With the Class of 2013 football recruits signed and sealed, Kirk Ferentz and his staff have already turned their attention to the Class of 2014.
The way the recruiting process is today, it's speed up or get caught in the dust. Last year we saw the Hawkeyes pile up 16 verbal commitments before the start of the 2012 football season and end up holding on to 14 of them.
Iowa is already off to a fast start in 2014 with a pair of verbal commitments from two of the top in-state prospects in four star offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher and expected four star athlete Jay Scheel. Both prospects will certainly help Iowa's recruiting in this class simply because good players want to play with other good players.
Last week, we previewed some of the top targets, but the larger question is which positions will the Hawkeyes be targeting in the Class of 2014?
According to Iowa recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson, the focus will slide to both sides of the line and at linebacker.
"I think you would look at defensive end, linebacker, and offensive line to start. I think those are three need areas for us. I think from there, you will see us take at least one kid at each position," Johnson said. "We really loaded up with a lot of offensive players this year, especially at the skill positions. We are probably not going to take a lot of wide receivers in 2014. We will always take a quarterback, running back, and tight end. Offensive line is going to be huge need for us and then defensive backs, linebackers, and defensive line."
Remember, this is a numbers game when it comes to recruiting. Schools can have 85 players on scholarship. A quick look at our scholarship distribution chart says that Iowa currently lists 16 players as seniors heading into the 2013 season. Of course, we know that's a soft number when it comes to recruiting and there will be some level of attrition to the roster because that's the norm in college football.
For numbers sake, the Hawkeyes have signed at least 20 prospects in every class since Kirk Ferentz became the head coach at Iowa. With that in mind, let's operate with 20 as the number in 2014. One other note, because most freshmen don't play in their first year on campus, let alone come in and start, I like to look at positional needs based on the junior and senior classes on the roster.
Here's an early look at the breakdown for the Class of 2014 from a numbers perspective.
QB: Ferentz has always said he would like to sign at least one quarterback in every class. There have been a few years when they have signed two, but generally it's on. In a perfect world, you want five quarterbacks on your roster and redshirt in the incoming freshman. Iowa will have four signal callers on the roster this season and there will not be a senior on scholarship at the position. Jay Scheel has already given his verbal commitment to the Hawkeyes and he will get a look at the position. But, most feel he will end up at wide receiver, so look for the Iowa coaches to try and land another prospect in this class. PROJECTION: One
RB: Stop me if you've heard this one before
the running back numbers look pretty good from a scholarship perspective. Of course we know numbers in the spring and summer haven't held up and the Hawkeyes always seem to get thin at the position due to injuries and attrition. Right now the Hawkeyes have seven running backs on scholarship (8 if Michael Malloy is put on scholarship). There could be one or two that move to other positions like receiver, but there is good depth and it's relatively young, with only two in the junior class. PROJECTION: One
WR: There will certainly be some weeding out at the wide receiver position. After signing five wide receivers last week, Iowa now lists 12 players at wide receiver. That is certainly a scholarship record under Kirk Ferentz. Four of the receivers are upperclassmen, so the Hawkeyes will still be in good shape long term, as long as those players develop. Eric Johnson said this week that wide receiver wouldn't be a big need in 2014 so at best we see one or two in the next class. PROJECTION: One or Two
TE: Much like the wide receiver and running back position, depth isn't an issue at tight end. It's also relatively young with only two upperclassmen on the roster. Having said that, Iowa likes to play multiple tight ends and they are still one of the few programs that really feature the position in the passing game. Best guess right now is that the Hawkeyes are selective and hand out one ride to a tight end. PROJECTION: One
OL: With six scholarship offensive lineman set to come off the books in the next two classes, offensive line will be a huge emphasis in the Class of 2014. Iowa signed two in 2013, but they have a big need at the tackle position in the next class. Getting Pierschbacher, who projects to be a tackle, really helps right out of the gate. The early line for offensive line recruits in 2014 probably stands at four. PROJECTION: Four
DL: The Hawkeyes only lose one senior on the defensive line after the 2013 season. But, the position is still a huge need moving forward, particularly at defensive end. After this season, Iowa will only have four defensive ends on the roster and they failed to sign any last week. The defensive tackle spot seems pretty deep with nine on the roster, including three in the junior class. Iowa has to load up on defensive ends and will likely take maybe one tackle in 2014. PROJECTION: Four or Five
LB: The numbers for this season show a lot of depth at linebacker with 12 players on scholarship. That's the good news. The concern is that over the course of 2013 and 2014, much of that depth will be leaving the program. Iowa has six players in the upper classes of the roster, so even though they signed three last week, look for at least three more next year. PROJECTION: Three or Four
DB: Iowa is in pretty good shape at the cornerback position, long term. They have only one player listed as a junior or senior and seven currently listed at the position. One or two of those players could end up moving to safety, but those are out of the freshman class, so it's too early to project until they actually arrive on campus. Speaking of safety, it will get a little thin in the next two years with three players graduating. Depending on what happens with the two incoming freshmen, the safe bet right now is one corner and one safety with the potential for two safeties in 2014. PROJECTION: Two or Three
P/K: Kirk Ferentz has always placed a high value on special teams play and he isn't afraid to offer a scholarship to a punter or a place kicker. It's not a huge need and generally you can get a walk-on to take the duties and eventually put them on scholarship. But, it wouldn't be a big surprise if the Hawkeyes offer either a punter or a place kicker this year. Right now we will leave it at zero since no prospects have emerged with the possibility that it could change. PROJECTION: Zero
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