The Rosster: This February is a step in the right direction for Iowa football

BY BEN ROSS | FEBRUARY 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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Iowa’s recruiting class from 2008 contained 26 young men who committed to play college football for the Black and Gold.

Fast Forward to 2012, when just six of those 26 saw meaningful playing time on the gridiron for Iowa. James Vandenberg, Joe Gaglione, Greg Castillo, Steve Bigach, James Ferentz, and John Wienke were Iowa’s major senior contributors that season. Micah Hyde and Keenan Davis also got solid playing time as seniors that year, but were a part of Iowa’s 2009 recruiting class and didn’t redshirt. If you can recall, Iowa posted 4 wins and 8 losses in 2012.

In 2010, Iowa had a recruiting class of 22 fine young gentlemen just waiting to help lead Iowa to another Orange Bowl berth. Thirteen of those guys from 2010 started or received significant playing time this past aseason, in which Iowa went 8-5 and earned a trip to the Outback Bowl. (Another six players who redshirted from Iowa’s 2009 class contributed heavily this year as well).

See the connection? People, this is how football seasons like 2012 happen: recruiting classes where your highest-rated player (Wienke) moves from quarterback to a specialty punter in his fifth year doesn’t bode well for anything.

But Iowa benefited greatly from its victory in the Orange Bowl in 2009 to help boost its 2010 recruiting class. That group, highlighted by tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, played well above average this past season, and that’s why Iowa was able to double its win total from 2012.

Going on that formula, Iowa should have an even better season in 2014. Twelve players from the 2011 recruiting class who saw significant playing time this year return, as do another five who got redshirted from 2010’s group. Add in that Iowa plays probably the weakest schedule of any team in an automatic qualifying conference this coming season, and the sky very well could be the limit for a team that hasn’t been relevant in the Big Ten since 2009.  

It’s obviously too early to tell if any of the guys Iowa signed this week will go down in Hawkeye lore; young guns all can’t be like Desmond King. But if anything is promising about Iowa’s newest group of players, it’s that it has two guys rated as being four (out of five, pending the service you look at) star caliber: athlete Jay Scheel and quarterback Tyler Wiegers.

Including Scheel and Wiegers, Iowa has inked just 12 four-star players that have spent at least three years in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes don’t usually get blue-chip talent, but when they do and, if those players choose to stay at Iowa, they usually excel.

Iowa can’t compete nationally for recruits. Hell, it can hardly compete in the Big Ten for young talent. It doesn’t have the brand name or remote success such schools as Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State have had.

Iowa doesn’t even bother sending a coach to try to coax players from Florida — one of the best high-school football states in the country — to come to Iowa. The whole prospect must seem futile to them, which makes sense. Why waste your energy and resources in places where such perennial powerhouses as Alabama, Florida State, and Georgia have already set up shop when you can develop a foothold in lesser-known areas such as New Jersey, Missouri, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Ohio, where Iowa has inked 17 players in the last two years.

Iowa has taken some pretty big steps in recruiting these past few years. The seeds are planted for a solid 2014 campaign. Get a couple of 10-win seasons under your belt, and only then will Florida start to answer the phone.

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