Mills: Ferentz’s routine, quiet recruiting style is good for football

With few offers and no special tricks, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz recruits the right way.

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Mills: Ferentz’s routine, quiet recruiting style is good for football

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz paces the sidelines during a game against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sep. 15, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers 38–14. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz paces the sidelines during a game against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sep. 15, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers 38–14. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

David Harmantas

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz paces the sidelines during a game against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sep. 15, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers 38–14. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

David Harmantas

David Harmantas

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz paces the sidelines during a game against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sep. 15, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers 38–14. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

Pete Mills, Assistant Sports Editor

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Political bickering and campaign ads are beginning to fly around the Hawkeye State, but another serious debate is centered in Iowa City. It’s not about Medicare or immigration but recruiting in college football.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz has amassed one of the best recruiting classes in the country in 2020, all while sticking to his signature conservative methods of coaxing players. He does nothing fancy to attract talent, instead pitching his program as one that rewards effort and promotes responsibility. Other coaches across the country take different approaches, using Twitter, celebrities, and big personalities.

The first person who came to my mind on the other end of the spectrum from Ferentz? Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh.

Harbaugh is known for quirky stunts to gain points with recruits, and he has made even more moves to put himself — and Michigan — at the top of the national recruiting heap (the Wolverines rank in the top 10 nationally in its recruiting classes in the next three years). In 2015, Harbaugh and the Wolverines made a curious move — one that surely was made to gain attention from talent — and signed with Air Jordan to put a silhouette of a basketball player on a football uniform.

All of these things are very attractive to young players. It’s fun to play for an exciting team on the cutting edge. But how is it connected to the experience and development of a player?

In 2017, Iowa City native Oliver Martin decided to leave his home state and place his bet on a new, fresh face in Ann Arbor. Harbaugh famously jumped into a swimming pool with the new signee, gaining lots of attention on Twitter.

 

Just a few years later, Martin is poised to put on a Hawkeye uniform. Any young high-schooler would look at Michigan and be entranced: a fresh look, a dynamic head coach, big names on the roster. Typically, Ferentz is much drier in his recruiting methods, pushing such boring things as development and growth. I might be wrong, but I’m not sure he has jumped in any pools.

But there’s no arguing that an offer from Ferentz and Iowa is worth much more than most schools in the country, and that can be backed up by numbers. In 2019, Iowa handed out 138 offers to young high-school talent. For context, Michigan gave out 301, Iowa State 341, and Alabama 287.

RELATED: Hawkeyes recruiting stellar 2020 class

Why doesn’t Ferentz use the “shotgun” method and try to see what high-profile talent might be on his radar? That’s not the type of program he wants. Next year’s recruiting class is a great example of this.

Texas quarterback Deuce Hogan — a 4-star recruit — has taken to Twitter to do the recruiting for his class. Nearly every day, he is on the offense, looking for new faces to add to the team he’ll join in two years.

It’s hard to say what could’ve been said to Hogan to make him so excited to play in an Iowa uniform, but it certainly wasn’t because of copious numbers of offers or the lack of a Jumpman on the upper-left side of Hawkeye jerseys.

Iowa still does add on stellar recruiting class every few years. In 2004, Iowa had the 114th-ranked signing class in the country according to 247 Sports; just a year later, the team jumped all the way up to the No. 6 spot in the country. That class went on to play in the Orange Bowl in its senior season.

Ferentz is in his waning years as a head coach, but it seems to be business as usual in the Hawkeye Football Complex. No fluff, no tricks. Just a coach, his players, and Saturday afternoon games in Kinnick Stadium.

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