Recruiting Round-Up: Finishing Up ’16, Pouncing on ’17

January 8, 2016

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – This week represents the calm before the storm when it comes to college football recruiting.

Thursday, the gates open again on a contact period that runs through the end of this month. National Signing Day for the 2016 Class is Feb. 3.

Iowa sits at 24 known verbal commitments heading into the home stretch. There’s a chance the Hawkeyes could take more than the 25 high school seniors allowed by NCAA rule if one or more of them enroll in classes at the school this month, which sounds like a possibility. Those athletes would be counted in the ’15 Class.

Any way you slice it, the ’16 Class is about full. And it appears Iowa’s 12-2 season is keeping verbal commitments in the fold.

One outliner in that group is Indiana running back Toks Akinribade. The Brownsburg High standout, who verbally committed to the Hawkeyes in June, is officially visiting Indiana on Jan. 15 and the Hawkeyes on Jan. 22.

Assistant Jim Reid led Iowa’s recruitment of Akinribade, who Rivals ranks as the No. 31 running back nationally in ’16. Reid left the Hawkeyes this week to become Boston College’s defensive coordinator.

Playing time might factor into Akinribade’s final decision. Iowa returns three ball carriers that played significant time this season in LeShun Daniels, Akrum Wadley and Derrick Mitchell Jr. and also brings in two others, Barrington Wade and Toren Young, in the ’16 cycle. The Hoosiers must replace first-team all-Big Ten selection Jordan Howard, who declared for the NFL Draft and have just Cole Gest committed at the position in this class.

On the plus side for Iowa, its program is well ahead of Indiana, especially in terms of fan support and facilities. And Iowa can show that to him after he sees what the Hoosiers have to offer the week before.

*UPDATE: Akinribade announced on Monday, Jan. 11, that he would no longer be visiting Indiana and re-affirmed a solid commitment to the Hawkeyes.

As far as who else might be in line for the few remaining scholarships in ’16, offensive tackles Matt Farniok (South Dakota) and Alaric Jackson (Detroit) top the list. They both are scheduled to officially visit Iowa on Jan. 22. The Hawkeyes would take the pair.

Iowa also would like a defensive back, more likely a corner, in this class. There aren’t a lot of concrete names out there right now.

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K.J. Sails from Tampa was pledged to Iowa before de-committing. That ship probably has sailed.

One DB on which to keep an eye is Norcross (GA) High safety Jarett Cole. He is committed to Georgia Tech but said last month that he’s open to looking around and has visited Iowa unofficially.

Decatur (GA) cornerback Jordan Eastling claimed an Iowa offer and unofficially visited the school during the season. He was scheduled to be back for the Purdue game but weather wiped out the trip. He was ready to commit on that visit.

It appears Iowa has backed off or put Eastling on the back-burner at this point.

“It’s like they broke up with me,” he told HN earlier this week.

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Rivals also shows Iowa offers to high-end defensive backs Jared Mayden, Craig Watts, Isaiah Simmons, and Tony Butler but are no longer in the picture with them. Michael Hampton, Max Wariboko, Brandon Drayton and Martin Mangram are listed with offers on the site but appear to be in the same boat as Eastling.

This is the time of year when Iowa pulls some rabbits out of its hat, however. The Hawkeyes own a strong track record of hitting home runs with off-the-radar guys late in the process so the next month could be fun.

RUNNING WILD: With or without Akinribade, Iowa is pursuing ball carriers hard in the ’17 cycle. Per Rivals, 11 running backs in that class hold offers and they’re all high level.

Texas four-star Eno Benjamin recently talked with HN about Iowa being at the top for him and at the Army All-American underclassmen combine in San Antonio this week he was decked out in Hawkeye gear.

Benjamin is not alone in his affinity for the Black and Gold, however. St. Louis running back Andrew Clair is familiar with the program from unofficially visiting and he’s due back on campus this month.

“Things are still running smooth (with the Hawkeyes),” the 5-foot-9, 180-pounder from University High said. “They’re still my top choice. They visited my school during the last open period and I bumped into them.”

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A WIDE NET: In the ’16 cycle, Iowa offered upwards of 200 athletes. It was a new approach for the program, who had previously been more deliberate.

When handing out so many opportunities, the staff picks and chooses where to focus its attention. Not all of those prospects show mutual interest and the coaches usually can tell.

One of those athletes in the ’17 cycle might be Tre Shaw. The Ellenwood (GA) Cedar Grove High cornerback also shows offers from Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin, among others, on Rivals.

“I don’t know when (the Hawkeyes) offered me,” Shaw told HN this week. “I don’t know who my recruiting coach is at Iowa. They only send me mail. I haven’t been contacted by any coaches.”

Shaw said his high school coach told him that Iowa offered him.

“I really know nothing about them. I haven’t been keeping up with them,” he said.

Asked if he would consider visiting Iowa, Shaw said “I’m not sure.”

From other stories on line, it appears Georgia, Florida and Auburn sit in good shape with Shaw. The Hawkeyes don’t usually beat SEC schools for players in the South. It’s probably best for the coaches to focus attention elsewhere and appears they have.

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