Ferentz talks Iowa football’s 2020 recruiting class

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz discussed the Hawkeyes’ 2020 recruiting class on National Signing Day on Wednesday.


Megan Nagorzanski

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz watches his players swarm the field before a football game between Iowa and Middle Tennessee State University on Saturday, September 28, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Blue Raiders 48-3.

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

It appears that Iowa liked what it saw from punter Michael Sleep-Dalton throughout the 2019 season.

For the second year in a row, the Hawkeyes’ roster will feature a punter from down under.

Tory Taylor, a native of Melbourne, Australia, will compete for the punting job with sophomore Ryan Gersonde in 2020.

Unlike Sleep-Dalton, however, Taylor doesn’t have college football experience; he will enter the Iowa program as a freshman.

“He’s got great raw skills, but he hasn’t played football,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “They don’t play football like we play it there, so that’s going to be an adjustment for him. We’re going to have to work like crazy in practice once we get going.”

Iowa special teams coordinator LeVar Woods made the trip to Australia and continued to pursue the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Taylor.

In the past, Ferentz noted a punting problem in the United States, saying there weren’t enough of them.

Iowa then shifted its attention elsewhere.

Last season, Sleep-Dalton averaged 41. 7 yards per punt with a long of 63. He also pinned 23 kicks inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.

A few months later, Taylor officially became a Hawkeye on Wednesday, which was National Signing Day.

“When you look at the influx of Australian punters across the country — look at the Ray Guy Award list, the semifinalists list — those guys are always littering those lists,” Iowa recruiting coordinator Tyler Barnes said. “Obviously, they’re doing something right. They’re coming from great training.”

Cronk begins to settles in

Indiana graduate transfer Coy Cronk is set to play a key role for the Hawkeyes in 2020.

With Tristan Wirfs leaving the Iowa program in favor of the NFL Draft, Cronk’s circumstances allow him to make an immediate impact in a conference he already has experience in.

Now, Iowa’s offensive line boasts Alaric Jackson and Cronk — two players with a multitude of starts.

While Cronk won’t automatically be thrown into a starting role, he has a leg up after serving as a captain with the Hoosiers.

“He wanted a change of scenery for whatever reason, and I think he was just a good match,” Ferentz said. “With Tristan leaving, it was really timely. He’s not an incumbent, either; nobody’s an incumbent, but he’s going to have every opportunity to earn a job on the line out there.”

Lois welcomed into Hawkeye program

Michael Lois, a defensive lineman from Elkhorn, Wisconsin, signed with the Hawkeyes on Wednesday, but he might not play.

Lois broke some vertebrae in his spine after hitting his head on the bottom floor of a pool in 2018, leaving him momentarily paralyzed.

While he might not suit up for the Hawkeyes, Ferentz said the team welcomes Lois to make an impact in other areas.

Ferentz said when he coached at Maine, players not on the field were expected to do something in the program, whether it came in the form of taping practice or working in the office.

That’s not a requisite at the Big Ten level, Ferentz said, but he’d be happy to allow Lois to play a role.

“The good news is he’s functioning a lot better,” Ferentz said. “Whether or not he can play football remains to be seen. I’m not optimistic. But as a parent and a coach, in the big scheme of things, that’s hardly the most significant thing in the equation. Right now, he’s doing really well.

“If he’d like to be involved, that’s certainly open. … If a player chooses to remain involved, we’re more than welcome to that.”