Wednesday marked the first day college football programs could sign 2017 mid-year JUCO players. Iowa State was part of the mix and got their 2017 class off and running with two signings. Then, on Sunday, they added a third. Matt Campbell and staff are hoping these are instant impact players that can contribute right away.
Ray Lima - Defensive Tackle
Ray Lima verbally committed all the way back in August and has been loyal to his commitment ever since, signing his National Letter of Intent on Sunday. Lima is a 3-star recruit and the #8 overall JUCO defensive tackle of the 2017 class. He held offers from Arizona, Arizona State, California and TCU and will more than likely be asked to help fill the hole left by seniors Demond Tucker and Jhaustin Thomas.
Lima is a big defensive tackle coming in at 6-foot-3, 310 pounds. His highlight reel shows a great motor and speed for a tackle at his size. He has the ability to line up inside and outside as he did in some situations at El Camino College. The ability to be versatile will only benefit Iowa State as the staff looks for answers on the defensive side of the ball in 2017.
Matt Eaton - Wide Receiver
Matt Eaton is a wide receiver out of Pearl River Community College who verbally committed back in May. He will add to the already deep receiver position group at Iowa State. Eaton is the 9th ranked wide receiver in the 2017 JUCO class and is classified as a 3-star prospect. He had received offers from West Virginia and Toledo and was one of the two players to sign last Wednesday.
Eaton is 6-foot-4 and plays a similar style to current Cyclone Allen Lazard. He’ll serve as a third receiver for Jacob Park to throw to that is 6-foot-4 or taller next season.
In his film, Eaton shows great speed to get by defensive backs. However, there’s always that adjustment to playing at a higher level for skill position players and it will be interesting to see if he can translate what he did at the junior college level to Division I. If he can make the transition, there’s no reason Eaton can’t come in and push for some quality playing time.
Matt Leo - Defensive End
This is the signing that surprised all of us on Wednesday. Matt Leo is a defensive end out of Arizona Western College who many believed would commit to Oklahoma. Instead, he signed with Iowa State. Leo is the #5 overall weakside defensive end in the 2017 JUCO class. Oklahoma, Kansas and Mississippi State are a few of the other notable programs to offer him.
Leo is 6-foot-7 and has big time speed off the edge with the ability to play inside as well. However, look for defensive coordinator Jon Heacock to play him primarily on the outside.
Another thing to keep an eye on here is that Leo has only played two years of football after converting from rugby. He has a redshirt year available to use, but it sounds like the coaching staff wants him to play right away. His technique will need some fine-tuning, but it shouldn’t be a major issue overall.
It’s safe to say Coach Campbell and the ISU coaching staff are jacked up about this crop of JUCO recruits. Stay tuned for more recruiting updates as National Signing Day approaches!