Iowa football players begin working toward the 2018 season today, the first day of offseason work for the Hawkeyes.
The team met for the first time since winning the Pinstripe Bowl on Tuesday, the first day of spring semester classes at Iowa and the starting point for a group that already includes four members of the Hawkeyes’ 2018 recruiting class.
Iowa traditionally does not add a number of mid-year enrollees to its roster but two mid-year high school graduates, a prep school signee and a sophomore junior college transfer are expected to be part of the Hawkeyes’ roster this spring.
Linebacker Dillon Doyle and quarterback Spencer Petras, both mid-year high school graduates, are among those players expected to go through their first offseason drills today.
The group also includes receiver Nico Ragaini, joining the program after spending the fall with the prep school program at Old Avon Farms in Connecticut, and defensive lineman Daviyon Nixon, who spent the fall semester at Iowa Western Community College.
Collectively, the four form the largest group of mid-year enrollees Iowa has had in the 20 seasons Kirk Ferentz has led the program.
By comparison, Ohio State expects nine newcomers to join its program this spring, Michigan State will add seven and Michigan, which had 11 early enrollees a year ago, expects to add just three this year.
The four newest Hawkeyes arrive with different expectations.
Having completed needed coursework at the high school level, Doyle and Petras are simply looking to get acclimated to the college game and expectations during the spring semester.
Doyle, an Iowa City West graduate and the son of Iowa strength and conditioning coordinator Chris Doyle, grew up around the Hawkeye program but is expected to work toward making strength and weight gains on his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame.
Petras, a 6-5, 225-pound native of Greenbrae, California, sees it as an opportunity to immerse himself in the program and its playbook after flipping his verbal commitment from Oregon State to Iowa in December.
“I see more and more quarterbacks doing it, enrolling early to give themselves a jump on getting to know the playbook and the coaches,’’ Petras said. “It’s something I started talking about with my high school coaches more than a year ago. It makes a lot of sense to me.’’
With Nate Stanley returning for his junior season at quarterback, Petras doesn’t arrive with expectations beyond acclimating himself to the college game this season.
“Mostly, it’s going to be a chance for me to get settled in, figure out how things are done and then participate in spring ball,’’ Petras said. “I’m going in with the mindset that I have a lot to learn.’’
Ragaini, a record-setting high school receiver from West Haven, Connecticut, spent last fall at the prep school level looking for an opportunity that came last week when Iowa offered him a scholarship on Sunday.
He committed the following day and arrived in Iowa City last Thursday, prepared to begin practices this week after accomplishing all he could at the prep school level.
“I’m coming out there with the idea that I’m going to be ready to work and put myself in a position to help the team in the fall,’’ Ragaini said. “I want to accomplish that if possible.’’
Nixon arrives with the same objectives after spending the fall semester at Iowa Western. The 6-4, 285-pound Kenosha, Wisconsin, native signed with Iowa a year ago, but did not qualify academically.
He received a waiver from the NCAA that allowed him to join the Hawkeyes program now after completing academic work in the fall at the junior college level.
One of only a handful of players to enroll early with the Iowa program, James Daniels believes benefits for the four players who are enrolling early this year extend beyond the confines of the Iowa football facility.
Daniels talked about his own experience before he announced plans earlier this month to forego his senior season of eligibility and declare for the 2018 NFL Draft.
He arrived at Iowa in the spring of 2015, the 17-year-old younger brother of then-Hawkeye running back LeShun Daniels but those family ties didn’t lead to the biggest benefit Daniels realized during that spring semester.
“Mostly, the biggest thing was just getting used to the academic end of it and being away from home,’’ Daniels said. “By that fall, I not only already knew my way around the football program pretty well but I had a handle on the academics and the campus.’’
Daniels believes that did put him in a position to compete earlier in his career.
“I think it gave me a bit of a head start over the guys who came in during the summer,’’ Daniels said. “I had already been through spring practice and meetings. That gave me an understanding of what the expectations were and how things worked.’’
He even had a chance to return to his family’s Ohio home and attend his senior prom.
“I didn’t miss out. I was able to get to that, too. It worked out for me. For some guys, it probably wouldn’t,’’ Daniels said. “But for me, it was all good. I think it helped position me to make an impact earlier in my career. It’s probably not for everyone, but for me I feel like it was beneficial.’’