There's some other football recruiting news that we need to catch up on (check back later this week), but let's skip ahead to the big news -- because the Hawkeyes just landed their biggest commitment in the 2023 class so far.
10000% committed pic.twitter.com/p1uruKtVdM— Kendrick Raphael (@RaphaelKendrick) June 14, 2022
Raphael, listed at 5'10" and 190 lbs, is rated a 4* prospect by both Rivals and 247Sports. In 2021, he ran for 1374 yards and 18 touchdowns on 128 carries, which is a fairly preposterous 10.7 yards per carry average. Raphael's a running back out of Florida, which is a combination that's produced some success for Iowa over the years. In fact, his lead recruiter was Ladell Betts, a star running back for Iowa during the early days of Kirk Ferentz's Iowa tenure who went to a successful NFL career and who originally hails from... Florida. Did that matter to Raphael? According to comments from his coach to 247Sports, yes:
“When a recruiter introduces himself and tells me he’s from Florida, it doesn’t do anything for me, personally. However, but I’m going to tell you, it’s extremely important for these kids. These kids really lock onto guys that have some kind of ties to Florida, especially south Florida, and southwest Florida, and for whatever reason, it gives them a better vibe with those guys and they look at those recruiters as someone who knows where they’re coming from or knows who they are. That is extremely important. Not only is that huge, but I think the fact that Coach Betts had such a successful career in the NFL is something that Kendrick and I talked about a lot. Not only you have a guy that has been through it all, and has forgotten more football than I’ll ever know. Not only are you going to be coached by the best of the best, but if you are fortunate enough to have an opportunity to play at the next level, you also have a guy that can set you up. He has been there, done that, and been through it, and he can be a huge asset to Kendrick if he’s fortunate to move on after Iowa.”
Raphael selected Iowa over offers from Vanderbilt, BYU, NC State, Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota, Boston College, Duke, Pitt, West Virginia, as well as a slew of mid-major programs, including Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, Buffalo, Toledo, and Iowa State. He's the first running back in Iowa's 2023 recruiting class and its highest-rated offensive get since, well, running back Kaleb Johnson in last year's recruiting class. Iowa's sucess with Tyler Goodson in recent years definitely seems to have had some positive impact on their ability to recruit running backs.
So what kind of running back is Raphael? Let's go back to his coach:
“I’ve told every recruiter that Kendrick is the more natural running back that we have and he shares a backfield with [Arkansas commit] Isaiah [Augustave]. Kendrick is a guy who has really good footwork, really good balance, he understands how to set up blocks with not only his leverage, but also with a simple foot fire or the way he will start up, slow down, be patient in the whole. He does all of those things and I’m not even sure he knows he’s doing it sometimes. He’s a huge student of the game, though. He watches film relentlessly. I definitely know that he’s picked up a lot of that stuff throughout the years of watching film and understanding the big picture. He’s not the type of kid that just says, I’m going to do my rep, I’m going to follow my rule, and I’m going to be down. He wants to know where the offensive linemen are coming from, who are they blocking, who are their responsibilities, and what the defensive responsibilities are."
And let's check out some highlights, too:
He seems to hit the hole quickly and powerfully -- and he's absolute dynamite in the open field. His straight-line speed looks very legit, but he also displays some solid shiftiness as well, eluding a few tacklers and making guys miss on a few occasions. He fits the bill of a downhill runner as well -- there's a lot of one-cut-and-go action in those clips, which should mesh well with Iowa's preferred offensive schemes.
Welcome to Iowa, Kendrick. We're excited to see what you can do in black and gold.