There has been an ocean of skepticism that has bordered on cynicism with Iowa football and retention.
The skepti-cyni is earned. Iowa lost Marcus Coker this offseason. He literally was a poster player for the blend of academics and football. An investigation that didn’t lead to an arrest and a reinstatement process that Coker didn’t agree with, and he’s gone.
OK, enough. Iowa will have its retention problems. Every FBS program does. It’s breakage. It’s part of doing business.
Maybe, just maybe, Reese Fleming is a recruit you all can simply throw yourselves behind and cheer to your hearts out for.
Comes from a tough neighborhood in Chicago. Dad has been in and out of jail and not really a factor in his life. He was raised by his mom and grandmother. He takes school seriously and takes his athletics seriously. He tore an ACL this season and is ahead of schedule in the rehab, challenging Chicago Curie tracksters to races.
There might be some bumps on the road. It’s a five-year deal during what can be a dramatic portion of a young person’s life. Throw college life into the glare of Big Ten college football and you might pick up on a few blemishes.
I’ve only talked to Reese (real name is Maurice, but he said everyone calls him “Reese”) on the phone, but I’ve talked to his prep coach Tyson LeBlanc.
Let down your skepti-cyni for a minute. I think you’ll have fun with this kid.
From ESPN.com: Fleming is essentially a wide receiver or safety prospect lined up as a Wildcat QB for his skills as a runner. He is very gifted and versatile and displays the type of speed, quickness and change-of-direction skills you like to see. He has good size, adequate bulk and a muscular frame. He looks like a wide receiver with scatback-type run talent. Most of his production comes from his legs and he is a not a candidate to remain at quarterback at the next level, but has upside to develop as a big play wide receiver. He is a player with outstanding initial burst as a runner. Reaches top gear rapidly and possesses lateral agility to stop and start with little wasted motion. At QB he has repeatedly shown he can pull a rabbit out of a hat when scrambling, buying time and making people miss with his legs to keep plays alive and make plays on the ground. He is a smooth and fluid athlete in his overall movement skills and his top end speed is very good. He possesses all the physical traits you would like to see in a wide receiver or defensive back. Obviously Fleming will need to make a position transition. He has got to develop route structure and refinement at all levels of the passing game. He can win with pure athleticism at this level, but will need more to his game to up his play in college. He may be flying under the radar of BCS level programs at this time. Good player with positional versatility.
What Iowa coaches said
Head coach Kirk Ferentz: Maurice, as you probably well know, is a really charismatic young guy. He’s got a really special personality to him. If you meet his mom and his grandmother, you get a little clue and insight in terms of where that comes from.
We were very impressed with Maurice. He came to one of our one-day camps back in June, and he won all of us over that way, offense and defense. Then we got to know Maurice, and it was even more we felt better about everything. It was really exciting for us. That’s important. A nice sidebar or a nice benefit we enjoyed is that Maurice is pretty active, and players seem to know players. He was really active on the recruiting front. He’s got a great personality. He’s pretty persuasive. I don’t think there’s any question he helped us a little bit with some of the other guys and we appreciate that.
Recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson: He’s another guy who could play on either side of the ball. Tremendous personality. Kid loves football. This kid kind of a reminds me of Jovon Johnson (former Hawkeye who was named the CFL’s defensive player of the year this season). A gym rat type of guy. Electric personality.
What I think
Again, I can totally see and understand Iowa starting Fleming at corner. Ferentz has consistently said over his 13-plus seasons that corner is the toughest position to recruit right next to defensive tackle. If you find a the right body type and body control, try that prospect at corner. You can always move him.
Iowa was the first school that tried to recruit Fleming as a corner. All of his other offers were as receiver except for Georgia Tech, which wanted him to play option QB.
Fleming went to Iowa’s summer camp and showed he could play corner.
“I know he was a little nervous about it,” Curie coach Tyson LeBlanc said. “His thought process was, I’m an offensive-minded guy, I don’t know if I can make the transition. The coaching staff at Iowa did a great job of selling the transition to him. He did play free safety for us.
“The thing I tried to stress to him was, you can be an offensive-minded guy and play defense. I use the analogy of Deion Sanders. He wasn’t trying to knock anyone out, but if the ball was in the air he was going to go get it.”
He will tackle at Iowa. Phil Parker defensive backs tackle (and, as DC, you can bet Parker will still imprint that on the secondary).