The Iowa Hawkeyes know who they are, stay the course and certainly have had some big success doing things the way Kirk Ferentz demands. However, the college football recruiting landscape is changing and it appears the Hawkeyes have a problem with that.
At least that is one way to take what new offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz had to say in a radio interview yesterday. He spoke on the ‘Hawk Central’ program at Des Moines station KXNO 1460 and had a lot to say about “recruiting rivals” on the trail in today’s landscape.
The younger Ferentz’s biggest concern appears to be that schools like Iowa State, Minnesota and Nebraska are throwing out offers like candy.
“What has sped things up (in recruiting) in our state, especially, is the guys in Ames and then the new guys in Minneapolis seem to have no problem really throwing early things out,” Ferentz, 34, said, referring to scholarship offers. “And what I’ve learned – certainly about the guys in Ames, and I think we’ll find this about the guys in Minneapolis — what does an offer really mean? I can tell you this much: If the University of Iowa offers you a scholarship and you commit to us, we intend to sign you.”
There certainly is some truth to that, but it also plays a lot in to very different strategies and situations.
As Alex Halsted pointed out on Twitter, geographical need and program strength play a key role in how recruiting goes.
These were the Top-11 total offers in 2017 from Power 5s. You can argue that at least five are simply needed from a geographical standpoint. pic.twitter.com/tUQzYgFirF
— Alex Halsted (@AlexHalsted) May 4, 2017
Here’s a look at how the 2017 recruiting cycle broke down inside the Big Ten:
Some have asked, so here are last year's totals. Half of the Big Ten offered more than 250 kids in last year's recruiting cycle. pic.twitter.com/mhzl43aSda
— Alex Halsted (@AlexHalsted) May 4, 2017
It is pretty clear that Iowa doesn’t like handing out offers like candy, so Ferentz is truthful about that. But, that doesn’t mean he’s right about the “tactics” others are using either.
Iowa State and Nebraska have a much wider national footprint in their recruiting efforts and they have to. They Cyclones play in a conference dominated by teams in Texas and Oklahoma. They also are second in their own state usually when it comes to the top talent in Iowa. Therefore, recruiting in Texas and nationally simply makes sense for the Cyclones and Matt Campbell.
Offering kids from far away reaches and building relationships with them early seems to be the strategy at work for the Cyclones and Huskers — and for the latter that seems to be working in a big way as of late.
After all, Nebraska is the No. 11 class going currently according to 247Sports. The Huskers are pulling in some of the better talent from the West Coast as we speak in the 2018 recruiting cycle.
That’s the point for the Huskers though, they have to be early and in the mix from the beginning with these kids. Otherwise, Nebraska will find itself doing what got Bo Pelini in trouble — picking up what is left over instead of playing with the big boys.
That is very much unlike Iowa who tends to slow play and trust long evaluation periods.
As for the Cyclones, they haven’t been afraid to step up the recruiting game earlier in the process with in-state kids. It’s all part of their strategy to know what they have at home and begin to branch out from there. Matt Campbell needs to establish a better foothold in the state, and it seems as if the earlier process Campbell is willing to go through has rattled the Hawkeyes assistants.
“I think you have to look no further than in-state, to see there were a lot of offers in the 2018 class that went out very early out of Ames,” said Ferentz on ‘Hawk Central.’ And I’m not sure all those guys were able to commit to them if they wanted to, because some of those guys have since gone other places.”
This is where Ferentz comes off as a bit of sour grapes, and who can blame him? Losing what has been a firm grip on the top talent in the state of Iowa would be horrific to the Hawkeyes program. So is seeing the rival to your West and North suddenly pop up with top recruiting classes nationally.
Oh oh, someone is coming for your spot in the Big Ten West hierarchy.
Iowa has gone much the same route as a school like Wisconsin — concentrating efforts at home and finding the top skill position players from places like Florida and Texas. They just do their process slower, and any outside disruption to that process could lead to lesser opportunities for the Hawkeyes.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with the way Iowa likes to do things, especially when they hit on evaluations of players like Desmond King and other later finds. But, with the new recruiting rules in place for the upcoming class and beyond, Iowa is going to have to start playing things faster or they’ll get left in the dust.
Kids in the 2019 recruiting class are going to be able to get on campuses next spring as juniors, and they’ll be able to sign early for the second year in a row.
What is done is done in the 2018 cycle. Iowa can’t speed things up even if they wanted to, but they can either adapt to the changing landscape or sit back and complain about it. If they do the latter, Iowa is going to get left in the dust of much more aggressive recruiters.
Gone are the days of slow-playing offers and recruiting as a whole. Even Wisconsin knows that, and that should be all the evidence Iowa needs to stop whining and start figuring out how to navigate this new landscape.
It doesn’t mean throwing out offers willy-nilly, but it does mean getting more aggressive with the kids they do want and getting to them faster in the recruiting cycle.