There are always a few surprise schools when it comes to recruiting (this year, Nebraska and Arizona jump to mind). But while it's not a surprise to find Iowa in the top 25 of Scout.com's national recruiting rankings, it is a surprise to find them in the top five.
Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz has put together a balanced and talented class, especially on offense. The O-line in particular stands out: tackle Dace Richardson (Wheaton, Ill.), guard Dan Doering (Barrington, Ill.) and center Rafael Eubanks (St. Paul, Minn.) are three of the top prospects in the country. Richardson has perhaps the most upside of any offensive-line recruit. He has played the game for only two years and he gets better every day. Doering and Eubanks are powerful run blockers.
Tight end Tony Moeaki (Wheaton, Ill.) is the nation's top tight end, and he's as solid as they come. He already has good size and soft hands: He's talented enough to play in the slot. Jake Christensen (Lockport, Ill.) is a strong-armed quarterback prospect who doesn't have great size, but he does have a strong arm and can move. There are two other steals in this class: running back Kalvin Bailey (Seffner, Fla.) and wide receiver Trey Stross (Avon Lake, Ohio). Bailey is a Jerome Bettis-type back who can move a pile and run between the tackles. He also could emerge as a future fullback. Stross has good size and super athletic ability -- he's a 6-foot-11 high jumper.
Where will Iowa finish on National Signing Day? It's too early to tell; but it will certainly finish in the top 10, perhaps in the top five. It just goes to show you that this Hawkeye program is certainly on the rise and will continue to challenge for Big Ten supremacy on and off the field.
Florida, South Carolina, Notre Dame crank it up
Who will fare the best among the 22 schools that made coaching changes? Perhaps South Carolina. New Gamecock head coach Steve Spurrier had a rough December in terms of recruiting battles. Immediately after accepting the job, he lost the state's top prospect -- C.J. Byrd (North Augusta, S.C.) -- to Georgia. Then he went after regional big-name quarterbacks like Jonathan Crompton (Waynesville, N.C.), Cameron Sexton (Laurinburg, N.C.) and Joe Cox (Charlotte, N.C.), but couldn't persuade any of them to commit. But the Gamecock coaches kept at it hard, and now they're seeing some fruits of their labor. They recently picked up a few good commitments from wide receiver Jared Cook (Suwannee, Ga.), safeties Gerrod Sinclair (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Yvan Banag (Buford, Ga.), as well as defensive linemen Lemuel Jeanpierre (Orlando, Fla.) and Kerry Bonds (Tallahassee, Fla.). Last week was even bigger, with South Carolina reeling in commitments from linebacker Marvin Sapp (Jacksonville, Fla.), wide receiver Carlos Thomas (College Park, Ga.) and running back Brandyn Young (Tucker, Ga.). The Gamecocks also were able to convince North Carolina quarterback commitment Cade Thompson (Maryville, Tenn.) to switch teams.
Things are starting to heat up in Gainesville as well, and it looks like the Gators will do better than most programs that went through coaching changes. New head coach Urban Meyer quickly reeled in quarterback Josh Portis (Woodland Hills, Calif.) and offensive lineman Eddie Haupt (Merritt Island, Fla.) right before Christmas. More recently, he landed wide receiver Nyan Boateng (Brooklyn, N.Y.). This past Sunday was huge for UF, as the team landed five commitments. The interesting twist is that four of the pledges previously had committed elsewhere. Safety Dorian Munroe (Miami) was headed to Florida State, linebacker Ryan Stamper (Jacksonville, Fla.) to Auburn, wide receiver Eric Sledge (Apopka, S.C.) to South Carolina and kicker John Phillips (Wellington, Fla.) to Purdue. The Gators also landed wide receiver David Nelson (Wichita Falls, Texas), who previously had committed to Notre Dame and former coach Tyrone Willingham.
But like Florida, Notre Dame has picked up some big commitments and has done it while new head coach Charlie Weis still roams the sidelines for the AFC Champion New England Patriots. The Irish have locked down commitments from such four-star recruits as offensive linemen Paul Duncan (Dallas, Ga.) and Michael Turkovich (Valley, Pa.), wide receiver D.J. Hord (Kansas City, Mo.), safety Ray Herring (Melbourne, Fla.) and defensive tackle Patrick Kuntz (Indianapolis).
Other News and Notes
Staying in the South, Georgia picked up two big-time defensive commitments from cornerback Bryan Evans (Jacksonville, Fla.) and linebacker Tavares Kearney (Tucker, Ga.). These are two super athletes... On Friday, one of the nation's most sought after running backs, Jonathan Stewart (Lacey, Wash.), committed to Oregon over Washington State. Stewart is the nation's No. 3-rated running back, according to Scout.com... Are we seeing the sign of the times at Ole Miss? First, new Rebel head coach Ed Orgeron beats Tennessee for five-star offensive-line prospect Michael Oher (Memphis, Tenn.). Then he got defensive end/linebacker Alonzo Horton (New Orleans) away from Auburn over the course of a weekend... Stanford picked up a dynamite defensive end in Will Powers (San Mateo, Calif.)... Jonathan Hannah (Hope Mills, N.C.), the country's No. 5-rated tight end, committed to Virginia Tech... Has anyone noticed that Southern Cal has commitments from the nation's top ranked quarterback (Mark Sanchez) and wide receiver (Patrick Turner) as well as the No. 2-ranked linebacker (Rey Maulauga) and defensive end (Averell Spicer)?... As of Monday morning, Tennessee (No.1), Michigan (No. 2), Georgia (No. 3), Oklahoma (No. 4) and Iowa (No. 5) were the top five recruiting classes in the country, according to Scout.com.