For the second straight season, the Iowa Hawkeyes have upset Penn State. And for the second straight season, college football fans outside of Iowa City are asking the same question: How?
Iowa, the only Big Ten team to win a bowl game last season, focuses on its strengths, evaluates talent well and succeeds at molding players within Kirk Ferentz’s system. Put simply, Ferentz knows what it will take to win, and can usually assemble the recruiting pieces to do it.
The Hawkeyes have pretty much established a fence around the perimeter of the state, locking in local talent and keeping other schools from raiding top recruits. In 2009, Brandon Wegher signed with Iowa after being named a MaxPreps All-American at Bishop Heelan. He turned down many out-of-state suitors to play for Iowa and averaged over five yards per carry against Penn State.
Iowa also landed athlete Keenan Davis, who spurned offers from a number of Big Ten and Big XII schools to play for the Hawkeyes. Ferentz continues to have great traction at home, as the Hawkeyes are in good shape to land Iowa City star A.J. Derby, a quarterback and basketball star who is also considering Florida.
If Ferentz can seal the deal with Derby, it would be no surprise to see him make a difference against Penn State in 2010 as a true freshman. The same holds true for MaxPreps National Player of the Year candidate Marcus Coker, a running back already committed to Iowa from the storied DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) football program.
Taking a chance on under-the-radar prospects has also paid great dividends for Ferentz during his tenure at Iowa. Iowa rolled the dice with Adam Robinson, who sealed the team’s victory over Penn State with a late touchdown. Robinson, a redshirt freshman, joined the team on scholarship in the spring after paying his own way for the fall semester. He received little attention as a recruit but is already contributing in Iowa City.
The box score from the Penn State game reveals other examples of overlooked prospects producing big-time efforts. Pat Angerer led the team with 14 tackles and had a key interception. He put up All-American caliber numbers at Bettendorf without the recruiting fanfare. Shaun Prater, who stopped a Penn State drive in the third quarter with an interception deep in Iowa territory, was similarly unheralded as a recruit despite a fine career at Omaha Central (Neb.).
The Hawkeyes aren’t winning strictly thanks to in-state stars and Midwest sleepers, however. Iowa, a state with just more than 3 million residents, can’t supply all the talent that a major Division I team needs. Ferentz and his staff have shown the ability to go beyond the state borders and reel in major recruits.
Adrian Clayborn, who blocked a punt and returned it for a 53-yard touchdown to tilt the game in Iowa’s favor, hails from Webster Groves, Mo. In a year when Missouri featured future first-round draft picks Josh Freeman and Jeremy Maclin as high school seniors, Clayborn may have been the state’s top recruit. He chose Iowa over offers from schools around the country.
Hawkeyes’ linebacker Jeremiha Hunter was a prominent recruit from Harrisburg, Pa., a mere 90 miles from State College. Iowa lured Hunter from Penn State’s backyard; he went on to record 12 tackles against the Nittany Lions. Part of Ferentz’s recruiting pitch is that he has a track record of molding NFL talent. In 2009, four Hawkeyes were selected in the NFL draft, making it 32 consecutive years that Iowa has had a player drafted.
Iowa has had 33 players taken in the draft in Ferentz’s tenure, including first-round selections Dallas Clark (2003), Robert Gallery (2004) and Chad Greenway (2006), statistics that would be attractive to most any recruit. The fact that offensive linemen Brian Bulaga and Kyle Calloway will likely be taken on the first day of the 2010 NFL Draft will give another boost to Iowa’s recruiting efforts, helping to keep the program’s momentum going.
A prime time win against the No. 5 team in the country should have a similar effect.
Five recruiting notes from the weekend
Seantrel plugs along: It’s sometimes hard to keep tabs on any offensive line recruit, even if that recruit is the nation’s top-ranked player. However, Seantrel Henderson appears to be enjoying a fine senior season, as Cretin-Derham Hall (St. Paul, Minn.) is off to an impressive 4-0 start.
Henderson and the rest of the offensive line have certainly created a lot of time for quarterback
to pick apart defenses. He completed seven passes for two touchdowns and 143 yards Friday night against East Ridge in the first half alone.
Henderson does not appear to be close to making a decision, and he may decide on National Signing Day.Trey’s big day:
One recruit to watch in Texas could be Dekaney running back Trey Williams
. Williams exploded onto the national radar with a 375-yard rushing performance that also featured four touchdowns and a 41-yard kickoff return. Dekaney is only three years old and therefore lacks any football history. However, if Williams can continue his fine play, he may help write an opening chapter.Another star at St. Joe’s Prep:
Last year, Skyler Mornhinweg
burst onto the Pennsylvania scene by starting at safety for the Hawks. This year, it appears St. Joseph’s Prep may have another freshman phenom. Linebacker Jared Alwan
is already a playmaker on defense for head coach Gil Brooks
. He has played well in the team’s early contests against the likes of McKeesport and St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City, N.J.), and played a vital role in the team’s win against La Salle. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound ninth grader will also play offense for the Hawks down the road, and already possesses a frame that colleges like.
Landry continues to shine: Lutcher (La.) is off to a red-hot start, thanks in large part to star junior receiver Jarvis Landry. In Lutcher’s first four games, Landry has already hauled in five touchdowns and 310 receiving yards. He has also compiled over 150 yards on punt and kickoff returns, as well as a special teams touchdown. Landry should be one of the nation’s top players in the class of 2011. LSU could be in position for a monster class, as Baton Rouge Redemptorist teammates Jeremy Hill and La’el Collins recently pledged to the Tigers.
Several other in-state players are high on LSU’s wish list and Les Miles also figures to make a run at North Shore (Houston, Texas) star tackle Sedrick Flowers.
All-American status?: It’s hard to forecast All-Americans in September, but Ka’Deem Carey of Canyon del Oro (Tucson, Ariz.) has a strong case already. In five games, he’s rushed for 985 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has had runs of 80 yards or longer in each of the last four games. Arizona is already trying to woo Carey, but there’s a good chance he could end up elsewhere in the Pac-10.