IOWA CITY -- As if Iowa and Iowa State needed more oomph.
Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads pointed out during his national signing day news conference that Iowa made a last-minute effort to land wide receiver Allen Lazard, a 6-5, 205-pounder who Rivals ranks as the No. 1 recruit in Iowa. Notre Dame also made a play for Lazard, whose dad attended ISU and whose brother is a current Cyclone.
Rhoads showed Lazard's signed letter of intent to gathered media.
"He’s not going to another school in this state, who feverishly tried to call him about a half a dozen times in the last week,” Rhoads said.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was asked during his news conference if Iowa has gone after more committed recruits in recent years.
"We're not big on knocking on other people's doors unless we have a reason to," Ferentz said. "If someone is giving us information or if a prospect lets us know he still may be open to some thought, then we might. We're not big on that. Not a lot of upside for us in doing that."
Recruiting is a blood sport. While Ferentz talked about the 18 recruits who signed with the Hawkeyes on Wednesday, ESPN devoted 11 hours -- on TV and in a row -- to its signing day special. Iowa felt the sting of the de-commitment early in the 2014 class when Cedar Falls lineman Ross Pierschbacher dropped Iowa for Alabama. Iowa benefited from de-commitments with quarterback Tyler Wiegers (Rutgers) and safety Miles Taylor (Georgia Tech).
The Hawkeyes expect to gain another commitment today with St. Louis running back Markel Smith, who once was committed to Missouri. (Smith didn't sign his letter of intent Wednesday, because he attended a faith retreat at his school. He told HawkeyeReport.com that he will sign this morning.)
Recruiting is a dog-eat-dog world and everyone is wearing filet mignon boxers. Case in point: Linebacker Ben Niemann signed with the Hawkeyes. His dad, Jay, is defensive coordinator at Northern Illinois, where Ben once was committed. It's obviously a healthy situation, but kind of weird at the same time.
"It was a tough position for everybody," Ferentz said. "But for Ben and Jay and the family, that ball is in their court all the way, so I just remember talking to Jay after Ben committed, and that's one of those deals. He was happy, but obviously sad for obvious reasons."
In Wiegers' case, he committed to Rutgers and stopped talking to Iowa. Wiegers, ranked as a four-star pro-style QB by Rivals, de-committed and was happy Iowa was still an option.
"I told them [Iowa] I was going to stick with Rutgers," said Wiegers, who passed for 2,093 yards and 24 TDs as a senior last season at Detroit (Mich.) Country Day. "They wished me the best of luck, if you ever decide to change your mind, we're here. [Offensive coordinator Greg] Davis said they weren't going to take a QB early, so that offer was going to stand. Luckily, we still had that option open."
With Smith, who rushed for 2,416 yards and 33 TDs for St. John Vianney (St. Louis, Mo.) last season, it was trust.
"I built a great trust level with the coaches," Smith said. "I believed 100 percent in what they were telling me. They were 100 percent honest and that's what kept me with them."
-- Ferentz said Wednesday his 2012 team that finished 4-8 was the thinnest roster Iowa has had during his bowl seasons, basically since 2oo1. A big part of that was attrition. Twenty-two of the 45 recruits Iowa signed in 2008 and '09 didn't finish their careers at Iowa.
In the last four recruiting classes, Iowa has lost 21 players combined.
"We're trying to find out is this guy going to have the kind of pride and work ethic and perseverance it takes to earn a degree at a Big Ten university and also play in a program that's going to demand a lot of hard effort and work," Ferentz said. "So, the better you can predict those things and then you never know about distractions that pop up in young people's lives and how are they going to handle those things.
"But attrition is our No. 1 enemy. They can't get their degree here and be successful players if they don't stay with the program."
-- Iowa is short on offensive tackles right now, but, no, Cedar Rapids Xavier prep Matt Nelson is not headed to that position. The only position that's been discussed with the 6-8, 255-pounder is defensive end. No offensive tackle and no tight end.
"I was talking to someone from a pretty prestigious school who thought he was as good a tight end prospect as they've had," Ferentz said. "His high school coach relayed [Duane Schulte] that to me. I could see that."
Nelson picked Iowa over Notre Dame and Stanford, which recruited Nelson as a tight end.
One thing Ferentz loved about Nelson was the fact that he agreed to go through Iowa's full-padded camp even after Iowa had offered and he accepted a scholarship. That's not what recruits with big-time options usually do.
"Just the way he carried himself and the way he wanted to be coached and competed that day, it was really impressive to us," Ferentz said. "Our intentions are wholly to keep him on that defensive end position, and we're just awfully excited to have him join the class."
Here's some sound from ISU coach Paul Rhoads' news conference today (courtesy of Keith Murphy, WHO-HD13 sports anchor)
Here's Rhoads on WR Allen Lazard's commitment and who came after him.Lazard is off-limits to the media next season. (All true freshman at Iowa are off limits to the media.)