Signing day for the 2019 class is in the books. Now that the dust has settled, what were some of the key storylines about this class?
1) In-state recruiting was... OK
Last year Iowa landed the top three in-state prospects, per Rivals. This year they got four of the top seven -- but they missed on the top two in-state guys, QB Max Duggan (who went to TCU) and DE Mosai Newsom (who went to - sigh - Nebraska). Missing out on the best of the best in-state is frustrating, but Iowa still did pretty well in terms of in-state guys. They didn't lose any in-state battles to Iowa State, either -- none of the Iowa kids that committed to Iowa State have Iowa offers listed. That's always nice.
2) Geographic breakdown
In terms of geography, Iowa landed five in-state guys, four recruits from Illinois, two each from Florida and Michigan, and one apiece from Colorado, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Alabama, Georgia, and Wisconsin. 14 of their 20 recruits come from Big Ten states and 11 of 20 come from Iowa or a state that borders Iowa. That's pretty much in keeping with Iowa's general approach to recruiting. We know that attrition rates tend to be higher with guys the farther away from home they are, so while Iowa can't go exclusively local, it makes sense to focus on players relatively close to home.
There were a few unusual recruiting locations this year -- we don't often see Iowa landing recruits from Colorado, Alabama, or Georgia. The Colorado commitment is probably a bit of an outlier in that it was Padilla, a QB recruit. The standard rules really don't apply to recruiting quarterbacks; you look high and low for quarterbacks and find them wherever you can. During Ferentz's tenure at Iowa, we've had multiple QBs from Texas, a QB from California (Spencer Petras), a QB from Tennessee (C.J. Beathard), and a QB from Florida (Brad Banks). So getting Padilla probably doesn't mean that Iowa is going to start spending more recruiting attention on Colorado.
The recruits Iowa picked up from Georgia (Tyler Goodson) and Alabama (Shadrick Byrd) are the result of targeted recruiting efforts there and local connections with members of the Iowa coaching staff. Iowa's never going to do big numbers down south, but focusing on a handful of prospects down there each year seems wise.
3) Iowa ended with a flurry
Iowa ended this recruiting class with a flurry of activity, adding Sam LaPorta, Yahweh Jeudy, Daraun McKinney, and Shadrick Byrd in a 24-hour span around Signing Day. Last year they also ended their recruiting class with a bang, although they also ended up securing commitments from some of their best recruits (at least on paper) with their late commits last year (Petras, Craddieth, Waggoner). This year's late commits don't match those guys in terms of their offer sheets or star rankings. That may not mean much -- several of Iowa's late adds this year seem like very good fits with Iowa's system and we've seen plenty of late recruits have hugely successful playing careers here -- but it does mean there isn't quite as much buzz about Iowa's recruiting this year as there was last year.
4) Iowa addressed a big need at TE
Iowa did a good job of addressing some of their biggest needs in this class. On offense, tight end was a pretty big need even before Noah Fant entered the NFL Draft. Iowa hadn't added much at tight end over the last few classes, so there was a need to restock that position. That need became even more pressing with Fant's departure (and the possibility of T.J. Hockenson doing the same). Iowa landed three tight ends in this class and all three look promising. Logan Lee might be the most college-ready of the three and he has the size and catching ability to potentially make an immediate impact. Josiah Miamen looks like the best athlete of the three and had interest (and offers) from a who's who of schools around the midwest. And Sam LaPorta looks like a T.J. Hockenson starter kit. Those are three very exciting prospects to have at tight end.
5) Iowa also addressed needs at LB
LB has turned into a murky position at Iowa in the post-Josey Jewell era. Until they added Seth Benson and Logan Klemp very late in the process last year, they only had two linebacker prospects (Dillon Doyle and Jayden McDonald). The on-field results at linebacker this year were a mixed bag and generally not very consistent, from game-to-game (or even within games). Which is to say: there's plenty of room for improvement here, both in the short term and the long term. The linebackers Iowa added this year do seem like they might be able to help a lot. Jestin Jacobs has incredible upside, especially as a pass-rusher. If he can cover, too, he'll be impossible to take off the field. Jack Campbell looks like a tackling machine. And Jeudy looks like a very smart, disciplined linebacker, a type Iowa tends to do well with. Iowa should have plenty of bodies to throw at the LB problem now -- hopefully they can find some positive solutions to that problem.
6) Iowa added some really strong building blocks of future on the OL
It would be a bad sign if Iowa didn't add at least 3-4 offensive linemen in each class, so, quantity-wise, this year's crop of OL looks pretty typical. But this group does look like it could be the foundation of some good offensive lines in a few years. Ezra Miller, who was an Iowa commit for almost two years before finally making it official on Wednesday, is absolutely hulking already and seems to have exactly what Iowa looks for in a lineman: good technique and a mean streak. He also seems to have strong leadership qualities. Justin Britt has an impressive blend of size and quickness, while Tyler Endres and Noah Fenske look like your typical in-state bruisers that Iowa often does well with.
7) What is going on at WR?
On the negative side, one of the disappointing aspects of this class is at receiver. That's not a slight on Desmond Hutson, who has an exciting combination of size and athletic ability, but on the fact that Iowa continues to struggle to recruit and develop difference-makers at the wide receiver position. Wide receiver was the weakest unit on Iowa's offense last year and it's often been that way in recent years (since Marvin McNutt and DJK were running wild in 2009 and 2010 Iowa's best receiving year probably came in 2015, when Tevaun Smith and Matt Vandeberg made a pretty potent combination). Iowa did add a lot of potential receivers last year, but the quest for difference-makers at receivers continues.
8) Iowa finds some playmakers... hopefully
Speaking of difference-makers, it does look like this class has several players who could produce some big plays -- on offense, defense, and special teams. Iowa ranked 75th nationally in plays of 10+ yards on offense and 104th in plays of 20+ yards on offense. They were 102nd in plays of 30+ yards and 99th in plays of 40+ yards on offense. I think you get the picture. The running game was especially bereft of big plays: Iowa had just 57 runs of 10+ yards (89th nationally), just 7 runs of 20+ yards (124th nationally), and only 2 runs of 30+ yards. Woof. Enter: Tyler Goodson. He definitely looks like he can provide a breakaway threat in the running game, which would be very welcome. Josiah Miamen and Sam LaPorta looks like they can provide a lot of the same mismatches on offense that Fant and Hockenson produced from the tight end position.
Big plays have become a big part of Iowa's defense in recent years. They forced 24 turnovers this year (13th nationally) and 26 turnovers in 2017 (16th nationally). Jestin Jacobs looks like a potential pass-rush menace that can help force opposing quarterbacks into some bad decisions. And hopefully this new crop of defensive backs can keep up the interception-happy trend of recent defensive backs. Sebastian Castro and Daraun McKinney look like they can produce big plays on special teams, either via big hits on coverage or through big kick or punt returns.