Nathan Bazata didn’t come with a mile-high stack of offers. In fact, it was Iowa and South Dakota State.
Bazata is the exact player Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz talked about last spring when he talked about a renewed effort to unearth recruits who aren’t on everyone’s list. Just after spring football started, Ferentz moved Eric Johnson from tight ends to recruiting coordinator and defensive line assistant with the emphasis being “recruiting coordinator,” a title Johnson has held since 2003.
Ferentz talked about getting Johnson on the road a little more during the season.
“If you look at the guys we look at, I think that could be a real value for us,” Ferentz said. “The obvious players, the Tony Moeaki, it doesn’t take a long time to figure those guys out. If this will help get us another Karl Klug-type guy or two per class, that would really be a benefit.”
Bazata could be -- with a lot of weightroom and workout diligence and some essential quick-twitch muscle -- that Karl Klug-type.
D-line coach Reese Morgan found Bazata in Howells, Neb., where Bazata has been a dominant force on the eight-man level. Last season, he recorded 45 tackles, including nine sacks and 11 tackles for loss, with one touchdown one recovered fumble. During his junior year, Bazata’s Howells High School team beat Giltner in the state semifinals. Giltner was led by Drew Ott, who’ll be a sophomore D-end at Iowa this fall.
Bazata also has finished second at heavyweight in the state tournament the last two years, finishing his junior season with a 39-1 record. This week, Bazata is ranked No. 1 in Class D and had a 29-0 record. Last spring, Bazata attended an all-Nebraska football combine in Lincoln and led all participants with 26 reps of 185 pounds on the bench press.
He bench presses 375 pounds and squats 480, and he has a 31 ½-inch vertical. Bazata also runs the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds. Put that on a 6-2, 280-pound frame and you have the makings of a beastly D-lineman.
“What really sold me was when I got to sit down with three players, two d-linemen and one o-lineman, and just talk to them about things,” Bazata told HawekeyeReport.com. “They gave their honest opinion about the coaches and what happens at Iowa. That made me want to do it [commit] right away.
“I’m just going to bust my butt in the weight room and expect for anything to happen,” Bazata said.
Scouting snippet (from ESPN.com)
The Positive: He displays the ability to fire out low and play with good pad level. He does a very good job of shooting his hands and can extend and consistently create separation. He displays good upper body strength. You see hip roll when he engages blockers and he can stand blockers up and hold his ground at the point-of-attack. He has the tools to be a stout interior run stuffer. Will flash the ability to be disruptive with penetration at times. Displays adequate range and short-area change-of-direction skills, but plays with a good motor and will make some plays off of second-effort. He is a physical wrap-up tackler.
The Pause: With a nice initial burst he flashes the ability to quickly attack half-a-man, but you see little in the way of hand usage and he needs to develop the use of his weapons. Bazata will face a sizeable jump in competition and will likely benefit from at least a red-shirt year to allow him to continue to physically develop and adjust to the change in competition and the shift to 11-man ball. He is a strong kid who is a solid football player and with some patience could develop into a good productively steady interior player at the college level.
What Iowa said . . .
Recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson: "He's a very good wrestler and plays with great leverage. That's something we kind of like about him, kind of in the Mitch King, Matt Kroul type of mold." Small school . . . "We had Chad Greenway from nine-man football, so we had success with those guys before. If you can play football, you can play football. It doesn't matter what size of school you come from."
What Rivals.com said . . .
Midwest recruiting coordinator Josh Helmholdt: "On film, the tools are there. A lot of people overdo the level of competition in high school and how that translates into what type of college football it produces. Herschel Walker played in the lowest level of Georgia high school football and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy his freshman year. A football player is a football player. Bazata is a football player." Wrestlers as D-tackles . . . "I love wrestlers in that defensive tackle spot, because they understand leverage, they understand how to move their opponent, they understand pad level. There's a lot of that in wrestling. I think a defensive tackle with a wrestling background has a definite advantage."
What I think (FWIW, obviously) . . .
This is ground Iowa has covered -- the small-school, small-town lineman type who owns his level of competition. Bazata (pronounced BUDGET-uh) also has that connection to Ott. Iowa has dotted the Nebraska map for recruits. It's obviously a jump in competition, no question. A redshirt year is likely. Bazata might not have the technical expertise a prep from a larger school has. What Iowa is buying is the small-town midwestern work ethic, drive to succeed in wrestling and the DT starter kit of a body.