Here is part two of a signing day interview with Iowa recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson.
Q: I really like your offensive linemen in this class.
A: We’re really excited about them.
Q: These guys are highly regarded, but they’ve been committed so long you don’t hear much about them.
A: When you look at this class and compare it to last year’s class, it’s two very similar classes. I mentioned this is the best or one of the best we’ve had. Like last year’s class, most of this class is guys who committed early and who we felt very comfortable with early. Guys who were tops on our list. We did end up filling some spots, but this class is a larger class than last year. We did end up filling some spots with some guys at the end, but when you look at Austin Blythe and Jordan Walsh, they were our top linemen that we had on our board.
They ended up coming here and that helped us build a strong base. We kind of felt we were done, but then we saw Dan Heiar on tape and we felt so strongly about him. We could bring him in mid-year. He could help us boost some numbers and depth in, technically, his junior class, where the numbers weren’t so big to start out with. We filled two needs right there, so we’re very excited about the O-line in this class.
Q: One quarterback. I think the strategy has been one QB a year.
A: That is really what you try to do. We haven’t been able necessarily to follow that formula throughout our tenure here. Now, we’re starting to get on that track of getting one a year. [A.J. Derby in 2010 and now Jake Rudock in '11.]
Again, Jake was the top guy on our board, a guy we were able to get done. I know people were worried that he was bouncing around, but he knew our commitment to him and I think he felt that same way about us throughout the process.
Q: Is quarterback different that way? When they slot, it’s a marriage that’s tough to break. All those guys know who’s going where.
A: Usually, quarterback is like dominoes. It happens early in the spring. Once one falls, they all kind of just slot themselves and you’re locked in. I know some staffs fall apart and some try to get back in on guys, which is what happened in Jake’s case. But for the most part, you don’t see quarterbacks making their announcements on signing day. They want to help build their classes, so they for the most part get things done early.
Q: You’ve got a good thing going with DeMatha [Coker, Cooper and Lomax].
A: [Linebackers coach] Darrell Wilson has a reall good job nurturing that relationship with them. It started out Gilman last year with Jim Poggi and Ferguson and it’s continued with DeMatha and getting Coker out of there. It just keeps building now. That was a strong tie to begin with and then to get Nico Law to jump on board. He really did an excellent job of helping us recruit those Maryland guys, keeping us in the loop and helping out with Cooper and helping out with Lomax. And getting Quinton Alston to jump on board. He helped that way, too. They really developed a relationship a couple weeks ago. A bunch of those kids came in together and really became close.
Once you can get in and get some ties in those areas, it helps kids feel comfortable leaving and going somewhere they know people.
Q: How about wide receiver?
A: We have Hillyer and Marcus Grant. We offered Grant and got him done early. Hillyer was a person whose tape we got in October or November. Actually someone on his coaching staff has family who works in our foundation. Excellent athlete. Big kid and excellent athlete. Excellent basketball player. These guys have similar body types. Hillyer might be a little bit bigger, but they’re similar.
Q: The position that’s nearest and dearest to your heart, tight end. I know you brought in three.
A: We went into this class thinking we were going to sign two. We felt very strongly about all three of these guys. Henry committed first, a person we offered out of our camp. Unbelievable ball skills, showed us everything we were looking for in camp. Good developmental guy. Tough on defense. Needs to learn how to block and do that kind of stuff.
Then, Ray Hamilton. He didn’t come to our camp, but he’s probably the truest tight end out of the group. You can see him block on tape. You can see him do some of the motion stuff we do on tape. He can run, catch.
Once Ray committed, we already had Jake Duzey in camp. Again, a guy we felt strongly about out of camp. We knew Jake was close to committing, so we actually asked the other two tight ends. This is a guy we feel very strongly about. I know we said we were only going to take two of you guys, but this is a guy we feel very strongly about as a football player.
Ray Hamilton probably had the best quote on it, he said, ‘Coach, this is our team now. Whatever it takes to help us win.’ When you have guys who take that kind of attitude, you have a pretty good chance of being successful. That’s why we ended up taking three guys.
Q: I talked about that with Mika’il McCall. He basically said, “I don’t care.”
A: Guys who are good players don’t mind competing. Guys who are worried about that competition, you get a little worried about.