IOWA CITY – They come from nine states.
Some were highly recruited, others merely a blip on the radar screen of college football recruiters.
But the 18 players Iowa signed on Wednesday — and the 19th who is expected to join the class today — share traits that over time have served the Hawkeyes well.
“To me, it’s all about can the guy run the whole race, run it well and run it hard,’’ coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Ferentz believes his program has enjoyed success over time because it has mined talent that can do just that, although on the first day that current high school seniors could sign binding letters of intent the 16th-year Iowa coach understands it will take time to determine just what the Hawkeyes’ 2014 recruiting class is all about.
“You know a lot more after six months and they’ve been on campus and gone through a semester. You know more after a year, and after two years you really get a good picture about how a guy is going to go,’’ Ferentz said.
For some, the picture of potential is clear.
Wide receiver Jay Scheel, a three-year starting quarterback from LaPorte City Union, has been on the radar screen of Iowa coaches since they caught a video clip of him during his sophomore year of high school.
“He became a legend in our film room in about an hour,’’ Ferentz said. “Pretty soon, everybody’s peeking at that tape and we think he will be a really dynamic player for us. Our intention is to play him at receiver, but if we’re smart coaches we’ll figure out other ways to get the ball in his hands.’’
Defensive end recruit Matt Nelson of Cedar Rapids Xavier shunned offers from Stanford and Notre Dame to sign with the Hawkeyes, but didn’t have to say a word to tell Iowa coaches a little about his personality when he showed up at an Iowa summer camp last June ready to work.
“He didn’t have to, he was committed and had a scholarship, but he came here and competed ...’’ Ferentz said. “The way he carried himself and the way he wanted to be coached and compete that day, it was really impressive to us.’’
Linebacker Parker Hesse of Waukon, Iowa, is a recruit who also caught the attention of Hawkeye coaches at a summer camp, albeit for a different reason.
Hesse is a player that wasn’t necessarily on Iowa’s recruiting radar when he arrived at camp, but he left an impression on coaches.
“He was one of those guys who came in that we didn’t know a lot about, but he intrigued us with what he did on the field,’’ Ferentz said. “That’s how we got involved with Parker Hesse. There are different levels and different layers and everything we do is really important in terms of evaluations.’’
In general, Iowa’s class addresses needs and this year, 11 of the 19 players who are signing play on the defensive side of the ball.
The Hawkeyes count five defensive backs, four linebackers and two defensive ends among this year’s recruits.
The late addition of Miles Taylor, a one-time Georgia Tech commit, to the recruiting class left Iowa with more than the number of defensive backs it expected to sign, but Ferentz said it is a group that he is excited about.
“Sometimes, you have to bend and expand what you thought your needs are and over-sign in an area, then make up for it later on,’’ Ferentz said. “With three senior linebackers graduating last year, we expected to sign several and we feel like the four we signed are similar to the linebackers we have had in the past.’’
Iowa signed both kicker Mick Ellis of Allen, Texas, and punter Dillon Kidd of Deerfield Beach, Fla., taking two specialists in part because Ferentz wants increased competition in those areas this spring and into next season.
Scheel and 6-foot-4 quarterback Tyler Wiegers, a Michigan prep who signed his letter of intent in Texas where he is preparing to play in an all-star event, are the highest rated recruits in this class, regarded as four-star prospects on a five-star scale by most recruiting services.
The Hawkeyes expect to sign a 19th recruit today when Markel Smith’s letter of intent arrives. The second-most productive running back in St. Louis area high school history, Smith’s signing was delayed because he snowbound at religious retreat.
“As long as no dogsleds intercept him and convince him to go somewhere else, I think (today) we’ll have a 19th signing,’’ Ferentz said.