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Harty: Landing in-state recruits not as easy as it used to be

[ 8 ] July 12, 2012 |

I thought about starting this column with a smart-aleck remark that winning two out of nine times is remarkable for playing the lottery, but not for landing in-state football recruits.

That was before West Des Moines Dowling senior-to-be tight end Jon Wisnieski made it three out of nine by verbally committing Thursday to the Iowa football team.

Three out of nine is the number of in-state recruits who have committed to the Iowa football team after being offered scholarships. All three — Wisnieski, Cedar Falls tight end Ike Boettger and Des Moines Lincoln linebacker Trevon Young — will be seniors this fall.

Of the other six, two are seniors-to-be and teammates at West Des Moines Valley who already have committed to BCS schools from bordering states and four are juniors who are just getting started in the recruiting process.

I’m not suggesting that with two in-state recruits headed elsewhere and with four juniors-to-be uncommitted that something is amiss with Kirk Ferentz’s recruiting strategy because Iowa this fall will add four of the top high school prospects from the Chicago area to its roster.

Ferentz’s crew also has been adding players to the 2013 recruiting class at an accelerated pace, with Wisnieski’s commitment the 16th overall for Iowa. And there is still plenty of time for the four in-state juniors with Iowa offers to sort through the recruiting process.

All I’m saying is that I can’t remember when so many in-state recruits held Iowa offers without committing.

Jay Scheel told Hawkeye Insider.com after being offered a scholarship by Iowa this week that he’s in no rush.

“I’m not making any decisions yet,” said the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Scheel, who plays quarterback and defensive back at Union High in LaPorte City, but is being recruited as an athlete. “I’m going to wait for more options and possibly make a decision my senior year, maybe after my senior year.”

Ferentz would be the first to say more power to Scheel. Ferentz encourages recruits to take their time before committing because he knows what’s at stake.

Picking a college is perhaps the most important decision a teenager will make. Throw football into the equation and the stakes become even higher.

The game has changed since Hayden Fry coached the Hawkeyes from 1979-98, and so too has the recruiting landscape.

During Fry’s 20-year reign, you almost took for granted that most in-state recruits would commit to Iowa if offered them a scholarship. Nebraska and Notre Dame nabbed a few, but for the most part, the state belonged to Fry.

That’s still the case, although Iowa State has without question narrowed the in-state recruiting gap.

As for why the recruiting landscape had changed, it starts with how we communicate these days.

The world is better connected through television and through the growth of the Internet. So it’s almost as easy for a kid growing up in Iowa to become enamored with hoops on Tobacco Road or with a flashy and trendy football program like the Oregon Ducks as it is with the Hawkeyes.

Just ask former Linn-Mar star point guard Marcus Paige, who is headed to the University of North Carolina to play basketball, fulfilling a lifelong dream that probably started with him seated in front of a television.

Recruiting also has grown into a lucrative business. That means more exposure for the prospects, but also more competition for coaches because more people are communicating with recruits on a regular basis, including many with personal agendas.

With Iowa, though, it goes beyond the landscape changing.

For every James Morris, who was born and raised to be a Hawkeye, there are countless other kids who have no real connection to the University of Iowa besides living in the same state.

That’s the case with about half of the in-state recruits who have offers from Iowa.

West Des Moines Valley offensive lineman James Campos, who committed to Missouri in April, grew up rooting for the Drake Bulldogs because that’s where his father played football and where his mother played volleyball in the 1980s.

Fellow Valley lineman Sam Raridon, who has committed to Wisconsin, is the son of a former Nebraska player and has an older brother who played at Notre Dame. Why would he feel any allegiance to Iowa?

Urbandale receiver Allen Lazard, who is one of four juniors from in state with an Iowa offer, is the son of a former Iowa State football player.

Wisnieski’s former teammate at Dowling, receiver Amara Darboh, signed with Michigan in February after considering an offer from Iowa and countless other schools. It was hardly a case of a homegrown kid snubbing the Hawkeyes, though.

Darboh was born in the war-torn African nation of Sierre Leone and then escaped at the age of 7 with his family to the United States, eventually settling in Des Moines and growing into one of the top receivers in state history.

The fact that some in-state recruits are playing harder to get probably says more about their individual circumstances than it does about the Iowa coaches.

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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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