Kirk Ferentz has shown in 15 seasons as the Iowa football coach that he’s better at developing star offensive linemen than recruiting them.
It might make National Signing Day less exciting, but Ferentz’s way of handling offensive linemen ultimately works on the field more times than not.
That’s why Hawkeye fans shouldn’t fret over Ross Pierschbacher switching his commitment from Iowa to Alabama this past summer or that fellow four-star offensive lineman Brian Wallace reportedly will choose between Alabama and Arkansas after recently eliminating Iowa and Missouri from his list of schools.
Wallace, who is from St. Louis and a former high school teammate of Iowa freshman running back Jonathan Parker, is expected to announce his decision Saturday at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Offensive line is the one position under Ferentz where player development usually compensates for recruiting shortcomings, the two latest examples being Brandon Scherff and Brett Van Sloten. Iowa’s two starting offensive tackles combined for just five stars on the recruiting scale while coming out of high school, but now rank among the best in the Big Ten, especially in Scherff’s case.
Ferentz tries to land the big fish on the offensive line and has every now and then. In fact, Iowa’s starting offensive line for next season could have three former four-star recruits with Scherff, ironically, being one of the exceptions.
Blake Larson and Dan Doering both were ranked among the top offensive linemen in the country when they signed with Iowa in 2000 and 2005, respectively, but neither lived up to the hype despite having five-star rankings.
There currently are 18 players, including two offensive linemen, committed to Iowa’s 2014 recruiting class, all of whom are high school seniors. The offensive linemen are Lucas LeGrand from Dubuque and Keegan Render from Indianola. LeGrand and Render both fit the Iowa mold as three-star recruits who had limited scholarship offers.
Even though Iowa recently received verbal commitments from two 4-star high school quarterbacks, Dowling Catholic junior quarterback Ryan Boyle continues to hear from Hawkeye coaches on a regular basis.
Junior Jack Beneventi committed to the Hawkeyes on Dec. 5, and senior Tyler Wiegers chose Iowa on Dec. 20 after having previously been committed to Rutgers.
Boyle said in a text message Dec. 21 that he had received eight pieces of mail from Iowa the previous day, including two handwritten letters from Ferentz, but none of it came with a scholarship offer.
Boyle was named the Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior this past season after leading Dowling to the Class 4-A title and a 14-0 record. He passed for 1,833 yards and 21 touchdowns while throwing just three interceptions. He also rushed for 1,332 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Iowa recruit Markel Smith is being called one of the best high school running backs to come out of the St. Louis area, and he has the numbers to prove it.
The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Smith finished his career with 7,345 rushing yards and 90 touchdowns. His rushing total is the second best in the St. Louis area, trailing only Chaminade’s Rob Standard, who rushed for 7,779 yards.
Smith, who was previously committed to Missouri, finished his senior season at Vianney High School with 2,416 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns. He set the state record for single-game rushing yards when he shredded Washington High School for 541 yards and seven touchdowns and was named the St. Louis Post-Dispatch All-Metro offensive player of the year.