Iowa football rebuilds 2023 roster with 44 newcomers

The Hawkeyes are bringing in 44 newcomers for the 2023 season, including 11 who joined at the start of the spring semester.

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Grace Smith

Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara carries the ball during the Big Ten Championship game between No. 13 Iowa and No. 2 Michigan at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.

Kenna Roering, Sports Reporter


Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz and director of recruiting Tyler Barnes addressed reporters in the Hansen Football Performance Center’s All-America Room on Wednesday afternoon regarding the 2023 recruiting class.

The Hawkeyes are bringing in 44 newcomers for the 2023 season, including 11 who joined at the start of spring semester. 

“I think you understand, and I believe, we have a really good environment here that we’ve created, and it’s been great to hear that come back from some of the newcomers,” Ferentz said. “I want to compliment the way they’ve worked and joined the team, and also want to compliment the way the guys have supported each other.”

Iowa finished last season 130th in FBS in total offense while scoring 17.7 points per game. In the Hawkeyes’ final game of the 2022 season against Nebraska, starting quarterback Spencer Petras tore his rotator cuff and labrum, which required surgery and sidelined him for six to 11 months. Even after he recovers, he’s not sure if he will return to play for Iowa football. 

After the regular season ended, wide receivers Arland Bruce and Keagan Johnson and quarterback Alex Padilla entered the transfer portal. Then on Dec. 20, five-star offensive lineman Kadyn Proctor from Southeast Polk High School flipped his commitment to Alabama football. Quarterback Carson May entered the portal following the Music City Bowl on Dec. 31, 2022. 

The departures on offense forced the longest-tenured head coach in FBS to be more active than he’s ever been in the transfer portal. Ferentz and Barnes understand the Hawkeyes have to adjust with the current times in order to be successful, but they are still adamant about getting athletes that “fit” the Iowa culture.

“[Recruiting] is probably faster than it has been, but it’s kind of the world we live in and we have to do it,” Barnes said. “But we have to be diligent, we have to be thorough. We can’t trade that for just bringing in a guy that we just don’t know a whole lot about. If he doesn’t fit in our locker room, if our players don’t like and respect him, it’s a wasted scholarship and it can lead to worse things.”

The 11 early-enrollees include transfer quarterback Cade McNamara and tight end Erick All from Michigan. McNamara and All were starters on the Wolverines’ 2021 squad, who dismantled the Hawkeyes, 42-3, in the Big Ten Championship. McNamara is currently rehabbing from a knee injury, which prompted Ferentz to go after another quarterback who could get reps in the spring — Deacon Hill from Wisconsin.

Hill played in one game for the Badgers in 2022 but had no passing attempts. Iowa offensive analyst Jon Budmayr coached at Wisconsin for six seasons and the familiarity between the two helped hasten Hill’s decision to become a Hawkeye.

“Relationships are always going to be — usually they get you in the door with most guys, especially in this world where things move really, really fast,” Barnes said. “If you don’t have any familiarity with a guy or his high school coach or somebody in that region, it’s going to be tough the way the portal works these days.”

Seth Anderson was one of two wideouts that joined Iowa wide receiver coach Kelton Copeland’s room this spring. Anderson is a transfer from Charleston Southern who earned Big South Freshman of the Year with 612 yards on 42 catches in 2022. Anderson also wrestled in high school.

“He’s a great kid, big smile, big personality, and the type of guy we like to go after,” Barnes said. “He’s a guy that thought he could play at a higher level. He has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. He has something to prove. The production, again, this past year was something that we liked, and getting him out here, he’s been here now two weeks, seems like everything is good so far.”

The other wideout who arrived this spring was Austin Kutscher, a graduate transfer from Ohio State. He saw action in just six games in four years as a Buckeye.

“I had talked to a couple guys on the Ohio State staff, and they have nothing but great things to say about him,” Barnes said of Kutscher. “I think he just wanted a change of scenery, and maybe in his mind a chance to compete, and we’ll see if he can do it here.”

Ferentz attributed much of the last two year’s poor offensive production, however, to the injury-ridden inexperienced offensive line. Justin Britt, an offensive lineman who saw action in eight games in 2021, was out the entire 2022 season with an injury. He is on medical scholarship, but has not retired from football, per his Twitter. 

 

Offensive tackle David Davidkov, who was a four-star recruit and NBC All-American in high school, did not play a snap in his two years at Iowa due to injuries. Davidkov is also on medical scholarship but will no longer play football, Ferentz said.  

“If you look at our offensive line right now, we weren’t where we needed to be a year ago and felt the same way this year,” Ferentz said. “I think we had — I don’t want to say suffered from — but we were forced to play some guys that probably weren’t quite ready to compete at the level we’re looking for. It’s been part of what we’ve been battling a little bit. The facts are that when you can’t do things up front, kind of cascades to the entire offense. It’s hard to run an offense when you can’t block with proficiency.”

In hopes to strengthen the offensive line, Iowa grabbed graduate transfers Daijon Parker and Rusty Feth from the transfer portal. Parker played in nine games for Saginaw Valley State in 2022 and was committed to Virginia until he flipped to the Hawkeyes on Jan. 7. Parker went to the same high school as former Iowa defensive back and 2022 first-team All-American Kaevon Merriweather.

“Some guys will tell you, ‘Hey, I’m good. I’m solid here.’ Which Daijon did tell me,” Barnes said. “ I was like, again, I’m a numbers guy. I go pull up a lot of comparisons between UVA and University of Iowa. Not just wins, but offensive line development, how far it is from home, how easy is it for your mom to get here and watch games, cost of travel, hotel, all that stuff and send it to him and say, ‘Hey, just take a look at this and let me know if this maybe gets your interest.’ Then I also hit Kaevon and told Kaevon to get on him too. Assist to Kaevon there.”

Feth started 34 games, including 25 straight at center over the past two seasons for Miami (Ohio). Feth had previous connections to Iowa offensive line coach George Barnett, who was on the RedHawk coaching staff for seven seasons. It only took Feth one visit to Iowa City to become a Hawkeye.

“When Rusty became available, it really was kind of a no-brainer for us,” Barnes said. “If we can add to the team, we’re going to add to the team, and Rusty is a great kid. He’s going to fit right in. The offensive line this weekend, they enjoyed him.”

Ferentz and Barnes are both pleased with the 2023 additions, but believe their best recruits were already inside the locker room. 

Wide receiver Nico Ragaini, defensive tackle Noah Shannon, and defensive end Joe Evans all announced that they would use their sixth-year of eligibility and return to the Hawkeyes in 2023.  

Evans and Shannon were joined in the spring by walk-on defensive lineman Jackson Filer. The West Des Moines product helped Iowa Western win a national championship and was named the NCJAA Defensive Player of the Year in 2022. 

“The older guys have done a great job embracing the new guys and supporting them, and certainly looking forward to them starting this process now that we’re back on campus and having some time to spend with our players,” Ferentz said.

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