds — but he has the range to make plays along the sidelines or in the middle of the field.

WR Andy Brodell, Ankeny, Iowa — Even though he put huge numbers on the board as a running back, the Hawkeyes will look at him as a receiver. He rushed for 2,053 yards and scored 31 touchdowns last fall. Brodell is a speedster who should be able to break the big play when he gets the ball in the open field.

DL Grant McCracken, Ankeny, Iowa — A tremendous athlete who lacks size at this point in his career. Clearly, he needs to add weight and strength — 6-3 and 215 pounds — if he wants to be a Big Ten defensive lineman. However, there are no doubts about his quickness or athletic ability.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I never really lined up at receiver much in high school. We'd do a lot of stuff in practice with me as a receiver, but it never seemed to make it into the games." — Andy Brodell, who was a star running back in high school but will likely play wide receiver for the Hawkeyes. Brodell has been timed at 10.65 in the 100 meters.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
GLANCE AT 2004: The Hawkeyes have established themselves as one of the elite teams in the conference. Much of that is due to head coach Kirk Ferentz, who excels at preparation, game-planning and teaching the game. The Hawkeyes have a potential star running back in Jermelle Lewis, but they need to find a quarterback to replace Nathan Chandler. Drew Tate appears to have the best chance at getting the job. The defense should be quick and vicious.

PRO POTENTIAL: OT Robert Gallery — The pro scouts are drooling over his size, strength and mobility. At 6-7 and 320 pounds, Gallery appears to be a dominant tackle in the mold of Jonathan Ogden or Orlando Pace. He can make every block and should be dominant as a run blocker and pass protector right from the start.

PK Nate Kaeding — Perhaps the best pro kicking prospect in this year's draft. Kaeding topped off a sensational career by scoring 87 points and connecting on 17-of-18 FG attempts in the regular season.

S Bob Sanders — Very hard hitting. While he is somewhat suspect in coverage — he will almost always bite on the first move — his ability to make bone-crunching plays is remarkable.

RB Fred Russell — Russell ran for 1,205 yards last season and his greatest asset is his consistency. He also is a solid receiver. He looks like he could be a solid third-down back — at the very least.

INJURY IMPACT: Running back Albert Young (leg), center Brian Ferentz (knee) and defensive lineman Jonathan Babineaux (ankle) are expected to return for spring practice.





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