Four defensive players who fit what Iowa coaches are looking for are the latest to make the Hawkeyes their college fit.
Defensive end Lukas Van Ness, linebacker Jay Higgins and defensive backs Brenden Deasfernades and AJ Lawson all made verbal commitments to join the Iowa program after taking official visits during the Hawkeyes’ biggest recruiting weekend of the year.
While Van Ness, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound defensive end from Barrington, Illinois, selected the Hawkeyes from a collection of 31 scholarship offers at the Division I level, Iowa was the first program from a power-five conference to offer the other three newest members of its 2020 recruiting class.
Lawson and Higgins have been on the radar of Hawkeye coaches for some time while Deasfernades received the first of his four college offers earlier this month, including three after he caught the eye of coaches at the Lindenwood Camp in suburban St. Louis.
That is where Iowa coaches first saw the 6-1, 160-pound defensive back from Belleville, Michigan, and they got an even closer look when he attended a camp in Iowa City one week ago and was named the camp’s defensive most valuable player.
That led to an official visit this past weekend where Deasfernades was offered and accepted an Iowa scholarship offer.
The only other offers he had when he said “yes’’ to the Hawkeyes were from Southeast Missouri State and Davenport University, which both offered after the Lindenwood camp, and from Northwood which offered Deasfernades before Iowa secondary coach Phil Parker caught his first look at him.
“Everything has happened so fast,’’ Deasfernades said. “The chance to play in the Big Ten, to play at Iowa, how do you say ‘no’ to that? It’s big time. I’m really hyped about it.’’
Deasfernades is the third defensive back from the Belleville program in suburban Detroit to accept an Iowa scholarship program in as many years.
Kaevon Merriweather, a sophomore listed as the Hawkeyes' starting strong safety in the program’s most recent public depth chart, signed with Iowa in 2018 and Jalen Hunt was part of the Hawkeyes’ 2019 recruiting class but will begin his college career this fall at Iowa Western Community College.
Lawson, a 6-2, 180-pound defensive back from Decatur MacArthur High School in Illinois, and Higgins, a 6-0, 209-pound linebacker from Indianapolis Brebeuf Jesuit, join Van Ness in having a multi-sport background that Iowa coaches like.
In the Illinois Class 2A state track and field championships, Lawson finished eighth in the high jump, while Higgins excels in basketball and Van Ness plays hockey.
Lawson led MacArthur in receptions and interceptions last season, earning all-area honors while returning two of his five picks last season for touchdowns.
He selected Iowa over an offer from Minnesota and had also attracted offers from Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Kent State, Northern Illinois, Toledo, Western Michigan and Wyoming.
“I would like to thank the entire coaching staff for believing in a kid from Decatur, Illinois,’’ Lawson wrote in announcing his decision on Twitter.
Lawson and Deasfernades join Keylon Gulley of Largo, Florida, who committed to Iowa last week, as defensive backs in the 2020 recruiting cycle.
Higgins is the first linebacker in this year’s recruiting class. He made his first unofficial visit to Iowa last fall and he held offers from Air Force, Tulane and a number of Mid-American Conference schools when he made his decision Sunday.
Preparing for his third season as a varsity starter at Brebeuf, Higgins has been credited more than 200 tackles over the past two seasons. He recorded 18 tackles for a loss and broke up six passes last fall.
Van Ness grew up playing hockey and has utilized his physicality from that sport in football, picking up the game as he entered high school.
A 3.85 student, Van Ness had offers from all three service academies and a number of Ivy League programs in addition to Illinois, Kansas, Kansas State and Minnesota from the power-five level.
Van Ness joins Lawson and Higgins in being rated as three-star prospects on a five-star scale by Rivals, while Deasfernades is not currently rated by any scouting service.
With the four latest commitments, Iowa’s 2020 recruiting class now numbers 18 players. The class, which can sign binding letters of intent in December, is expected to ultimately number just over 20 prospects.