’16 Recruiting Class Working Out Real Well for Hawkeyes

December 11, 2018

Written by Rob Howe

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Next week’s early signing period will bring excitement for recruits, their families, coaches and fans. It elicits hope for the future. It’s about potential.

As much as we’d like to know what this new crop will bring to Iowa, we won’t right away. We’ll find out over time. Some prospects will contribute early while others will require development.

It’s fun revisiting rankings and see how things turn out. That’s certainly true with the Hawkeyes’ ’16 Class.

The 247 network ranked it No. 47 nationally and ninth in the Big Ten. Rivals saw it and 42 and eighth. It’s fair to say the group has risen above those ratings.

Folks will be focusing on some of these guys during the next month. With members being three years removed from high school, they can now look at the NFL Draft.

Tight end Noah Fant, a third-team AP all-American, already has declared for the NFL and will be skipping the team’s Outback Bowl, instead preparing for draft testing. The true junior finished his college career as Iowa’s all-time leader in touchdowns (19) by a tight end.

Fant could be followed into the league this offseason by redshirt sophomore tight end T.J. Hockenson, the Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top player at the position. He led the Hawkeyes in catches (46) and receiving yards (717) this season. He scored six touchdowns, one behind the the team leader, Fant.

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Amani Hooker, the Big Ten’s defensive back of the year and a second-team AP all-American, has a decision to make as well. The third-year junior led the squad with seven pass breakups and tied for the lead in interceptions (4).

Alaric Jackson has started for two years at left tackle for the Hawkeyes. The redshirt sophomore from Michigan has requested a review from the NFL Draft Advisory Board like Fant, Hockenson and Hooker. Quarterback Nate Stanley has done the same.

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That’s not to say all five of those class of ’16 recruits will jet for the league. Chances are good that Stanley will return. Hockenson faces the toughest decision. Jackson and Hooker could receive good enough grades from the advisory board that they feel it’s their time to try to the NFL.

No matter what happens, that’s a heck of a haul for the Hawkeyes, especially since the group was viewed as ho-hum by scouting sites.

The aforementioned guys in the group weren’t the only ones to emerge from that cycle. Cole Banwart was slowed by injuries this year but stood out as a starter at right guard when healthy. Toren Young ranked second on the team in rushing yards (630) this season.

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Linebackers Nick Niemann and Kristian Welch started games this fall when healthy. Cedrick Lattimore and Chauncey Golston served as key members of the defensive line rotation. Amani Jones, Shaun Beyer and Barrington Wade were valuable special teams members. Manny Rugamba started a few games as a true freshman before transferring to Miami (OH) during the summer.

None of the players in the ’16 cycle were ranked higher than a three-star by Rivals and 247. Iowa was the only Power 5 offer for Hooker, Welch, Golston, Banwart, Young and Wade. Iowa State was the only other Power 5 offer for Hockenson.

It’s another example of the Iowa coaches being able to spot talent and then develop it. It also shows that recruiting rankings are a guide not absolute.

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