NCF On The Trail: Iowa Hawkeyes

By now, you've surely seen the Ultimate ESPN 300, a list of the 300 most impactful players based on both high school and college production since 2006. The list considered players whom ESPN evaluated at both levels, so while not all 300 players were highly rated in high school, they were all somewhat known commodities.

We're all about the Big Ten here, so in the next three days we'll debate how the Ultimate ESPN 300 factors into this corner of college football.

Thursday's roundtable topic: Which Big Ten player not on the list is the most egregious omission?

Brian Bennett: Kirk Cousins, Michigan State quarterback (2008-11)

You can't blame ESPN Recruiting too much for missing out on Cousins. Before he signed with Michigan State, after all, some of his best other options were with schools like Northern Illinois, Western Michigan and Toledo. He looked kind of scrawny.

Yet Cousins finished his career as the all-time winningest quarterback in Spartans history, going 27-12 overall and 22-5 in his final two seasons. He also holds the school records for passing yards (9,131) and passing touchdowns (66) while being an exemplary leader on and off the field. Cousins has proved himself as a solid quarterback in the NFL as well. So while he may not have had the most stellar reviews coming out of high school, his college production demands complete respect. Michigan State should have more players in the Ultimate 300, anyway, and Cousins belongs in there.

Adam Rittenberg: Ricky Stanzi, Iowa quarterback (2006-10)

Perhaps more than any other Big Ten program, Iowa has taken the overlooked and developed them into overachievers at the college level. It's not surprising that the Hawkeyes, despite only one losing season during the targeted time period, have just one player in the Ultimate 300 (offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga, No. 117). There are several options of omitted Hawkeyes, including defensive end Adrian Clayborn, a first-round draft pick in 2011. But my pick is Stanzi, who engineered Iowa's rise at the end of the 2008 season and into 2009, when the Hawkeyes went 11-2 and won the Orange Bowl, falling just shy of a Big Ten title.

Rated as No. 76 quarterback in the 2006 class by ESPN Recruiting Nation, Stanzi went 26-9 as Iowa's starter and set a team record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass (21). The two-time captain became the first Iowa quarterback and just the third Big Ten quarterback to win three bowl games. He's also a damn fine American. Anyone who disagrees with the selection is just an America-hating hippie doing nothing on the Ped Mall. So Stanzi is my pick -- love it or leave it.

Mitch Sherman: Lavonte David, Nebraska linebacker (2010-11)

David sits one notch below Ndamukong Suh, ineligible for the Ultimate 300 as a 2005 high school graduate, on the list of greatest defensive players in the Bo Pelini era at Nebraska. In his lone year of Big Ten play, David earned first-team All-America honors and was named the Butkus-Fitzgerald Big Ten linebacker of the year. He was unranked out of high school because of academic issues but well known as a star among a dominant Miami Northwestern team that included linebacker Sean Spence (No. 125).

Others who attended David’s high school include Amari Cooper (No. 18) and Teddy Bridgewater (No. 82), though David is arguably the most accomplished of the group as a first-team All-Pro pick for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013. At Nebraska, after transferring from junior college -- where he again went relatively underappreciated -- David recorded two of the five highest single-season tackle totals in school history.

Among his many memorable moments in 2011, David stripped Ohio State freshman quarterback Braxton Miller (No. 115) to spark the largest comeback win in Nebraska history.

 
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Many believe ESPN Junior 300 defensive Nick Bosa will be an even better college football player than his brother. That’s saying a lot because his brother is Joey Bosa, star defensive lineman for national champion Ohio State and one of the top projected picks for the 2016 NFL draft.

Completed class: Iowa Hawkeyes

February, 4, 2015
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Iowa has announced its 2015 class:

Four-stars
Drew Cook ATH -- Regina High School IA

Three-stars
James Daniels OC -- Warren G. Harding High School OH
Jacob Newborg OG -- West Lyon Community High School IA
Emmanuel Ogwo WR -- Horn High School TX
Anthony Nelson DE -- Waukee High School IA
Justin Jinning OLB -- The Colony High School TX
Adrian Falconer WR -- Leesburg High School FL
Levi Paulsen OT -- Woodbury Central High School IA
Landan Paulsen OG -- Woodbury Central High School IA
Brett Waechter DE -- Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn High School IA
Garret Jansen DE -- Pella Community High School IA
Jack Hockaday ATH -- Maroa-Forsyth High School IL
Ryan Boyle QB-DT -- Dowling Catholic High School IA
Brady Reiff DE -- Parkston High School SD
Jerminic Smith WR -- South Garland High School TX
Nate Vejvoda TE-H -- Providence Catholic High School IL
Michael Slater Jr. DE -- Parkway Central High School MO
Angelo Garbutt OLB -- Hebron High School TX

Ungraded
Eric Graham RB -- Autauga Academy AL
Michael Ojemudia OLB -- Harrison High School MI
Nick Wilson OLB -- Dowling Catholic High School IA
Signing day is less than 48 hours away. While you breathlessly await your team's official unveiling of its class and chew your fingernails over late decisions, a great debate continues over whether recruiting rankings really tell us anything.

For a little more enlightenment, we decided to look at this year's first-team All-Big Ten honorees to see where each player ranked as a prospect. Any player on offense or defense who made either the coaches' first team or was a first-team pick by the media was categorized through their ESPN Recruiting rankings (we'll save kicker prospect rankings for another conversation).

Here's what we found:

Five-star recruits

None

Four-star recruits (7)
Three-star recruits (14)
Two-star recruits (2)
Not ranked (3)

* -- junior college recruits

Three-star recruits typically don't generate a lot of hype on signing day, but that's where the bulk of the Big Ten's top performers checked in out of high school. That includes 2014 Big Ten offensive player of the year and Doak Walker Award winner Gordon; Big Ten offensive lineman of the year and Outland Trophy winner Scherff; Coleman, who also rushed for 2,000 yards; Big Ten receiver of the year Lippett; Big Ten linebacker of the year Hull; Big Ten defensive back of the year Drummond; a possible first-round pick in Waynes; 2013 Big Ten defensive lineman of the year Calhoun.

Seven four-star prospects more than lived up to their rankings, especially Barrett, Bosa and Zettel in the 2014 season. But there were almost as many two-star and not-ranked prospects as there were four-star recruits on the All-Big Ten first team. Not surprisingly, Wisconsin and Minnesota were able to unearth those diamonds in the rough.

The All-Big Ten second teams are another eclectic mix. They include four-star prospects who fulfilled their promise such as Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Bennett, Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs and Wisconsin center Dan Voltz. There are also a whole bunch of three-star guys who more than reached their potential, like Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, Minnesota running back David Cobb, Ohio State offensive tackle Taylor Decker. Then there are the true overachievers, with two-star prospects like Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah and Northwestern's Nick VanHoose, and guys who were almost completely overlooked in Michigan State left tackle Jack Conklin and Minnesota defensive back Eric Murray.

The lesson here? Nothing is really guaranteed in recruiting rankings. While you may be focusing on the four- and five-star guys on Wednesday with good reason, sometimes the two- and three-star prospects become the ones you really have to watch on Saturdays.

Best of the visits: Big Ten

January, 18, 2015
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We are in the final contact period before signing day, which means official visits are upon us. This weekend was an important one for the Big Ten, as plenty of top targets were on campuses. The visiting prospects took to Twitter and social media to document their trips.

Here is a look at the visits from the eyes of the recruits:

It wouldn’t be a visit weekend without cookie cakes, so to kick this post off properly, Northwestern commit Simba Short shared his cookie cake spread while on his visit to see the Wildcats.


Cookie cakes are the way to any recruit’s commitment.

Michigan State doesn’t have much to fill in the 2015 class, but linebacker Anthony McKee is one prospect the coaches would still like to land. McKee took a visit to see the Spartans this weekend and is slated to make it out to Wisconsin and Minnesota as well.


Maryland only had a few official visitors on campus in commit Adam McLean and Oseh Saine, who committed on his visit this weekend.


Offensive lineman Quarvez Boulware also committed to Maryland this weekend, but he came up on an unofficial visit.

McLean took to Twitter to show off the entertainment side of his visit at a restaurant.


While the Terps gained the most from their visit weekend, there is no denying Michigan had the biggest prospects on campus.

The Wolverines hosted ESPN 300 prospects Roquan Smith and Chris Clark as well as South Carolina commit Damon Arnette and defensive end Shelton Johnson.

Smith is the No. 29-ranked prospect in the country and became immediately interested when Michigan hired defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin. The Wolverines vaulted into his top list, and Smith set up this visit to see what Michigan has to offer.


Smith will decide on signing day, and as of right now Michigan will be on his short list for that decision.

The Wolverines are also on the short list for Clark, who was committed at one point. He has UCLA and Michigan in his top two and still has a visit to see the Bruins next weekend before deciding.


The two uncommitted prospects were joined on the visit by a few Michigan commitments, including safety Tyree Kinnel.


The visit was just as important for Kinnel as the uncommitted prospects because Kinnel got a chance to help recruit, but he also got the opportunity to build a relationship with the new coaching staff in person.

Penn State’s big visit weekend won’t be until next weekend, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an exciting weekend for the Nittany Lions. Coach James Franklin posed with Flavor Flav at Penn State's basketball game. Flav later tweeted he has a cousin on Penn State’s basketball team.


Illinois had a good opportunity to get a few 2016 prospects on campus as it waits for a few big 2015 visitors next weekend. Offensive lineman Nik Urban made the trip and tweeted he was too small for his car, a problem most offensive linemen likely have.


Iowa also hosted a 2016 target in running back Toren Young, who took to Twitter to express his feelings on the visit.


Minnesota still has a few big 2015 targets left in this class, and one was on campus this weekend in defensive tackle Jamal Milan. Milan still has a visit to Illinois on Jan. 23 and will make his decision on signing day between the Gophers, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa State.

==To The Airport  for my official visit= at the University of Minnesota ==(=

A photo posted by @bigmanmal on

Iowa looking to replace top talent 

January, 2, 2015
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Iowa is coming off a 7-5 season with ups and downs throughout. The Hawkeyes are in an interesting situation as they will be losing a good amount of talent after they take on Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl. How they reload is the main question going into signing day.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

December, 2, 2014
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The regular season has come to an end and there was plenty of recruiting action around the Big Ten. Here is a look at the latest in recruiting news within the conference.


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It is easy to see why Oregon, Texas A&M and Auburn are working hard to land ESPN 300 athlete Kirk Merritt. He might be only a sophomore, but recruiting fans need to learn Joshua Paschal's name.


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Early Offer: Recruits responding to Duke 

October, 23, 2014
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Duke now has the ability to sell a winning program and new facilities to recruits, and prospects like what they're seeing. Plus, the nation's top 2016 quarterback was slated to be at Florida State for the Notre Dame game, but he wasn't able to make it and now is looking for a return date.

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Best of the visits: Big Ten

October, 12, 2014
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If Michigan ever needed a win this season it was on Saturday, at night against Penn State. The Wolverines had the biggest target left on the 2015 board in defensive end Keisean Lucier-South on campus.



South has said that Michigan's losing season hasn't impacted how he feels about the program, but it's only a positive to have a win and an exciting atmosphere for his visit.

South also hung out with some of the Michigan commitments on the trip. Since a few of the committed prospects have taken visits or entertained visiting other programs, this was also a big deal for the staff to get them back on campus.



Quarterback commit Messiah DeWeaver, a 2016 prospect, made the trip up as well and had the chance to help recruit a few other targets in his class. One of those prospects was offensive lineman Clark Yarbrough, who tweeted out a few pictures that indicated he and his family were enjoying themselves.



Iowa had a big weekend as well, with a ton of top targets on campus. There were none bigger, though, than Ohio State commit Justin Hilliard.

The five-star prospect took an official visit to see Iowa and his older brother, C.J., who plays for the Hawkeyes. It is difficult to see Hilliard flipping from Ohio State to Iowa, and it probably wasn't a great sign for Hawkeyes fans he tweeted a picture of a block 'O' before he made it to Iowa.



Outside of Hilliard, there were plenty of other big recruits in attendance for the game against Indiana. That even included 2017 defensive lineman Juan Harris, who tweeted out his excitement for the program after the game.



Finally, Wisconsin had some important official visitors on campus for the game against Illinois, including Florida linebacker prospect Jordan Griffin.



This visit could help propel the Badgers further ahead in his recruitment, and could help get Griffin closer to a commitment if all goes as planned.

Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

October, 10, 2014
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Week six is here with recruiting presents for everyone. Unless you aren’t a fan of decommitments, prospects looking around, official visitors and surprise visits. In which case, there are no presents for you.

The Big Ten has all of those storylines wrapped up in one weekend, so here is a look at the most intriguing and important visitors within the conference.

Michigan vs. Penn State:

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Tim Beckman is 1-17 in Big Ten games and questions about his future has hindered the Illini's recruiting efforts. Plus, Georgia Tech has surprised both on the field and on the recruiting trial.


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Early Offer: Could LSU lose RB pledge? 

September, 15, 2014
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Should LSU fans be worried that Tigers running back commit Nick Brossette plans to take official visits to other schools, and South Carolina's defense is about to get even better thanks to JUCO linebacker Davon Durant?


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today’s offerings: Missouri made national headlines when it signed a five-star local prospect in the 2012 class. Now the question facing the Tigers is whether they can do it again with Class of 2015 five-star Terry Beckner Jr. Plus, Nebraska has had good luck with junior-college prospects under Bo Pelini, and the Huskers hope to continue that trend. We also continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.

[+] EnlargeTerry Beckner
Tom Hauck for Student SportsTerry Beckner Jr. is a vital in-state target for Mizzou.
1. Over the last four classes two of the nation's elite players have come from prospects in Missouri's backyard. In 2012, the state produced No. 3-ranked Dorial Green-Beckham, and he signed with Mizzou before running into off-the-field issues this past offseason that led to his departure. The Tigers are hoping they can replicate the recruiting success -- without the off-field complications -- with No. 4-ranked Beckner. The five-star defensive end is about as must-get of a recruit as there has been for Gary Pinkel in his time in CoMo. To win in the SEC, you have to have beasts on the defensive line, and Beckner is definitely talented. The good news is Missouri looks to be in good shape and will receive an unofficial visit on Oct. 11 for the Georgia game.

2. Without a doubt, “The Maryland Way” will be something that helps the Terps on the recruiting trail. Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson announced Tuesday the implementation of "The Maryland Way Guarantee,” which gives athletes a “lifetime” guarantee on their scholarship even if they can’t compete because of injury. As the Terps move into the B1G, they’re fighting for every advantage they can to keep top talent in the DMV at home and away from conference rivals, and this development will give Randy Edsall some additional recruiting ammo to work with.

3. Nebraska has never been one to go heavy after junior college prospects, but over the years the Huskers have managed to strike gold with a number of two-year prospects. Defensive back DeJon Gomes, linebacker Lavonte David and most recently defensive end Randy Gregory are great examples of juco players recruited by Bo Pelini that have panned out. Defensive back Justin Martin out of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M could be next in line. The Huskers recently offered Martin, and while he doesn’t have favorites listed at this point, he was quite excited about picking up the NU offer. Another factor that could help the Huskers is that his coach, Ryan Held, played at Nebraska.

#WednesdayWisdom
Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 11.5.1, only coaches who have been certified may contact or evaluate prospective student-athletes off-campus. To become certified, coaches must answer 80 percent of the questions on the NCAA Coaches Certification Test correctly. Here are a few examples of the types of questions coaches must answer correctly:

True or False: An institution's coach may produce a computer recruiting presentation and show it to a prospective student-athlete at the prospective student-athlete's high school.

The answer: True

True or False: It is permissible for a football coach at an institution located in the state of Pennsylvania to conduct several institutional camps in Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri in order to attract more prospective student-athletes from the Midwest.

The answer: False

Social Studies
Marquise Doherty is not only one of the top running backs in the country he’s also one of the top baseball prospects around. So when Doherty tweeted out Tuesday his top five schools -- a list that consisted of Iowa, Oregon, Missouri, Kansas State and Louisville -- he indicated all the schools have talked to him about playing both sports in college. Some have pegged Iowa as the team to beat because his former high school teammate Aaron Mends is a freshman with the Hawkeyes, but Doherty says official visits will be key for him.

Five-star prospects set to announce 

July, 1, 2014
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Five-star prospects Justin Hilliard and Jashon Cornell will announce their commitments live on ESPN.com Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET.

The two recruits will announce separately from their respective schools, but will make their decisions back to back so let’s get you up to speed on where each one is at in the process.


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