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Recruiting mailbag: What's the status of Hawkeyes vs. Cyclones in-state football recruiting battle?


Matthew Bain   | Des Moines Register
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Welcome, once again, to the recruiting mailbag.

As crazy as it feels to write this, here we are: There will be college football in Iowa this Saturday. The Cyclones will host Louisiana in the most bizarre season-opener of all time, with an empty Jack Trice Stadium and a socially distanced press box and masks and sanitizer in a location that's among the country's biggest COVID-19 hot spots right now.

It's hard to list all the differences we'll see Saturday in Ames. But, between the lines, football will look the same. And, man, will the TV ratings be good. 

As you get ready for the Pandemic Edition of College Football, here's this week's recruiting mailbag, which features questions on in-state football recruiting, who Steve Prohm might land next and when a prime Iowa State football target plans to commit.

Seems like @HawkeyeFootball has had far more success recruiting top Iowa prospects than @CycloneFB. Are Cyclones simply focusing elsewhere?

While I do personally like the in-state additions Iowa State has made in the 2021 class, yes, there is no denying the Hawkeyes got the better in-state haul.

According to our in-state recruiting rankings, Iowa has landed the No. 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 15 and 18 prospects in the state's 2021 class. Comparatively, Iowa State has landed the No. 13, 16, 17 and 28 prospects.

It was more balanced in the 2020 class, but the Hawkeyes still had an edge. Iowa landed the Register's No. 2, 3, 5 and 8 prospects, while Iowa State landed Nos. 4, 6, 7 and 10.

No, the Cyclones aren't focusing elsewhere. Both Iowa and Iowa State do a great job recruiting their home state, and winning Iowa is a major recruiting goal for both schools. The Cyclones are more comfortable offering based on early evaluations, so that's why you often see Iowa State offer an in-state name well before Iowa does.

The simple fact is that a majority of Iowa is made up of Hawkeye fans. You can check any poll or Census data you want. That's an uphill battle for Matt Campbell and his staff. But they are definitely making progress.

Campbell has pull with any prospect in this state — better pull than any Iowa State coach before him. And he and his staff have the Cyclones better-positioned against Iowa in recruiting than any other coaching staff before them. They're chipping away at the Hawkeyes' stronghold on this state, no doubt.

But it will take time.

It would help the Cyclones' cause to land a huge, top-ranked recruit to sway a big chunk of momentum their way. They almost got that done with Clear Creek Amana defensive end T.J. Bollers, who came close to picking Iowa State and didn't even consider Iowa in the end. You'd better believe Campbell is going all-out to land Southeast Polk safety Xavier Nwankpa, the Register's No. 1 in-state 2022 prospect who has the likes of Oklahoma, Ohio State and Notre Dame in hot pursuit.

If Campbell stays at Iowa State, the in-state recruiting gap between the Cyclones and Hawkeyes will continue to shrink and shrink. Does he stay five more years? And what might the in-state recruiting landscape look like then?

Success on the field also leads to success in recruiting. Win more games than Iowa? Beat the Hawkeyes in the Cy-Hawk game? Consistently doing that would go a long way in helping the Cyclones' cause, too.

When’s Aramoni Rhone deciding?

Speaking of Iowa State football recruiting: A major Cyclones target is nearing a decision.

I texted a bit with Florida three-star receiver Aramoni Rhone this week. The 6-foot-5 talent is one of Iowa State's top remaining targets in 2021. Most industry buzz has him headed to the Cyclones, where Nate Scheelhaase has been his main recruiter.

He told me he's hoping to announce a decision by the end of September. He wanted to take his official visits by now to help with that decision, but the COVID-19 pandemic is preventing those visits from happening at least through the end of September. 

In July, Rhone released a final five of Iowa State, Ohio, Coastal Carolina, Arizona State and Cincinnati. This week, he told me he's down to a final three:

Iowa State, Arizona State and Cincinnati. 

I'd be pretty surprised if Rhone ends up anywhere but Ames. He would give Campbell three 2021 receivers, joining three-star prospects Jaylin Noel and Tristan Michaud.

Who's the next commit for ISU basketball? Real shot at (Tucker) DeVries?

Yes, the Cyclones have a real shot at Waukee wing Tucker DeVries, the Register's No. 1 in-state 2021 prospect. Iowa State got to see plenty of him this summer while watching fellow target Hunter Sallis, DeVries' AAU teammate. Steve Prohm and his staff were impressed with DeVries' efficiency and 3-point shooting.

Iowa State ramped up its interest in the son of Drake head coach Darian DeVries in the final couple weeks of August and offered him Aug. 26.

And, yes, there is definitely mutual interest. I might even go as far as saying this recruitment is likely down to Drake and Iowa State, because the Cyclones provide him a high-major opportunity where home and road games would be within driving distance, compared to Creighton, which plays in the Big East.

"They’re trying to say that it’s the Big 12, closer games, obviously a higher level and better competition than Drake," DeVries told me last month. "They agree with the fact that going mid-major or high-major is not going to change who I am beyond college, but it’s really just the college experience and the difference between going to the Bahamas in those preseason tournaments and playing for Big 12 titles and all that stuff. It’s definitely cool to hear.

"Being local, I’d definitely have a lot of people involved and still be at that high-major level. Drake is just not high-major, but it’s still home."

I remember asking DeVries what appealed to him about Iowa State the day before Prohm offered him. His initial response?

"Hilton."

Still, Drake will be tough to beat. Playing college basketball for your dad is truly a once-in-a-lifetime type of opportunity, and that program has become a family for DeVries.

"If I didn’t go to Drake, it would definitely have to be something that would pull me away — that I’d really, 100% want to be there," DeVries said in August.

DeVries is a long point forward/power guard who can dribble, pass, rebound and shoot 45% from long range. Last I saw him, he stood about 6-6, but I've heard he's closer to 6-7 or 6-8 now. He was the only non-senior on last year's All-Iowa Elite Team.

A few other names to watch would be Johnathan Lawson, Deebo Coleman and Wade Taylor all of which were included on my July Cyclones basketball big board.

There's been buzz lately in Memphis that Lawson, a three-star wing, has the Cyclones as his frontrunner. He's also considering Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Oregon and Alabama.

Coleman, a four-star, top-50 shooting guard from Florida, was planning to officially visit the Cyclones before COVID-19 broke up the recruiting world. Iowa State is widely considered one of the top contenders for the 6-6 prospect. His father was a coach for former Murray State star Cameron Payne, who is a recruiting advocate for Prohm and assistant coach William Small.

Taylor, a four-star guard out of Texas, included the Cyclones in his Aug. 24 final five alongside Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, SMU and Virginia Tech.

Have you talked to any coaches about how they are going to handle scholarships with regards to COVID?

Based on the conversations I've had, primarily with college basketball coaches, the main difference is that it may take coaching staffs a little longer to feel comfortable extending an offer. Why? Because it's a lot easier to evaluate a prospect in person than over film or a live stream of a tournament.

I have not heard anything about scholarship numbers getting reduced due to financial struggles that COVID-19 is causing on athletic departments across the country.

With football, and fall sports in general, it will be interesting to see how the 2021 class shakes out. Will Big Ten and Pac-12 players be more likely to use the extra year of eligibility the NCAA gave all fall student-athletes, compared to players in the Big 12, ACC and SEC, who are playing a fall season? And could that create more of a crowded roster than 2021 recruits might shy away from?

Time will tell.

Matthew Bain covers recruiting and pretty much anything else under the sports sun for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network.  Contact him at mbain@dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.

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