Opinion: Iowa football presents a lot to look forward to

A recent recruiting surge by the Hawkeyes has the future of the program looking bright.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa players stand for the national anthem during a football game between Iowa and Minnesota at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019.

Robert Read, Sports Editor

The upcoming college football season is surrounded by uncertainty as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make an impact around the world. This pertains to Iowa City and the Hawkeye football program, as well.

Will the season start on time? Can a full season be played? What if games need to be played without fans?

Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz and Athletics Director Gary Barta have taken these questions and others over the past couple months. There just aren’t a lot of answers — not yet, at least.

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld told the state Board of Regents April 30 that the school currently plans to resume athletic practices, including football practices, on June 1. Whether any changes in the state’s situation with the novel coronavirus prohibit that from being a possibility remain to be seen.

Even if that start date for organized team activities gets pushed back, there’s still something for Hawkeye fans to take comfort in — there’s a lot to look forward to with Iowa football.

This goes beyond just tailgating and packing back into Kinnick Stadium on game day. Beyond the I-O-W-A chants and the ringing of AC/DC’s “Back in Black” as the team makes its way from the locker room and through the tunnel. Beyond waving at the on-looking children’s hospital at the conclusion of the first quarter.

Going through those necessities of Iowa City living will bring a sense of normalcy back for a lot of people, but that’s only just the beginning. The Hawkeyes are coming off the best five-year win total in program history with 47. The future could be even brighter.

Over the past several weeks, Iowa has landed several key recruits for its 2021 class. Since the beginning of April, the Hawkeyes have landed six recruits, highlighted by four-star offensive tackle David Davidkov.

Iowa’s recruiting classes from 2013-15 ranked 12th in the conference each year, according to 247Sports’ rankings, behind a low tier program like Rutgers in each case. In the five years following that stretch, things were not much better in terms of rankings. The Hawkeyes eventually climbed to eighth in the conference recruiting battle, their highest ranking in that span.

When recruiting guru and longtime Hawkeye coach Reese Morgan retired in the spring of 2016, there were a lot of questions about how Iowa would move forward.

Now, the 2021 Hawkeye recruiting class is ranked sixth by 247Sports.

Sixth nationally.

Only Ohio State currently has a higher-ranked recruiting class in the Big Ten according to 247Sports.

The surge in Iowa’s recruiting could be due to a variety of factors: the recent success for the program on the field, the sense of stability that’s present with Ferentz as head coach, another year with a first-round draft pick.

There’s still a while to go before the 2021 class if finalized, but the 14 commits already in place are enough to know this is a talented class.

Despite losing five key players to the NFL Draft and several others to graduation, there are plenty of reasons for optimism with the Hawkeye football program. Tyler Goodson, Tyler Linderbaum, Tyrone Tracy, Nico Ragaini, and Sam LaPorta all proved as freshmen that they are foundational pieces for the Hawkeyes moving forward.

That’s only on the offensive side of the ball.

Pair that with Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Brandon Smith, a slew of veteran offensive lineman, and a big-armed quarterback taking the reins in Spencer Petras — teamed with a defense led by Phil Parker — and next season should present even more opportunities for success for the Hawkeyes.

Beyond that, if Director of Recruiting Tyler Barnes and his staff keep competing on a national level in the recruiting game, there should be even more reasons for optimism to come.

There are many reasons to be excited about Iowa football, and in a time where sports are shut down and the path ahead is unclear, there may be more to look forward to now than ever before.

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