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Signing day analysis: Thoughts on the final Iowa, Iowa State 2021 football classes


Matthew Bain   | Des Moines Register
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Wednesday was the regular signing day for prospects in the 2021 class. If they didn't sign in December's early period, they signed Wednesday, helping to finalize their respective college program's recruiting classes.

And thus, the weirdest high school football recruiting cycle is just about over. Because of COVID-19, the vast majority of 2021 recruits picked their schools without taking an official visit to campus.

Both Iowa and Iowa State added finishing touches to their 2021 groups Wednesday.

Here's a look at how the Hawkeyes and Cyclones wrapped up their 2021 recruiting classes, plus a look some of the teams' early, priority targets for 2022.

Iowa State

Some in-state recruiting news broke Wednesday: Iowa City Regina quarterback Ashton Cook, the son of former Hawkeyes tight end Marv Cook, is walking on at Iowa State over offers from Eastern Michigan, South Dakota, Northern Iowa and Western Illinois.

Cook rose a few spots to No. 22 in the Register's final in-state 2021 recruiting rankings thanks to his phenomenal senior season, which featured 185 completions on 276 pass attempts for 2,862 yards, 25 touchdowns and three interceptions. The 6-foot-5, 200-pounder led the Regals to the Class A state title and earned All-Iowa Class A First Team honors along the way.

Any time you can land an FCS/Group of Five-level prospect without spending a scholarship, especially one whose dad is a well-known alumnus of your biggest rival, that's a win.

Cook obviously isn't the only reason Cyclone coaches are smiling Wednesday.

Eli Sanders has a lot to do with that, too.

Sanders, the three-star running back (Rivals four-star) out of Arizona, picked Iowa State over Iowa in a head-to-head recruiting battle earlier in January. The 6-1, 200-pounder is a big get for Matt Campbell for two reasons:

  • He beat Kirk Ferentz head-to-head.
  • Breece Hall might be NFL-bound after this season, and Sanders has the type of size and explosiveness (and experience playing in the talent-rich Phoenix area) that can translate to early playing time.

Not to be forgotten are Iowa State's two transfer additions: Villanova graduate transfer defensive back Jaquan Amos and Fordham graduate transfer kicker Andrew Mevis.

Let's start with Mevis, who was as highly regarded as kickers come out of high school. He was a 2017 Under Armour All-American and committed to Fordham as a three-star recruit. He started all three years at Fordham before its league, the Patriot League, opted not to play this fall.

Cyclones kicker Connor Assalley will return next year, so those two will compete for the placekicker job. Where Mevis' impact could be felt most immediately is in on kickoffs. At Fordham, 82 of Mevis' 139 kickoffs weren't returned.

Amos' presence throws more veteran experience into an Iowa State secondary that will already be brimming with proven talent next season. He's got great size at 6-1, 190. Over three seasons and 33 games played, Amos logged 109 tackles, six tackles for loss, eight interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Iowa

The Hawkeyes nabbed the latest addition, offering Des Moines North athlete Deavin Hilson and securing his commitment last Saturday. Iowa had been in talks with Hilson since Northern Iowa offered him in September. It initially saw Hilson as a linebacker, where most schools projected him.

But as running back targets continued to fall off Iowa's board — Eli Sanders to Iowa State, Kendrell Williams sticking with Louisiana, Jarquez Hunter likely to Auburn — the coaching staff started considering Hilson at running back, a position he also played at North. In the end, the Hawkeyes saw enough from North's two games and Hilson's basketball performances this winter to take a chance on the 6-1, 200-pounder.

Iowa is also adding one of its biggest targets of the whole class. Michael Myslinski, a three-star center out of Jacksonville, originally broke the Hawkeyes' hearts when he committed to Texas back in August.

The 6-2, 285-pounder reopened his recruitment in December, though, and Iowa swooped right back in — and right back to the top of his list. A little more than a month later, Myslinski committed to the Hawkeyes primarily over Michigan State.

Myslinski is arguably the most significant 2021 addition for Iowa, because he's seen as the heir-apparent to Tyler Linderbaum when the Solon product heads to the NFL.

One more addition to note: Northern Iowa graduate transfer defensive back Xavior Williams. If you're looking for someone who could have an immediate impact, Williams is your guy. He was a standout in the Panthers' secondary for three years, recording 122 career tackles, nine interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

With D.J. Johnson and Julius Brents transferring, Iowa needed some veteran help in the secondary. Williams could have declared for the NFL Draft, but he chose to fill a major need for his final college season at Iowa.

Notable Class of 2022 targets?

Both Iowa and Iowa State are heavily pursuing Southeast Polk safety Xavier Nwankpa, a top-100 national prospect and the Register's No. 1 in-state 2022 talent. The 6-2, 190-pounder is considering both schools along with the likes of Ohio State, Notre Dame, LSU, Missouri, Clemson and several more.

On Iowa State's side of things, the Cyclones are going pretty hard after Harlan linebacker Will McLaughlin. The Register's No. 7 in-state 2022 prospect, Harlan told the Register multiple Iowa State coaches reached out to him Feb. 1, the first day of a crucial contact period for coaches. With Sergeant Bluff-Luton linebacker Jacob Imming (No. 6 in rankings) already committed, it looks like Iowa State is trying to sweep the state's top linebackers in 2022.

Iowa is trying to position itself as the early frontrunner for West Des Moines Valley tight end Eli Raridon, the Register's No. 4 in-state 2022 prospect. Raridon holds offers and interest from a laundry list of schools, including Florida State and UCLA, but Iowa has been seen as a strong competitor for the 6-6, 210-pounder's services. 

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_.