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Howe: A Closer Look at The ’20 Iowa Football Recruiting Class

December 18, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – The impending New Year reminds us that it’s out with the old and in with the new. College football follows a similar timeline.

Iowa is preparing for its Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl matchup with USC. A group of players will be suiting up for the last time in the Black and Gold.

Wednesday, the Hawkeyes usher in a fresh group of athletes. The early signing period for high school recruits kicks off.

Iowa secured 22 known verbal commitments in this cycle. Coach Kirk Ferentz indicated that there wasn’t much, if any, room left but attrition could change that.

“There’s always a couple possibilities. You never know what’s going to happen with our roster. I’ll probably know more about that in January. We’ll learn as we go,” he said.

“I encourage our coaches to continue to look for the (late finds like Geno Stone) or Micah Hyde’s, who is out there we’re missing right now. We’re missing something. (Sam) LaPorta. Probably somebody out there we’re overlooking right now. Who is that guy?”

Time will tell on that front. For now, the Hawkeyes are happy with the group they’ve put together.

Here’s a fun look at some of the guys in our annual HN Signing Day Superlatives:

THE QUARTERBACK: Often the linchpin in any class due to exposure and importance, the Hawkeyes landed a good one in Grapevine (TX) Faith Christian’s Deuce Hogan. We recorded a podcast with him this fall if you’re interested in getting to know him better.

Hogan committed in June of ’18. He played a big role in recruiting other members of the class. Iowa held off programs like Georgia, Tennessee and Baylor for his services.

The pro-style signal caller plans on enrolling at Iowa in the summer. He can toss his 10-gallon hat in the race to replace outgoing starter Nate Stanley at that time.

Rivals and 247 view Hogan (6-4, 205) as a four-star prospect. He’ll be competing with another Rivals’ four-star, Spencer Petras, among others, to be Iowa’s starter.

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THE OTHER FOUR-STARS: Rivals and 247 rank Indiana defensive end Deontae Craig as a four-star. The latter also sees Council Bluffs lineman Logan Jones as a four-star. Rivals rates them as the No. 1 prospects in their respective states for this cycle.

Both guys are intriguing.

Craig also excels at basketball, something current starting ends AJ Epenesa and Chauncey Golston did in high school. He’s long and athletic.

Jones, a state champion discus thrower and basketball standout, could move inside with his build. He’ll be playing in the prestigious All-American Bowl next month in San Antonio.

HIGH CLASS: Rankings are what they are. They’re a projection of potential and far from an exact science.

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Keeping that in mind, this Iowa class ranked ahead of its recent predecessors. As of Tuesday afternoon, Rivals slotted it 24th nationally and fifth in the Big Ten behind only Ohio State (4), Michigan (8), Penn State (14) and Nebraska (17).

Last year’s Hawkeye group checked in at 41 in the country and the previous two cycles ended at 40. Iowa’s highest rated class since Rivals began tracking it was ’05 (11). The next highest collection came in ’07 (28), the only other time the program finished among the Top 29.

IN-STATE HAUL: Iowa received commitments from four Iowans in this group. Cedar Rapids Xavier’s Josh Volk and Ethan Hurkett along with West Des Moines Dowling Catholic’s Gavin Williams joined Jones.

As mentioned, Rivals ranks Jones No. 1 in the state with Volk third, Hurkett fifth and Williams sixth. Iowa State pledge Tyler Miller comes in second and Blaise Gunnerson, who is headed to Nebraska, is fourth.

The Hawkeyes collected five in-state commitments in last year’s class and three the previous cycle. They’ve secured four pledges already in ’21 with four other offers (TJ Bollers, Thomas Fidone, Jeff Bowie and Brody Brecht) on the table.

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‘TIS BETTER TO RECEIVE: Iowa is bringing in a pair of big-play wideouts in Connecticut’s Diante Vines, who joined us for this week’s prospect pod, and Quavon Matthews from Florida. Vines claims a pair of sub 4.5-second, 40-yard dashes at team camps last summer.

The Hawkeyes are replenishing a tight end position that needs it. Texas’ Elijah Yelverton also reports scholarship offers from Auburn, Baylor, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Oregon and Penn State, among others. Ohio’s Luke Lachey, the son of former Ohio State and NFL standout Jim Lachey, is heading to the Hawkeyes after being offered by Wisconsin, Michigan State, Nebraska, Minnesota, Louisville, LSU, Iowa State and others.

Iowa lost tight ends TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant in last year’s NFL Draft, Nate Wieting will be done after the Holiday Bow and Shaun Beyer will be a senior next fall. The position was a priority in this class.

Receivers Brandon Smith, Max Cooper and Ihmir Smith-Marsette all are listed on Iowa’s roster as juniors this season, and Oliver Martin will be a junior in ’20. Vines and Matthews are coming into a good situation.

MY SLEEPER: First, this category shouldn’t be viewed as me disrespecting any other players in this class. I traditionally like to pick a guy I think might be a little over looked each year. And, it’s just, like, my opinion, man.

In this group, I’m going with Minnesota defensive end Yahya Black. He also reports offers from the home-state Gophers, Kansas State and several FCS programs.

A lot of schools missed an opportunity here. Coach Chris Klieman identified Black while at North Dakota State and offered again when he arrived at Kansas State. He knew and proven to be a good talent evaluator.

Black already is 6-foot-6, 255 pounds and combines top-notch athleticism with a high motor. There’s significant upside here after some time in Chris Doyle’s strength program and tutoring from line coach Kelvin Bell.

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