This is part III of an interview with Iowa recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach Eric Johnson (and I am now officially out of pictures).
Q: What was the recruiting climate like this year? It’s always competitive, was it more sharky this year?
A: It even happened today, someone tried to nail us.
You just have to be careful what you say. You still have to compete on the field, too. It’s always a good practice. The less you say, the less you have to take back. We’ve had some things we’ve had to deal with off the field, and I think it’s a credit to coach Ferentz and our staff and our recruits for sticking with us. That again shows the strength of this class. We didn’t really lose anybody.
This is our family. We are here together. We’re going to compete together and we’re going to win together. That’s why I think this is a very good class.
The guys who stuck with us, stuck with us through a lot of tough things. A lot of teams were coming at them in different directions and they tried to nail us. They held strong, their families held strong. I think that shows why this is going to be a very good class.
Q: Was there a player who picked up momentum during recruiting? Sometimes, I imagine the board changes.
A: You’re right. Canzeri came to our attention three weeks ago, it might even have been two weeks ago. He was the most recent.
Did we have a guy like [former TE] Allen Reisner or even [QB] James Vandenberg, where you watched every game of the season to build a case? No, we didn’t really have a guy like that in this class.
Q: Is there is a surprise guy? Maybe one you didn’t think you were going to get and then did?
A: I think Darian Cooper was a guy we needed and we were hoping we were going to get. We put every bit of effort into getting him and it was great last night when we found out we were getting him. Alright, it’s done.
Q: He basically asked Twitter last night, help me out here?
A: I don’t think he necessarily made his decision based on based on that.
Q: It was kind of fun to watch Tuesday night. And then you have Torrey Campbell today using UStream to broadcast his signing ceremony on the internet.
A: They’re all smarter than us. I still can’t figure out how to do any of that stuff.
Q: Is there a guy on the guy you found this year and fought for?
A: I didn’t do a good job recruiting this year. I got Coe and that was it. You’ve got to ask Darrell. He recruited our whole class basically.
Q: Would he be the staff MVP today?
A: Darrell Wilson is definitely the staff MVP this year. When you look at it, you’ve got seven of the guys. He got over a quarter of our class. That’s huge. That’s hard to do.
Lester did a great job in Illinois. Reese [Morgan, O-line coach] did a great job in Iowa. It wasn’t a huge year in Iowa, but Reese got both the guys we went after. Oh no, we did lose [Christian] French [Cedar Rapids Kennedy athlete who signed with Oregon]. Reese did a great job in Iowa again.
People don’t realize how much of the roster Reese brings in with Iowa walk-ons. Those guys end up playing for us.
Q: What about some trends? It sounds as though some kids will wait to sign their letters of intent. What about that?
A: I don’t think that’s a good trend. Some of these kids have been recruited now for two years. If you can’t make up your mind in two years time . . . I don’t know.
Q: What about oversigning? That’s a huge topic this year. As a Big Ten coach, do you feel hamstrung by the rules?
A: No. I was in the SEC (Johnson spent three seasons as a GA at Vanderbilt), when you oversign, usually the guys you’re oversigning you’ll have a place for in a junior college. You’re not going to get the kid. But it is a little bit nerve wracking. You’ve got to know they’re not going to make it, because if something happens . . . At Vanderbilt, you couldn’t really sign a guy who wasn’t going to make it anyway, but I’m sure they know those guys are going to qualify.
I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, really. I don’t think that’s as hot of a topic as trying to get that early signing day.
Q: I guess you probably wouldn’t have gone through the stress with Jake Rudock?
A: It’s not necessarily losing players. I still don’t think universities see it. If you sign a kid in December, the amount of money they’re going to save without us having to go out and babysit a guy, those lat three or four weeks, it’s unbelievable how much money you would save.
From our standpoint, then you know whether a kid is in or out. Most of the kids are making these visits in-season. Basically now, summers have become unofficial official visits. So, they’re getting the information they need at that time. They’re are opportunities to take the official visits in-season or the first three weeks of December. If you an early signing date, the same time junior college kids sign in December, they’ve got plenty of opportunities to make those decisions. Coaches don’t have to travel to go babysit these kids, stay in hotels, use the airlines, everything.
Q: Plus, for lack of a better word, it takes some of the shadiness out of it. Some of the backbiting that’s got to drive you guys insane.
A: Right. Exactly.