- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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Iowa signed 18 recruits with one more letter of intent coming in on Thursday (due to inclement weather) and two more commits enrolling later this spring due to academic issues. I caught up with Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz to discuss his 2014 class:
What areas of need do you feel you best addressed with this class?
Kirk Ferentz: We feel good about it. Every year we start out with a set of needs, perceived needs, and that's a little bit flexible as we go along. I think I'll always feel good about the group and the way it came together. We leaned a little heavier to the defensive side of the ball this time around, part by intent, part of it just worked out that way. We probably signed a DB or two more than we anticipated because that's just how the recruiting went. We had a group of players that were interested in us and we were interested in them so we had an opportunity to sign one or two more at that position.
There are six Iowans in the group -- that's the most since 2009. What's the key to keeping that in-state talent at home?
KF: We work hard at that every year and it's very, very important to us and we try to emphasize that year round. This year, in our minds, happened to be a very good in our state and a couple other guys -- that we didn't get -- are very good players as well, so the number could've been even higher.
With the season the Hawkeyes had, did you sense a different feeling on the recruiting trail?
KF: Yes and no. A lot of the recruiting and groundwork was done before this season even began but I think if you talk to our recruits, I think they all sensed from being around our players and being around the program that we had an opportunity to have some good things happen this year and we were going to push through the difficulties we had two years ago. I kind of think that was part of it. And then we've had a few commitments since midseason on, so I'm sure that was a factor with those players.
Iowa picked up four commitments in January, how much of that was the Outback Bowl? Or was that a product of something else?
KF: I think it just helps. There's not a lot of downside to winning. Our team finished strong this year, came up short in the bowl game, but it was against an excellent football team and certainly our guys competed really hard in that ball game. I think there was a lot of evidence there for them that we're back in the area we want to be in.
For the first time since 2009 the top three rated recruits were skill players. Iowa is typically known for its linemen, but how do you feel about the skill position players Iowa picked up?
KF: It sure helps to have good skill players. It makes it better for everybody. We're happy about that. A guy like [athlete and top-ranked signee] Jay Scheel, he really caught our eye when he was in 10th grade. He had a great, great year and he's an electrifying performer. Things like that, they're all good. It takes everybody so certainly the better skill guys we have, the better we feel. A lot of those defensive backs I mentioned, one thing that was attractive to us is that a lot of them could play offensively, too, which was not our intention but I think the thing we were able to see is those guys have good ball skills. You think about a guy like Micah Hyde who's playing for the Packers right now and the first thing that comes to mind with him is ball skills and his ability to do some good things with the football.
Your son Brian came to Iowa but went through the recruiting process a decade ago in 2004. How much has changed in the process since then?
KF: It was pretty easy. He really didn't have a lot of attention. I think the only home visit we had from another coach was a coach from Northern Illinois and naturally, I was on the road recruiting so I missed it. But the thing I can say on that overall is that when I came here in the winter of 1998-99, I had been out of Division I football for nine years at that point and things were dramatically different being gone nine years. And it's amazing in the last 15 years how things have changed. In particular, the last five years just this whole process has accelerated. I'm not sure it's all healthy but I'm pretty sure it's not going to change. It makes things a little more interesting and there's probably a little more projection being done by people. And anytime you get more into projections it makes things a little bit more interesting.