If you follow college football recruiting and the Iowa Hawkeyes, what transpired on Wednesday shouldn’t have been a surprise.
Heralded defensive recruits Justin Hilliard and Jashon Cornell both ended months of speculation and drama by committing to Ohio State.
Iowa was among the five finalists for each player, but that’s where it ended.
It was yet another example of the rich getting richer in big-time college football recruiting. The mighty Buckeyes are among the richest with vast resources, a tradition that’s unmatched by most schools, a head coach who’s considered among the best in the business and a hometown of Columbus that has plenty of entertainment options.
Hawkeye fans hoped that Hilliard, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker from Cincinnati, would choose to follow his older brother C.J. Hilliard, an incoming freshman running back at Iowa. However, the pull from the home-state Buckeyes was too strong.
C.J.’s pull apparently was pretty strong, too, considering the number of elite programs that didn’t make his little brother’s top five, schools like Penn State, Texas, Southern California, Oregon, Florida State and Wisconsin, just to name a few.
“I took a laid-back role, to be honest,” C.J. Hilliard told Cleveland.com. “I didn’t want to take advantage of the situation. I just let him have his own moment and choose his own school. I just said follow your heart. And if it feels right, just go with it.”
For Justin Hilliard, it felt right to be a Buckeye, as is so often the case with the top recruits in Ohio. Iowa has landed its share of recruits from Ohio under head coach Kirk Ferentz, but it’s hard to think of any who turned down a scholarship from the Buckeyes in order to be a Hawkeye, especially a top-priority in-state recruit such as Justin Hilliard.
Justin said his decision was easy because he’s always been an Ohio State fan. There was nothing Ferentz and his staff could do to change that.
C.J. didn’t have to make the same decision because the Buckeyes never extended him an offer.
Cornell, a 6-2, 261-pound defensive end from St. Paul, Minn., got one of his first scholarship offers from Iowa when he was a sophomore.
But only one school ultimately prevails in recruiting. And when it comes to landing the so-called mega-recruits, Iowa rarely is that school.
That’s not a criticism of the Iowa coaches. They do a respectable job under Ferentz of making the best out of what they have. The Hawkeye staff sees talent where others might not see it and develops it over time.
The head coach at Ohio State is expected to win at least 10 games each season because of windfalls like Wednesday.
Win at least 10 games at Iowa, which Ferentz has done four times in 15 seasons, and you’ve earned a spot on Iowa’s Mount Rushmore of football coaches.
Iowa’s NFL pipeline under Ferentz, which includes 22 players being selected since 2010, speaks for itself.
Little was made of it when Ohio native Anthony Hitchens signed with the Hawkeyes in 2010 as a two-star running back. Hitchens became a star linebacker at Iowa and used his success to become a fourth-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys this spring.
Brandon Scherff’s decision to be a Hawkeye also didn’t draw much of a reaction because he was three-star recruit from tiny Denison, Iowa. He is now arguably the top offensive lineman in college football.
It’s only natural to be disappointed about losing two coveted recruits to a rival Big Ten school, but hardly reason to lose hope. Iowa fans should understand that by now.
Follow @PatHarty on Twitter and at HawkCentral.com.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football