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Harty: Never underestimate Ferentz and company

[ 9 ] July 9, 2011 |

When will I learn?

When will I get it through my thick skull that the situation is never as bad as it seems under Kirk Ferentz?

There are a few exceptions; one being the 2006 season when Iowa splintered as a team, losing seven of its last nine games; another being the 2007 season when the Iowa offense made completing a forward pass seem as difficult as completing a marathon on a full stomach; and, of course, last season when Iowa finished 8-5 when it had no business doing so.

But for the most part, life under Ferentz usually has a way of working itself out with the latest example being Iowa’s recent success in recruiting. Since late June, five high school prospects from four states have made verbal commitments.

I was one of the gloom-and-doomers who assumed that the rhabdo controversy, the failed expectations from last season and having Iowa’s leading rusher and leading receiver from last season both arrested on drug charges would have an adverse effect on recruiting.

You knew that rival schools were going to use the three-headed monster against Iowa, especially the 13 Hawkeye football players who were hospitalized with the rare muscle disorder rhabomyolysis in January, because there are few places where back-stabbing is practiced more than on the recruiting trail.

Not everybody resorts to negative recruiting. But enough do, including in the Big Ten, where I figured the stench from rhabdo would linger up until the national signing day in February.

I was even more convinced when as recently as three weeks ago Iowa had just one verbal commitment from the 2012 high school senior class. And he was a legacy who most of the BCS schools had ignored.

That’s not to say that offensive lineman Mitch Keppy from Port Byron, Ill., isn’t worthy of a scholarship. But getting him to commit to Iowa in April was hardly a major breakthrough under the circumstances.

His father, Myron Keppy, lettered twice as an Iowa defensive lineman in 1986 and 1987. Mitch wasn’t necessarily born to be a Hawkeye, but he was raised to be one.

Receiver Cameron Wilson, on the other hand, wasn’t raised to know anything about the Iowa football program. He was raised in Ohio and turned down scholarship offers from the likes of Boston College, Illinois and West Virginia to be a Hawkeye.

You could try to explain Wilson’s commitment by saying that he didn’t have an offer from Ohio State or Michigan or some other big-time schools.

But he certainly had enough quality offers to where turning down Iowa wouldn’t have left him on the outside looking in.

Wilson and his parents did their research. They asked the necessary questions and apparently liked what they heard enough to trust the Iowa coaches with one of the biggest decisions in young Cameron’s life.

Four more players have committed since Wilson picked Iowa, including two from the Chicago area. Several other blue-chip recruits also are seriously considering Iowa.

Defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson was the latest player to pledge for Iowa, having done so Thursday. The Westchester, Ill., native is ranked as a four-star recruit on a five-star scale, which is another way of saying he’s really good, at least against his high school competition, and that he has some really good offers.

But Johnson said he felt the most comfortable at Iowa. And this is coming from a guy that schools like Wisconsin, Tennessee, Arizona, Michigan and Michigan State had tried to make him feel real comfortable.

And don’t be surprised if part of that meant trying to make Iowa sound like a place where Johnson would feel uncomfortable.

Rob Howe runs a recruiting website called HawkeyeInsider.com and he also admits to being pleasantly surprised with how the Iowa coaches have weathered a potential storm.

“I think it was the combination of the off-the-field stuff and then last year just not being that successful,” Howe said when asked why he had his doubts about recruiting. “But I think some of us underestimate (the Iowa coaches), and I put myself in that class.”

Howe then went on to explain that there currently are 12 defensive linemen in the NFL who played at Iowa.

All three of Iowa’s senior defensive linemen from last season were selected in the NFL draft in April, led by Adrian Clayborn being taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 20th pick overall in the first round.

Sometimes, you spend so much time obsessing over bad things that you forget about the good things.

The rhabdo ordeal was a freak occurrence, and hopefully, a one-time thing that has since become a learning tool.

Sending players to the NFL, on the other hand, is a process that takes time and energy and the right people pushing the right buttons to make it happen.

It’s too early to call the 2012 recruiting class a rousing success. But it’s not too early to say crisis averted on the recruiting trail.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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