Iowa recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson says his job really hasn’t changed much since the coaching staff was shaken up this spring.
“We read all the Internet stuff,” Johnson said. “People feel this role has changed a whole lot and helped us. It hasn’t.”
If it seems like recruiting is different this year at Iowa, it is. The Hawkeyes have 16 verbal commitments for the 2013 recruiting class, and had all of those by the second week in July.
In past years, Iowa would just be getting started putting together its class heading into the fall. This year, Iowa goes into the season wrapping it up.
“It is kind of the way recruiting has changed,” Johnson said. “Kids are making early commitments. I don’t think it has anything to do with my role and what we’ve done.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz changed up the coaching staff this spring. He hired three new coaches to fill three vacancies while much of the existing staff got new assignments.
Ferentz removed his recruiting coordinator from also being in charge of a position group. Johnson, who coached the tight ends the past two seasons, now helps Reece Morgan with the defensive line.
“The face of recruiting’s changed so dramatically,” Ferentz said in the spring. “We’re not doing anything differently other than hosting more prospects than we used to.”
Recruiting guru Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network sees it differently.
“I’ve been traveling since Christmas and Iowa’s name is everywhere,” Lemming said. “Eric Johnson is in charge and he’s done a great job getting them out early.
“He’s more of a recruiting coordinator now than he ever was before, and I think he has more to do with it than anything else.”
Whether it was the shift in duties or just a re-commitment to recruiting, Iowa is getting its name out there early and often.
“Iowa has great evaluators, and I think they are keeping it up, and actually doing better,” Lemming said. “With Eric Johnson in charge, they are upper echelon and great on getting in on guys early.”
Iowa has kept up with the trend of players committing earlier and earlier.
“You have to make an early impression and you have to get them as much information as soon as possible,” Johnson said. “We’re getting kids coming in during March and April, just watching practice, and committing after that.”
Johnson said on media day that the Hawkeyes were “very, very close” to being done with the 2013 class.
“I’d say we’re recruiting one or two positions, which could flip into the best available,” Johnson said. “It’d have to be a certain somebody.”
The recruiting calendar has shifted, as a result. By the time Iowa kicks off against Northern Illinois on Sept. 1, Johnson will shift much of his focus to the 2014 class.
“I know there are some schools that have a ton of guys offered in that 2014 class, but to us, it’s really hard unless the person is a no-brainer … which we have some guys in that class.
“But for us to go full-bore like we’re recruiting the current class right now … it’s just hard to do.”
The 2014 class also will be the first year Iowa could see the benefit of putting two new, enthusiastic recruiters out on the road. New assistant coaches Brian Ferentz and LeVar Woods are former Hawkeyes who played for Kirk Ferentz.
“They lost Rick Kaczenski, who was a good recruiter, but I think they’ve made up for it,” Lemming said. “They are young recruiters who can relate to kids.”
Brian Ferentz has talked at length about the fact that kids he meets in Ohio know and respect the Hawkeye brand when he comes to visit.
“We’re going to run up against our entire conference in Ohio, as well as the Big East,” Brian Ferentz said. “But they are going to know who you are.”
Lemming added that Lester Erb is doing a “great job” in Chicago and that Iowa already has been to Florida early this year “working on the kids.”
Johnson said the coaches will try to get out and see players in the 2014 class this fall and try to get some offers out. If the 2013 class remains solid in December and January, Iowa can then work ahead on ’14 evaluations.
“You try to take care of some juniors and young kids and at the same time maintain our relationship with our committed guys,” Johnson said. “You don’t want them feeling you’ve already forgotten about them before it’s all said and done.”
Over 13 years, Ferentz and Iowa have had recruiting classes ranked all over the map, from eighth nationally in 2005 to 75th in 2009. The 2013 class is currently ranked 30th by Scout.com.
“The key to consistent BCS berths is recruiting,” Lemming said. “Teams that have a good year, then a bad year, you end up inconsistent with depth.
“At Iowa, it’s been a roller coaster at times in certain areas. With Eric Johnson in charge, it seems the organization is greater. No matter where I go, Iowa’s name is really out there.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football