As Iowa tight end George Kittle was raising a few eyebrows with strong performances at the NFL Combine over the weekend, Hawkeye coaches were watching the potential next generation of players to take the field at Kinnick Stadium.
One of four Hawkeye seniors participating in the NFL scouting event that ended Monday in Indianapolis, Kittle demonstrated that his skills extend beyond his strength as a blocker.
His 40-yard dash time of 4.52 seconds was the third best among tight ends at the event and he recorded a broad jump of 11 feet, also the third-best effort among participating tight ends.
Kittle’s work also included a 35-inch vertical jump that ranked in the upper half among participants and was part of an effort that demonstrated he has moved beyond the foot injury which limited him during the second half of Iowa’s 8-5 2016 season.
The Hawkeyes’ C.J. Beathard, Jaleel Johnson and Desmond King also participated in the annual NFL event, although Beathard and King both opted out of running events because of minor injuries. Both anticipate participating in the 40 when Iowa hosts its pro day later this month.
Johnson dealt with a tough day Sunday. Only one of the 52 linemen who ran the 40 at the Combine turned in a time slower than the 5.38 recorded by the defensive tackle.
His work came as Iowa’s reshaped coaching staff welcomed around 80 prospects from the 2018 and 2019 recruiting classes to campus on Sunday for the Hawkeyes’ first junior day event of the year.
The vast majority of prospects came from three states – 19 from Missouri, 15 Illinois and 14 from Iowa – with multiple recruits attending from Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Kansas in addition to players from Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio.
The return of Ken O’Keefe as the program’s quarterbacks coach and the addition of Kelton Copeland as receivers coach and Tim Polasek as running backs coach have altered recruiting assignments on Kirk Ferentz’s staff.
O’Keefe previously recruiting New England and the East Coast for Iowa, Copeland brings experience recruiting in both the upper Midwest and his native Florida from his time at Northern Illinois and Polasek recruited Wisconsin and Minnesota heavily during his time at North Dakota State.
Ferentz said the staff changes are providing Iowa with a chance to examine its recruiting efforts.
“It’s nice to be in an area you are familiar with, but the principles of it are the same,’’ Ferentz said. “It’s good to have everybody on board so we can figure out what we can do in recruiting. Certainly, geographic areas will be a big part of it, how are we going to reshape that, if at all, those types of things.’’
Ferentz said Iowa’s efforts will continue to make certain that it does a thorough job in the areas the Hawkeyes recruit.
“The obvious guys are easy, but the guys that have a chance, the Karl Klug guys from Caledonia, Minnesota, skinny in high school and all that stuff but a good football player with the right attitude, those are the I want to make sure we’re not missing,’’ Ferentz said.