February 5, 2013

Signing Day Surprises

I've always called college football recruiting a soap opera for guys. The drama. The twists and turns. The surprises on signing day.

It's all part of the storyline leading right up to the day when high school prospects put pen to paper and sign with a college program.

So fans take the whole process very seriously. Others are just along for the ride as the Hawkeye Football team officially adds players to their roster every year on the first Wednesday in February.

The yearly recruiting cycle has changed quite a bit since I first started covering it more than a decade ago. Now the commits come earlier, but the twists and turns along the way will always be there. Nearly every year we have a few prospects that wait until the final days to make their decision and sometimes they surprise us.

One of the traditions for the Iowa program seems to be rewarding an in-state prospect with a late scholarship offer. We saw that once again on Sunday night when Kirk Ferentz officially extended a scholarship offer to 2013 prospect Josey Jewell from Decorah.

I know some Hawkeye fans aren't thrilled with this "tradition" because generally Iowa isn't stealing away a prospect from a BSC level team, but looking at the list of in-state players that have been offered late in the process, the success rate is pretty good.

Mike Elgin was a late offer and he turned into a multi-year starter for the Hawkeyes on the offensive line. Brandon Myers was likely headed to Northern Iowa when the Ferentz called him the night before signing day to tell him the Hawkeyes had a scholarship waiting for him. He accepted on the spot and now his star is rising in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders.

In 2007, Allen Reisner was waiting to play a high school basketball game and he picked up an offer from the Hawkeyes. He went on to an very solid career with the Hawkeyes. In 2010, Tanner Miller was riding home on a bus after a high school basketball game when he received the call from Ferentz and accepted on the spot.

Of course the batting average isn't perfect when it comes to the late in-state offers. Back in 2009, Iowa offered Clinton prep Matt Murphy and as it turned out, his stay in Iowa City was short.

There have been a few late in-state flips from BCS level squads where the Hawkeyes picked up a prospect. Back in 2009, Conor Boffeli switched his commitment from Iowa State to Iowa. The West Des Moines Valley prep had committed to the Cyclone in late July and then changed his mind in late January. Last year, Cedar Falls prep Barkley Hill also switched from Iowa State to Iowa. Hill pledged to the Cyclones in April and then made his switch known to the public in late January.

The late surprises going Iowa's way haven't been confined to prospects from the state of Iowa. Back in 2006, no one really had a feel for where Jeremiha Hunter was headed. He had narrowed his list to Iowa, Tennessee, Penn State, and UCONN. Hunter went on ESPNU and announced in late January that he was going to be a Hawkeye.

The following year, no one had any idea what four star cornerback Cedric Everson was going to do. He had committed to Georgia Tech in late October after taking an official visit. He took an official visit to Iowa in December and rumors were swirling that he was back on the market. He gave Michigan State a verbal commitment in early February, but then just as he was set to sign with the Spartans, he followed his heart and signed with the Hawkeyes.

In 2011, Hawkeye fans had plenty of drama leading up to signing day. First there was a late commitment from the state of Maryland by Jordan Lomax, who had been committed Virginia. Then on signing day, his teammate at DeMatha High School, Darian Cooper, turned down late pushes from Michigan State and Michigan and put on an Iowa hat at a press conference.

Also in 2011 was the late wild ride of Jordan Canzeri. The New York prep standout was probably headed to Villanova before the Iowa coaches took a look at his film and make a late rush. The talented back made an official visit to Iowa in late January, but was still torn between the Hawkeyes, Villanova, and a late push from UCONN. In the end, he signed with the Hawkeyes.

Iowa fans found more signing day drama last year with the recruitment of Jaleel Johnson. The big defensive tackle committed to the Hawkeyes in early July and everything seemed fine until the weeks leading up to signing day when rumors of a possible official visit to Michigan State surfaced. Johnson held firm with his commitment to the Hawkeyes, but it wasn't without plenty of drama.

Of course, there are also some strange and downright bizarre recruiting stories which didn't go well for the Hawkeyes. Last year there was the never ending saga of Colorado offensive lineman Alex Kozan. To say he had a tough time making a decision would be an understatement. We were told that the weekend leading up to signing day that Kozan called the Iowa coaches and actually gave his verbal commitment. Kozan never confirmed that and then on signing day, he chose not to sign a national letter of intent with anyone. Finally on February 27th, Kozan signed with Auburn after weighing his options for more than three weeks.

While Kozan's saga was filled with drama, there has never been a signing day decision quite like the one made by Ka'lial Glaud. The Class of 2009 New Jersey prep headed into signing day with three favorites: Iowa, Rutgers, and West Virginia. The Hawkeyes were eliminated just before signing day and it came down to Rutgers and West Virginia. How did Glaud make his final decision? He flipped a coin. Heads and he was a Mountaineer. Tails and he was a Scarlet Knight. It was tails.

With signing day 2013 just one day away, how will the drama unfold this year? The Hawkeyes are still in the running for three star linebacker Reggie Spearman, who will make his announcement on Tuesday evening at his high school. There is also a Wednesday press conference for three star athlete Jacquille Veii, who is down to Iowa, Maryland, and Nebraska as his choices. Lastly, running back Jonathon Parker from the St. Louis area will decide between Iowa and Tulsa, hopefully sometime on Tuesday afternoon.

Of course, there's always a chance that a recruit that no one is talking about will surface in the next 24 hours. Last year Reid Sealby and George Kittle weren't being discussed by Iowa fans, but they were offered late and signed with the Hawkeyes.

Stay tuned to HawkeyeReport.com for all the latest news, notes, and analysis from National Signing Day 2013. We will have updates starting early in the morning and throughout the day, leading up to the press conference at 4 p.m. with Head Coach Kirk Ferentz.

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