The father-son thing is tricky in college football.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz’s three sons have played for him at Iowa, with Steve beginning his redshirt freshman year this fall. Ferentz has always maintained a big part of the reason it worked was that all three were offensive linemen and not a higher profile position like quarterback. Former Colorado coach Dan Hawkins admitted that he regretted recruiting his son, Cody, to play QB for him at the school.
It’s an intensely personal decision with no guarantees.
That’s why when Ben Niemann committed to Iowa on Friday night, he told HawkeyeReport.com he wasn’t really ready to talk about it. His father, Jay, is the defensive coordinator at Northern Illinois, which also happens to be Iowa’s opponent in the season opener Aug. 31 at Kinnick Stadium. Ben Niemann committed to the Huskies early in recruiting.
“With the situation the way it is, at this time my family and I have decided that I’m not going to answer any questions on my decision,” Niemann told HawkeyeReport.com.
The 6-3, 185-pound outside linebacker prospect added that there’s no looking back and the decision is final. ”I’m 100 percent committed to Iowa,” he said.
Niemann, played wide receiver for Sycamore and racked up 876 receiving yards with 11 touchdowns, told Rivals.com in February that he did remain open to offers, but only from “big-time schools.”
“That’s something that I do think about from time to time to be honest,” Niemann said. “It would take a really big-time offer for me to consider any other school. You just don’t get a chance to play for your dad at the college level everyday and that’s also a big deal as well for me.”
Niemann stuck to the plan of attending a handful of college camps. He went to Iowa’s and came away with on offer June 23. He started the camp as a wide receiver, but he told HR.com that Iowa coaches liked his athleticism and wanted to see him at linebacker. Niemann showed up on a Wednesday and left on Friday with an offer. Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan, and Illinois State offered Niemann as a wide receiver. Iowa was his only offer at linebacker.
Jay Niemann played linebacker at Iowa State. Both of his parents graduated from ISU.
“It’s tough because I mean I’ve always kind of wanted to play for my dad,” Niemann said shortly after he received the Iowa offer. “Now that a bigger offer has come, it’s tough. It’s just something that I’m going to have to sit down with my family and discuss.”
Niemann played wide receiver for two years at Sycamore. He started as a QB, but Sycamore had a prospect who ended up at North Dakota. Niemann spent his freshman season in Abilene, Texas, where he quarterbacked the Wylie Bulldogs on the freshman level. His dad then was the co-defensive coordinator at Hardin-Simmons University.
Niemann is the 12th commitment for Iowa. He’s the first from the state of Illinois, where Iowa usually makes some waves. Former assistant coach Lester Erb recruited Illinois for the Hawkeyes for several years. Those duties transitioned to Jim Reid, who was hired in February to coach inside linebackers.
Ross Pierschbacher, OL, 6-4, 275 Cedar Falls High School ****
Jay Scheel, QB 6-2, 170 Union High School (La Porte City) ****
Lucas LeGrand, OL, 6-5, 260 Dubuque Senior High School ***
Omar Truitt, CB, 5-11, 185, St. John’s College High School (Washington D.C.) ***
C.J. Hilliard, RB, 5-9, 192, St. Xavier High School (Cincinnati, Ohio) ***
Jyaz Jones, S, 6-0, 172, South Oak Cliff High School (Dallas, Texas) **
Jameer Outsey, OLB, 6-3, 220, Franklin High School (Somerset, N.J.) ***
Keegan Render, OL, 6-3, 310, Indianola High School ***
Matt Nelson, DE, 6-7, 249, Xavier High School (Cedar Rapids) ***
Mick Ellis, K, 5-9, 185, Lovejoy High School (Lucas, Texas) No rating
Terrance Harris, DE, 6-2, 240, Paramus Catholic High School (Paramus, N.J.) **
Ben Niemann, OLB, 6-3, 185, Sycamore (Ill.) High School **
* — Rivals.com star rating