24 decorated football stars become Hawkeyes
Feb. 6, 2008
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The newest batch of University of Iowa football student-athletes was officially announced Wednesday and the defensive backfield and defensive line added the most depth from the incoming Class of 2008. In all, the Hawkeyes attracted 24 players -- 12 on the offensive side of the ball and 12 on defense, including six defensive backs and four defensive linemen.
"This is our third year in a row now where we really feel good about the chemistry that the group enjoys," UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "I think they bring a lot of intangibles to the program. I think our staff did a good job addressing our needs throughout the course of recruiting, not only this year, but the last couple years."
Twenty-one of the 24 were captains of their high school football teams and 21 of 24 are multi-sport athletes.
"We're all looking forward to the future," Ferentz said. "We think there are a lot of great things that lie ahead for our football team and it's great to have this group join them."
Iowa signed two in-state players -- offensive lineman James Ferentz (Iowa City, Iowa/City) and quarterback James Vandenberg (Keokuk, Iowa/Keokuk). Also in the mix are three players each from Florida, Ohio and Texas, two from Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska and New Jersey, and one each from Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New York and South Dakota.
The defensive backfield's instant depth surge was the result of signing Greg Castillo (Mount Laurel, N.J./St. Joseph's, Pa., Prep), David Cato (Arlington, Texas/Summit), William Lowe (Cleveland, Ohio/Glenville), DeMarco Paine (St. Louis, Mo./Hazelwood East), Shaun Prater (Omaha, Neb./Central) and Jack Swanson (Naples, Fla./Naples).
Castillo, who was selected to play in the East/West (Pa.) All-Star Game, was named honorable mention all-state as a senior. He had nine career interceptions. Cato amassed 292 tackles in his career and was named district defensive MVP as a senior as well as second team all-state. Lowe was an All-American selection as a senior and was named all-state as a junior and senior. Paine had 12 career interceptions and was named all-conference as a sophomore, junior and senior. He also played running back and wide receiver. Prater was first team all-state as a senior after being named honorable mention all-state as a junior. During his career, he had five interceptions, 20 passes defended, five sacks and six forced fumbles. Swanson was named first team all-state as a senior and one Florida newspaper named him the defensive player of the year. He had six interceptions and nine pass break-ups in his career.
The defensive linemen include Steve Bigach (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius), Joe Gaglione (Novelty, Ohio/Lake Catholic), Riley Reiff (Parkston, S.D./Parkston) and Jason Semmes (Clarkston, Mich./St. Mary's).
"The defensive line was a primary target again for us," Ferentz said. "We have some really good young players on campus and we wanted to fortify that group and I think we're in pretty good shape now for the years to come."
Bigach was a first team all-state performer and was named Cuyahoga County Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. He had 51 tackles for loss in his career. Joining Bigach from Ohio is Joe Gaglione, who was named Division III defensive player of the year by the Lake County Touchdown Club. He was a district all-star and player of the year as a senior, when he had 22 sacks. Reiff is a two-time South Dakota Elite 45 selection and was the state's Gatorade Player of the Year. Semmes had 7 ½ sacks and 15 tackles for loss as s senior when he was named first team all-conference and all-state.
"Riley really jumped out at us as a football player," Ferentz said. "The fact he had been a three-time state heavyweight wrestling champ grabbed our attention, too."
Iowa's offensive backfield -- decimated by the loss of seniors Tom Busch, Damian Sims and Albert Young -- received an instant boost in the form of Jeff Brinson (St. Petersburg, Fla./Northeast), junior college transfer Nate Guillory (Houston, Texas/Coffeyville CC) and Jewel Hampton (Indianapolis, Ind./Warren Central). The Hawkeyes also signed three quarterbacks -- David Blackwell (Pompano Beach, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons), who might also see reps at wide receiver, Vandenberg and John Wienke (Tuscola, Ill./Tuscola).
"We wanted to definitely sign one (quarterback) and it was just the way things worked out," Ferentz said. "James Vandenberg had a great career in the state of Iowa. We were just so impressed with him as the season went on and his leadership abilities and the way he directed his team.
"John Wienke is a young man we had a lot of love for. We're very, very appreciative of getting a committment from him, too. Both these kids are tremendous young leaders and tremendous quarterbacks. David Blackwell is a guy we think has a lot of upside at that position."
Brinson was named first team all-state, all-Suncoast and all-county as a senior. For his career he rushed for 4,925 yards and 67 touchdowns, including 1,985 rushing yards and 24 scores last fall. Guillory, who captured multiple All-American junior college honors, rushed for 2,644 yards and 28 touchdowns during his two-year career at Coffeyville Community College. Hampton rushed for 2,095 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior. His high school team won Indiana state championships in 2004, '05 and '06.
"Nate's on campus right now," Ferentz said. "He's more like a Damian Sims-type player. He's a very talented and elusive player, yet he's a great competitor, too. Hampton's a guy we had great feelings about. We saw him play well against good competition. Jeff Brinson -- when I first saw his statistics --I thought he was playing against an elementary school. He's a big, strong guy who runs hard and has a good attitude."
Blackwell sat out his senior season with an injury. During his career, he caught 63 passes for 15 touchdowns, threw for more than 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 861 yards and seven scores. Vandenberg was named Iowa Class 3A Player of the Year as a senior. He is the most prolific passer in state history, holding 12 records, including career yards (7,709), touchdowns (93), season yards (3,729) and season touchdowns (49). Wienke was named first team all-state as both a junior and senior. He finished his illustrious prep career with 6,070 passing yards and 68 touchdowns. Wienke threw just nine interceptions in 620 attempts.
Blackwell and Shane Prater (Omaha, Neb./Central) could be on the receiving end of many passes from the aforementioned quarterbacks. Prater, Shaun's twin brother, was honorable mention all-state as a senior after helping lead his high school squad to the state championship. He totaled 1,172 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns.
Iowa's reputation for utilizing and nurturing student-athletes at the tight end position undoubtedly was part of the reason for the commitments from Jonathan Gimm (Houston, Texas/Westfield) and J.D. Griggs (Piscataway, N.J./Piscataway). Gimm led his high school team to 23 wins in the last two seasons by catching 28 passes for three touchdowns. Griggs hauled in 11 passes for 220 yards and five touchdowns as a senior.
Opening holes and protecting the quarterback on the offensive line will be Ferentz and Casey McMillan (Billings, Mont./Central Catholic). Ferentz, son of the Hawkeye head coach, was a team captain and first team all-state as both a junior and senior. McMillan was named Montana's Gatorade Player of the Year and was named first team all-state on both offense and defense.
Iowa also lured two all-state linebackers to Hawkeye Country -- Brad Herman (Metamora, Ill./Metamora) and Khalif Staten (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln). Herman, who was named first team all-state by at least four different outlets, collected 110 tackles as a senior, including 14 ½ for a loss. Staten was named first team all-state as a junior and senior. In high school he also played wide receiver, where he set a state record with 18 receptions in a game.
Bolstering the kicking corps is Trent Mossbrucker (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville). Mossbrucker converted 27 of 38 field goals in his career with a long of 49. He made 101 PATs and recorded 87 touchbacks in 166 kickoffs (52.4 percent).
Visitors of gohawks.com will see a list of all the Hawkeye signees as well as video highlight clips and head shots of all the players. Biographical information will be available for all the signees.
Iowa will begin Spring Practice on Wednesday, March 26 and a controlled scrimmage will be held Saturday, April 19. The Hawkeyes open the 2008 season with three consecutive home games inside Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes open on Aug. 30 against Maine, followed by Florida International (Sept. 6) and Iowa State (Sept. 13).
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