February 1, 2012

Defense Signing Day Awards

The Hawkeyes needed help and depth up front on defense and the Iowa coaches hit the recruiting trail and loaded up a class that includes two four star prospects on the line. We had out our annual signing day awards to the Iowa defensive recruits, including the best prospect, the sleeper in this class, and which prospect might see the field early on in their Hawkeye career.

Best Prospect: Jaleel Johnson

It doesn't take a football expert to realize that Iowa needs help up front on the defensive line. Help is on the way. Iowa's most highly rated prospect up front at a position of need is Jaleel Johnson. At 6-foot-2 and 280 pounds, the Lombard, IL prep has a great frame for a defensive tackle with a large lower body and powerful build up top. It's usually hard for a defensive lineman to come in and play right away, especially at the tackle position, but Johnson should have a very good career at Iowa.

The Sleeper: Nate Meier

Playing 8 man football at Fremont Mills High School makes finding interest from BCS schools pretty difficult. But, Nate Meier was patient and the Hawkeyes took notice of his amazing performances this past season, including rushing for nearly 2,500 yards and a staggering 57 touchdowns in his senior season. On defense, 34 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. Meier could project to a variety of different positions for the Hawkeyes, but at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, could this be another Matt Kroul type story in the making?

Surprise Commit: Faith Ekakitie

The Hawkeyes had faith that they would add several very talented defensive linemen in this class and that faith paid off. The good news arrived in early December when 6-foot-2 and 270 pound defensive lineman Faith Ekakitie committed to the Hawkeyes. The long armed prospect has only been playing football for a few years, but has star type potential. The Lake Forest Academy prep star kind of surprised a few people when he selected Iowa over the likes of Northwestern, Georgia Tech, and Oregon.

Most Likely To Play Early: Ruben Lile

At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Ruben Lile just oozes athleticism on the football field. The Cass Tech prep standout could follow a path much like the similarly sized Nico Law did this past year and find early playing time on special teams, which is an area the Hawkeyes need to upgrade in 2012. Lile will start out at the safety position, but with his level of athletic ability, he could project to several spots depending on his growth and development.

Biggest Steal: Anthony Morgan

Much like Ruben Lile, Morgan will immediately upgrade Iowa's roster in terms of athletic ability. The 6-foot-1 and 185 pound defensive back from Plano, TX is rated as a three star prospect and likely projects to the safety position at the college level. Iowa has been able to steal quite a few very good under the radar type prospects out of the Lone Star State over the years and Morgan has the potential to be the next prospect in that line.

Forgotten Man: Drew Ott

Much like Mitch Keppy on the offensive side, when you commit early and play for a small school in a small population state, followers of recruiting tend to lose you on their radar. But, the staggering numbers in his senior year and being honored as a Parade All American, suggest that Iowa fans shouldn't sleep on Drew Ott. The 6-foot-4 and 235 pound projected defensive end from Nebraska will have to come in and add some bulk to his frame, but he has a high motor and the type of work ethic that could have Iowa fans remembering his name in a couple of years.

Best Get: Maurice Fleming

Every recruiting class needs a Pied Piper and that was Reese Fleming. While the 6-foot-1 and 185 pound future cornerback spent most of his senior year sidelined with a knee injury, he was busy working the phones and talking to other prospects, especially in the Chicago area, and getting them to take a long look at the Hawkeyes. Fleming has the potential to be a very good player starting out at cornerback for Iowa, but his most immediate dividend has been helping to put together this recruiting class.

One That Got Away: Jake Sheffield

There was a few days in December when it seemed that Jake Sheffield was leaning heavily towards switching his verbal commitment from Arizona State, who had just fired their head coach, to Iowa. But, then Norm Parker retired and shortly after that, defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski bolted for Big Ten rival Nebraska. The former Marine would have provided immediate help up front on the defensive line, but he stuck with the Sun Devils.

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