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Hawkeyes Live & Die by the Two Star

Signing Day is nearly its end for 2013 and fans are already beginning to turn their attention to the Class of 2014 and Spring Football.

Before all thoughts leave this year’s recruiting class, consider a few things; Iowa’s football program, during the Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz era’s, has been built upon the backs of mostly unheralded players. The number of pedigreed prospects who sign with Iowa is few and even fewer are those who see senior day. The majority of the players who perform well and over time for Iowa are the players that few high major programs were after. Players for whom their other offers were from leagues like the MAC.

I’ve written it before and I am writing it again; Iowa has to work harder and smarter than the majority of their conference peers if they are going to fare well in the Big Ten.

On a given year there will be four to six prospects in the state who are BCS conference caliber players. Some years may see a few more than that while other years will see less. The state of Iowa is at a latitude that does not offer the opportunity for spring football like they have in the southern states. Football just isn’t the religion in this region that it is in the south and its never going to be. Iowa is always going to have to go recruit in other states where it isn’t the household name or ‘the’ program players grow up following or cheering for, which means it will lose far more recruiting battles than it wins.

It’s the diamonds in the rough, the players with the chips on their shoulders who have done well at Iowa and a collection of such over achievers which has allowed Iowa to put together some exciting and successful seasons through the years.

Along with that comes the razor thing edge between success and struggles. The Iowa program has done an outstanding job of developing off the radar talent, so good they are one of the best at it over the past decade. They’ve turned unheralded classes into Big Ten bullies.

Recruiting at Iowa is simply going to ‘trade in a range’ over the long haul and that will typically be somewhere between the 30th and 40th best class in the nation and the 6th to 8th best class in the Big Ten.

This year’s Iowa class is trending towards outlier status, as it’s going to setting somewhere in the low 50′s nationally and 9th, 10th or 11th in the Big Ten. That’s happened before and it will happen again.

It happening this year, on the heels of a 4-8 season, has fans a little more agitated than normal.

Rewind to February of 2009. Iowa was coming off a 9-4 season and finished with a great deal of momentum. Fans were optimistic about the future of the program, even though the previous three seasons saw them on the brink of despair and just four months prior some fans were calling for Kirk Ferentz’s head when Iowa got off to a 3-3 and then 5-4 start to that season. Iowa won 19 games between 2005-2007, with 2005′s 7-6 record being a big disappointment for a team that was ranked highly to begin the year and with 2007 being a year where Iowa missed a bowl game.

Iowa has won 19 games over the past three seasons, the 2010 season was enormously disappointing and the end of that three year run saw Iowa miss a bowl game this year.

But again, circle back around to what the last four games of the 2008 season did for the paradigm of the fans; it mean’t everything. Ferentz went from nearing goat status to G.O.A.T. debates in two months.

Iowa’s recruiting class for 2009? It was ranked dead last in the Big Ten, which is really the only ranking that matters because 66 percent of your games are from the Big Tend and 25 percent of your games should be scheduled wins.

Were fans worrying at that time? Not really. “Ferentz knows what he is doing. In Kirk we Trust.” Those were the refrains.

The reality is this year’s Iowa class looks similar to that year’s Iowa class in ranking compared to the rest of the league and it’s also the second lowest rated Iowa class among Big Ten peers since the 2001 class.

Iowa has been and will continue to be a developmental program. To be a successful developmental program you need players on campus to develop, which has been the biggest enemy for Iowa these past few years; attrition.

Take a look at these numbers compiled by HawkeyeGameFilm. He shows you the legend at the top, evaluating Iowa’s two-star commitments based on the type of career production they put forth.

0 – Means the player was a Non-Factor on the field
1 – On Two-deep/Special Teams
2 – Part time starter/heavy contributor
3 – Full time starter
4 – Multi-year starter/All Conference Player

^ – On an NFL roster or practice squad
* – Transferred elsewhere or did finish career at Iowa

2006
Paul Chaney – 2
Ryan Donahue – 4^
Troy Johnson – 2
Karl Klug – 4^
Derrick Smith – 0
Amari Spievey – 4^
Lance Tillison – 1
Brett Morse – 3

Hit Ratio ’06: 7/8

2007
Mike Daniels – 4^
Zach Furlong – 0
Adam Gettis – 4^
Dezman Moses 1*^
Allen Reisner – 4^
Abe Satterfield – 0

Hit Ratio ’07: 4/6

2008
Steve Bigach – 3
Greg Castillo – 2
Joe Gaglione – 3
J.D. Griggs – 0
Jewel Hampton – 2*^
William Lowe – 1*
Casey MacMillan – 0
Trent Mossbrucker – 0
Shane Prater – 0
Adam Robinson – 3*
Jason Semmes – 0
Jack Swanson – 1

Hit Ratio ’08: 7/12

2009
Dominick Alvis – 3
Joshua Brown – 0
Scott Covert – 0
Shane Dibona – 1*
Dakota Getz – 0
Tyler Harrell – 0
Marty Hopkins – 0
Micah Hyde – 4^
Matt Murphy – 0
Stephane Ngoumou – 0
Jake Reisen – 0
Anthony Schiavone 0
Brett Van Sloten – 3

Hit Ratio ’09: 3/13

2010
Anthony Hitchens – 4
Kevonte Martin-Manley – 4
Tanner Miller – 3
Johnny Mullings – 0
Austin Vier – 0

Hit Ratio ’10: 3/5

2011
Damon Bullock – ?
Jordan Canzeri – ?
Marcus Collins – ?
Johnny Lowdermilk – ?
Dean Tsopanides – ?

Hit Ratio ’11: ?

2012
Kevin Buford – ?
Conner Kornbrath – ?
Nate Meier – ?
Reid Sealby – ?
Laron Taylor – ?

Hit Ratio ’12: ?

Iowa has had more hits than misses on the two-star front in recent years, save the 2009 class. That class has been decimated by injuries, transfers and overall attrition. By the way that’s your senior class next year, folks. Iowa has done a very good job of developing off the radar players into contributors and even all conference types. But the 2009 wipeout really hurt this program in 2012 and will likely do so again in 2013.

This, from HawkeyeGameFilm, who played at the BCS level: “I’d guess no one has been better at creating NFL players from two-star talent than Iowa. The 2008 and 2009 classes appear to be years where the law of averages caught up with them. The way Ferentz runs the Iowa program, they need the gaps filled in by those two-star kids. The good news is they hit on 3 of 5 in 2010 and I think they could do well with the 2011 class, too.”

I’ll also dive in and do some ‘four-star’ analysis in the coming days as well, but this data reinforces a few things; the Iowa coaches can spot and identify talent and then develop it. That, and Iowa is always going to have to work smarter and harder than their peers to get over and cannot afford so many ‘misses’ or such great levels of attrition in the same class as what has befallen the 2009 class (which also happened to the 2005 class).

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