As Iowa football coaches work to put the finishing touches on the program’s 2017 recruiting class, the Hawkeyes picked up a verbal commitment Sunday from the second member of the 2018 recruiting class.
Jeff Jenkins, an all-state offensive lineman who helped Illinois Class 6A state champion Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge High School rush for more than 3,600 yards during a 14-0 season last fall, committed to the Hawkeyes during an unofficial visit to Iowa City.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound high school junior received his first Big Ten offer from the Hawkeyes on Jan. 13 and needed less than two weeks to pick Iowa over offers from Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Northern Illinois and Toledo.
“They have a history of developing offensive linemen and after getting a chance to talk with the coaches and look over the facilities, it was the right decision for me to make,’’ Jenkins said. “The football facilities are incredible and the chance to learn from the coaches there is a great opportunity.’’
Jenkins, who thanked his parents, teammates and coaches in announcing his decision on Twitter, reached his decision after taking earlier unofficial visits to Northern Illinois and Toledo.
He earned Class 6A first-team all-state honors last fall from the Illinois Football Coaches Association and the Chicago Tribune and was named as a special mention all-state choice on the multi-class all-state team selected by the Champaign News-Gazette.
Ranked by 247Sports as a three-star recruit on a five-star scale, Jenkins’ foot speed and athleticism have caught the attention of recruiters.
In addition to his work on an offensive line that helped Prairie Ridge rush for 544 yards in its 48-17 state title game win over Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, he recorded four sacks and eight tackles for a loss while playing defensive end.
Jenkins is the second current high school junior to commit to Iowa. Mike Bruner, a linebacker from Homestead High School in Mequon, Wisconsin, announced in October he plans to sign with the Hawkeyes in 2018.
This year’s signing day is Feb. 1 and Iowa currently has 14 verbal commitments in a class that coach Kirk Ferentz said will likely number between 20-22 players.
Three players who initially committed to other Big Ten programs were among seven recruits who made official visits over the weekend and are currently weighing Hawkeye scholarship offers.
Minnesota cornerback commit Trey Creamer of Cartersville, Georgia, one-time Indiana tight end commit Kurt Rafdal of Carmel, Indiana and Rutgers wide receiver commit Ihmir Smith-Marsette of Newark, New Jersey, are among player considering Iowa.
Creamer and Smith-Marsette are exploring options, while Rafdal re-opened his recruitment following the dismissal of coach Kevin Wilson and is making visits this month to Nebraska and LSU in addition to Iowa.
Weekend recruits at Iowa also included three former Bettendorf players, offensive line commitment Mark Kallenberger, walk-on commitment Keegan Glaus and Jack Kallenberger, an all-conference defensive end from Iowa Central Community College who committed to the Hawkeyes as a preferred walk-on during his visit.
"I had a great time, talking with the coaches and getting to know some of the guys who will be be my teammates,'' Jack Kallenberger said. "It was a good weekend and I'm excited about the opportunity.''
The Hawkeyes also learned Sunday they are among the final three programs being considered by Alabama prep linebacker Thomas Johnston, who plans to announce Wednesday his choice between Iowa, Arkansas and Mississipppi after eliminating Auburn from his list of possibilities.
Another defensive lineman who will join the Hawkeyes this fall earned most valuable player honors late Saturday night for his work in the Polynesian Bowl.
Five-star recruit A.J. Epenesa, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound end from Edwardsville, Illinois, was named the top defensive player in the prep all-star game played in Hawaii. He had two sacks among five tackles in the game and forced a pair of fumbles.
Epenesa is one of 14 recruits who are currently scheduled to visit Iowa next weekend.