IOWA CITY — Iowa addressed needs on the opening day of college football’s February signing period, adding a defensive lineman, defensive back and punter to a 2019 recruiting class that remains a work in progress.
Coach Kirk Ferentz said Wednesday he is open to adding to the current collection of future Hawkeyes that numbers 23 scholarship players and a group of 11 committed walk-ons.
"If we see something out there that will benefit our program, we will take a look at it," Ferentz said. "There are certain areas where we have needs, and if there are players out there who address those and are good fits within the framework of our team, we’re open to that."
Ferentz pointed to the late roster addition of running backs James Butler as a graduate transfer and Mekhi Sargent as a junior-college transfer the past two summers as examples.
"The fit is the key to it," Ferentz said. "Our players typically don’t mind added competition as long as it helps make our team better. They understand that the starting jobs will be won on the practice field. That’s a constant."
In addition to signing its most recent announced commitments, defensive back Jermani Harris of Lombard Montini in Illinois and graduate transfer punter Michael Sleep-Dalton of Arizona State, defensive lineman Taajhir McCall of Pine Forest High School in Pensacola, Florida, signed with the Hawkeyes after announcing his decision on Wednesday.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound lineman selected the Hawkeyes over Army and Navy following a weekend recruiting visit to Iowa City.
McCall recorded 88 tackles, 11 sacks and recorded eight quarterback hurries in addition to forcing and recovering one fumble during his senior season of high school.
"The chance to play in program like Iowa in a conference like the Big Ten, that was ultimately what it came down to," McCall said. "I couldn’t have gone wrong with whatever decision I made. I had a great visit, and everything about it felt right."
Losing all four of its starting defensive linemen from last season’s 9-4 team, and with two seniors factoring into depth next season, Iowa also provides McCall with an opportunity to compete for playing time early in his career.
"The chance to come in and play, that was appealing to me," McCall said. "I know nothing will be handed to me. I’ll have to earn it, but it’s good motivation coming in."
Ferentz said Harris provides the Hawkeyes with another athletic option in the secondary and Sleep-Dalton, a two-year starter who averaged 43.8 yards on 59 punts last season for the Sun Devils, gives Iowa additional competition at punter.
"It’s an area where we are looking to improve, and much like when (graduate transfer) Ron Coluzzi came in, we’re hoping this helps make us a better football team," Ferentz said. "We’re not giving up on Colten (Rastetter, Iowa’s returning two-year starter who averaged 38.9 yards last season) or Ryan (Gersonde). We’re looking to help our team."
As is the case with Harris, Ferentz said McCall helps fill roster needs.
"When Amani (Hooker) and Anthony (Nelson) decided to leave, our assistants honed in on those areas," Ferentz said. "We went back to our lists, did our research, worked through everything and identified the players who best suited our needs."
Ferentz said McCall was one of three defensive linemen Iowa considered in the weeks leading up to signing day.
"All three of them are good players, but (McCall) best fit what we were looking for at this time," Ferentz said.
That "fit" is also at the core of the walk-on commitments Iowa announced Wednesday.
"We feel good about them as a group and as the Outback Bowl demonstrated, walk-ons are extremely important to our program," Ferentz said. "We had them all in with their families a couple of weekends ago, and there is a lot to like about them."
The group includes wide receiver Javon Foy of Moline and defensive lineman Spencer Daufeldt of West Liberty.
"They go through the same type of process that our scholarship players go through as we recruit them," Ferentz said. "We like the potential they bring to our program."