Feb. 4, 2009
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Five years ago, the University of Iowa signed a pair of three-star homegrown high school student-athletes named Mitch King and Matt Kroul. As seniors they anchored the fifth-best scoring defense in the nation for the nine-win Outback Bowl-champion Hawkeyes.
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz and his staff used that recruiting blueprint again this season, signing 19 to scholarships Wednesday -- including seven from the state of Iowa.
"The heart and soul of our football team has always come from this state," Ferentz said. "If you look at our rosters, it's been historic. It all starts with the in-state players for us."
Ferentz called it a good year for high school talent in the state and also an unusual year because of the number of quality `skill-position athletes.'
"We're excited about that," Ferentz said.
The Iowans who signed to become Hawkeyes are Conor Boffeli (offensive line, West Des Moines), Drew Clark (offensive line, Marion), Jordan Cotton (wide receiver, Mount Pleasant), Keenan Davis (wide receiver, Cedar Rapids), Matt Murphy (offensive line, Clinton) and Brett Van Sloten (offensive line, Decorah). Brandon Wegher, of Dakota Dunes, S.D., prepped at Sioux City Heelan, and freshman linebacker Jake Reisen, who attended Iowa City Regina, was a gray shirt last season and will now receive a scholarship.
The Class of 2009 was far from an Iowa-only group. Ferentz and Co. signed three from Illinois, three from Ohio and one each from Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, South Dakota and Canada.
"This is a good day," Ferentz said. "I think all coaches are probably pretty happy on this day. It's great to wrap up this year's recruiting. I'm very, very pleased about the class. We feel good about the class in all regards. The recruiting process went well for us. We were able to address some needs we thought were important."
Of the 19 signees, 17 were team captains, 18 are multi-sport athletes and eight were members of state championship football teams. Five of the incoming freshmen are tentatively slated to play offensive line (Bofelli, Clark, Bolan MacMillan, Murphy, Van Sloten). The list also includes three wide receivers (Cotton, Davis, Stephane N'goumou), three defensive linemen (Scott Covert, Tyler Harrell, Martin Hopkins), two running backs (Brad Rogers, Wegher), two tight ends (Dakota Getz, Anthony Schiavone) and a fullback (Shane DiBona), linebacker (Reisen) and cornerback (Micah Hyde). Josh Brown, from Dixie Hollins High School in St. Petersburg, Fla., is listed as `athlete.'
"We're thrilled about the potential of the group and pleased about what they've been able to accomplish during their high school careers," Ferentz said.
"The heart and soul of our football team has always come from this state. If you look at our rosters, it's been historic. It all starts with the in-state players for us."
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
With 40 of 49 players returning from the Outback Bowl two-deep roster, there isn't a sense of urgency to hurry any from the Class of 2009 into immediate action. According to Ferentz, the most likely places to see rookies in the fall are at wide receiver, running back and special teams.
"We're really not counting on anybody to come in and make a contribution next year (on the interior)," he said. "We feel like we have a nice nucleus there. We don't have a pressing need at the linebacker spot, but if you look at the periphery, I think we have a chance with the receiver position. Potentially in the defensive backfield, although not quite as pressing. Certainly the running back position we have an opportunity for guys to come in and make a mark and also on special teams. There'll be some opportunity there, too, for some young guys."
In college football coaching -- which Ferentz refers to as a `copycat profession' -- the Hawkeye staff has been successful making its own observations rather than blindly chasing the number of stars behind a recruit's name. It has led to finding more than one diamond in the rough.
"We make evaluations as we see them," Ferentz said. "We're comfortable with this class. We've had a history of finding the right guys. Matt Kroul and Mitch King were both three-star guys, which are good illustrations of the type of guys we've had success with. Shonn Greene, Andy Brodell, Brandon Myers and Charles Godfrey were two-star guys coming out of high school. Those are the kind of guys we try to find. Guys we think have potential, work ethic and competitive nature to do the things you have to do."
The next time Ferentz meets the media is Wednesday, March 25, for a spring practice press conference. The first game for the Hawkeyes will be Saturday, Sept. 5, against Northern Iowa inside Kinnick Stadium.