Iowa State football pulled in their tenth verbal commitment for the 2013 class this week, Dallas defensive end J.D. Waggoner. Naturally, after having no commitments at the start of June, now that Iowa State has ten commitments about a month later has caused every message board recruiting expert to freak the fuck out. And not in a good way.
The fact that most of these recruits have skimpy offer lists and only a few stars next to their name has caused a bit of a panic in certain circles. The thinking goes that after seeing a bit of success over the past few years and with a charismatic coach like Paul Rhoads at the helm, Iowa State should be pulling in more high-profile recruits. And because these hypothetical high-profile recruits aren't committing in droves has caused some gnashing of teeth and rending of garments among a certain set of Cyclone fans.
But here's a little dose of reality: Iowa State's recruiting this year is right on track with recruiting every other year under Paul Rhoads; and in some ways is quite a bit better. After the jump, a look at this year's recruiting in a historical context.
One complaint with this year's recruiting is the lack of stars for committed prospects. As everyone knows, Iowa State is usually going to struggle recruiting consensus four-and-five-star athletes due to location and history. In that regard, it's hard to compare Iowa State to other football programs. Even Gene Chizik, regarded as one of the best recruiters in the nation, struggled to put together mediocre recruiting classes in his two years on the job.
So the lack of stars on committed prospects would be concerning if it were January and schools and recruiting services already had a chance to evaluate prospects throughout their senior year of high school. But it's July, and recruiting services like Rivals simply haven't had time to sort through tape for a lot of prospects.
According to Rivals, Iowa State currently has 65 scholarship offers out to uncommitted athletes. 17 of those athletes have no stars next to their name. This includes players like Jason Reese and Edwin Delva, who hold offers from 18 major programs between them. The fact that these players have zero stars doesn't mean they aren't quality players; Paul Rhoads would probably accept their commitment in a heartbeat. It's just that currently, their star rankings don't reflect their offer lists because Rivals hasn't had a chance to evaluate their tape yet.
But the main complaint with recruiting this year is the lack of high-major offers for a good number of the recruits. Again, this thought process is misguided. In the first three years of Paul Rhoads' tenure, Iowa State has had five verbal commitments as of this date (2011, 2010, 2009). Paul Rhoads' staff has doubled that number in the same time period this year.
In 2009, those five early verbals had a grand total of two BCS offers between them when they committed (Jared Barnett and Chris Young were both offered by Kansas State). In 2010, ISU's five early verbals again had a total of two BCS offers between them (Jared Brackens was offered by Minnesota and Teddy Lampkin was offered by Nebraska). In 2011, there was only one BCS offer between all five of the early verbal commits (Quan West was offered by Michigan).
This year is actually quite a bit better in that regard. Among the ten current verbal commitments, three hold offers from six BCS programs. (Emmanuel Bibbs - Arkansas, San Diego State; Alex Leslie - Wake Forest; D.A. Williams - UCF, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest). The other seven recruits hold a handful of offers apiece from a variety of Conference USA, MAC and Sun Belt schools.
Again, compare that with the past three years when seven early commitments had no offers from other schools besides Iowa State. This doesn't mean they're bad players. Some, like Brock Dagel and Jevohn Miller are from small towns in Iowa that don't get a lot of attention. Others, like Durrell Givens and Ricky Howard committed early enough in the process that they hadn't received attention from other schools. Still others, like Cqulin Hubert and Kyle Boyd saw their profiles blow up during their senior year and switched their commitment when bigger programs came calling.
So while Paul Rhoads' staff isn't pulling in high-profile players consistently, Iowa State is identifying the players they want early and getting them to commit to Iowa State. These players aren't dazzling anyone with their offer sheets. But they're players that Rhoads thinks will work hard and fit well with Iowa State's system. As Rhoads said during his recruiting press conference this year, "We're going to find the kids that are the right fit for Iowa State University and who we believe are going to help us win football games in the Big XII, and we've done exactly that."
And that's the thing: Teams like Boise State, Kansas State and Wisconsin have proven it's possible to win at elite level without recruiting at an elite level. By keeping continuity with their coaching and their system, finding the athletes to fit that system and coaching them up; programs are able to compete and win a bunch of games. That's what Paul Rhoads is doing, and it should see success over time.
All Cyclone fans want Iowa State to be successful. Part of that success can be found in recruiting. But it's simply not realistic to expect top-25 recruiting classes every year. Paul Rhoads is finding athletes early that he thinks can help Iowa State win and getting them to commit. Be patient. Iowa State will enter the 2012 season with the deepest and most athletic team they've fielded in quite a while.