The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Football scores major recruit 

Alyssa Hitchcock
The Iowa kicking team huddles before the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015.

By Jordan Hansen

[email protected]

Iowa’s 2017 recruiting class was already good before four-star Texas running back Eno Benjamin committed to play for the Hawkeyes on Monday.

Now it’s on the verge of becoming historically great.

Defensive end A.J. Epenesa still leads the class by a hair — Rivals gives him four stars and ranks him 28th in the nation — but it’s a deep group top-to-bottom. With Benjamin on board, however, it gives Iowa a big-time offensive recruit, something the team hasn’t had for some time.

It also caused several Iowa assistant coaches to immediately tweet out their joy at the news.

“BOOM!!! April 18th is indeed a Great Day To Be A Hawkeye,” Iowa special-teams and running-back coach Chris White wrote on Twitter. “Great news from Texas! #GoHawks Rock Out With Your Hawk Out.”

While the class has also been blessed with a solid amount of in-state talent (DT Juan Harris and OL Mark Kallenberger, for starters) it’s being filled out with good out-of-state talent as well.

    The Iowa football program is in the midst of a massive upswing. Rivals currently ranks the 2017 class as the 12th best in the nation, which is a massive change from what has become norm for Hawkeyes over the last decade.

Only two of the last 10 Iowa recruiting classes have ranked in the top 30 — 2011 (30th) and 2007 (28th). With one exception (2005), every other class since 2003 was 42nd or worse.

The outlier, however, is what makes the 2017 group so intriguing. Recruiting is normally done a year in advance, which is why it makes sense the 2017 class is already much better than the 2016 group.

It’s also comparable with the situation the Hawks found themselves in 11 years ago with the 2005 class. Strong campaigns from 2003-05 — each ended with Iowa in major bowl against a top Pac-12 or SEC school — gave Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and the rest of the Hawkeye program a major boost.

While the 2004 class came in at No. 67, the next three years were much better: No. 11 in 2005, No. 39 in 2006, and the previously mentioned 2007 class.

If Iowa has success once again this year, a similar trend could emerge. The boost from the Rose Bowl appearance and a brand-new football operations building is already pronounced — and it’s more than just coincidence.

“Iowa’s success this season is going to have the most impact on the 2017 class and beyond,” Midwest recruiting reporter Josh Helmholdt told the DI in February. “Seeing Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game, in the Rose Bowl — that’s going to leave a positive impression and should definitely give them a boost.”

If the Hawkeyes want to compete for a national title on a regular basis, the team needs to take advantage of these next couple recruiting classes. Iowa is not a college football blueblood, but it could force its way into the conversation if this trend continues.

Ferentz and his coaching staff are incredibly good at developing players — one only has to look at the athletes they’ve put in the NFL — and with better recruits, the effect will only multiply.

Follow @JordyHansen for Iowa football news, updates, and analysis.

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