Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Hawkeyes making best of down year
By Billy Tucker
The cupboard is a bit bare when looking at state of Iowa in 2011. The Hawkeye State is not normally a hotbed for talent among the ESPNU 150 prospects, but it usually produces more three- and four-star depth than seen this year, but four-star ATH Christian French (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/J.F.K) and three-star prospects OG Austin Blythe (Williamsburg, Iowa/Williamsburg) and TE Henry Krieger-Coble (Mount Pleasant, Iowa/Mount Pleasant) rate in the top-30 nationally at their respective positions.
The strength of the class is at tight end with French being projected there by several programs and Krieger-Coble, who is a talented pass-catcher with a good pair of hands, getting attention. Special teams gets some love because it's one of the better years for kickers in Iowa. Marshall Koehn (Solon, Iowa/Solon), Michael Schmadeke (Waterloo, Iowa/Columbus) and Adam Vesole (Bettendorf, Iowa/Bettendorf) all have good leg strength and are solid two-star kickers. Koehen also has the ability to punt in college.
The state's top prospect is one of the better looking athletes in the Midwest. On the hoof, French is tall, well-built and rangy. His impressive size-to-speed measurables and natural athleticism make him believeable at a few different spots at the next level, but he will most likely end up on defense with his ability cover the field, ball-hawk and provide strength at the point of attack. Defense is the side of the ball that probably requires less technical refinement, and he's a bit raw as a positional prospect and will need some development. We see him at outside linebacker, where he's getting reps this year, or defensive end. Programs such as Oregon are recruiting him as a pass-catcher, which makes sense because of his great blend of size (6-foot-5, 215 pounds), athleticism, ball skills and ability to stretch the field vertically. He has offers across the country, but Iowa, Notre Dame and Oregon seem to be the schools to beat for this freakish athlete.
Remember the name
ATH Darian Cotton (Mount Pleasant, Iowa/ Community)
Cyclones fans have an under-the-radar athlete coming to Ames. Cotton is a talented, scheme-versatile defensive back prospect, which is likely the position he's being recruited for at Iowa State. He is an active corner that can close gaps with good burst and cover with above-average footwork and hip fluidity. Cotton could be an ideal nickel back because he has corner feet with safety instincts near the box. We feel he's going to be a late-bloomer physically, which is why Cotton is a name to remember. If he continues to fill out and add the necessary size and strength to complement his strong run-support skills and explosion as a closer, he could develop into a college player worthy of more than the one current BCS offer he owns. It would not surprise us if this versatile athlete gets a look on offense during his career because he's a good zone runner with cutback skills.
Taking up residence
Here are the colleges that are doing the best with prospects from Iowa.
When you look at the lack of top-level prospects from the state of Iowa, it makes the job Kirk Ferentz is doing with the Hawkeyes program all the more impressive. Iowa recruits the Midwest well and excels at developing talent, particularly linemen. While the homegrown talent is not usually strong, it does help that the Hawkeyes usually retain the state's premier players with little competition from the Iowa State. This year, Iowa holds commitments from two of the state's three top prospects (Blythe and Krieger-Coble) and has a good shot at landing French. Blythe is good at pulling and trapping and could develop into a guard or center for the Hawkeyes. Krieger-Coble is a sure-handed possession receiver, but will need to improve his in-line blocking.
Resurgence on the field, including a bowl victory last year, has helped Paul Rhoads and the Cyclones put together a solid class. They are not going to beat out Iowa on the in-state recruiting trail, but have landed some quality residual talent. Cotton is a versatile sleeper and potential late-bloomer. Iowa State holds commitments from two in-state defensive ends, Devin Lemke (Iowa Falls, Iowa/Iowa Falls Alden) and Jevohn Miller (Brooklyn, Iowa/BGM Community) and a pledge from offensive tackle Brock Dagel (Cherokee, Iowa/Washington), its first 2011 commitment.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school levels.