To say today was a success for Cyclone football was an understatement. In a matter of 65 days, (with only 23 fully functional), this sleep-deprived, energetic, nucleus of young coaches brought in one of the best recruiting classes in ISU history.
In all, 29 men signed on the dotted line for Matt Campbell and his crew today, and stamped their future in the cardinal and gold in Ames, Iowa. There were 14 scholarship players on the offensive side of the ball and 15 on defense.
The upper Midwest was a focus for this staff, as there were 11 signees from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Recruiting Coordinator Alex Golesh led the charge, as he came over from the University of Illinois and got the ball rolling the minute he was hired on. From day one, Campbell has said that his goal is to be the "Big 12 School of the Midwest," and that showed today.
Recruits were taken aback by the level of integrity this staff brought to the table. It was said time after time that these 18- and 19-year olds gravitated to the "family atmosphere" that ISU provides, and built relationships with these coaches.
In the press conference today, Campbell mentioned that word - relationships - more than any other. He stressed that you "win with people," and that integrity and honesty go a long way. He isn't going to sugar coat anything, but instead look at you in the eyes and tell you the truth, even exclaiming that, "it doesn't matter whether you are a freshman or a senior, the best player is going to play."
Surprise Commitments on Signing Day
First off, JaQuan and Joshua Bailey sounded the sirens this morning (literally sirens went off outside Jack Trice around 10 a.m.), by both pledging their commitments to ISU. The Bailey boys held a press conference in their high school and both put on cardinal ISU hats, stating that their mother was happy to see them play together.
JaQuan is the higher prized recruit, coming in at 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, with offers from Tennessee, Florida, Louisville and Virginia Tech. He is projected to play defensive end at the next level, and will play alongside his brother Joshua, who's a defensive tackle. Joshua chose the Cyclones over South Florida, UCF and Cincinnati and is a load at 290 pounds. Both brothers were 3-star recruits and top-100 at their positions.
Running back David Montgomery was down to Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, Marshall and chose ISU over all of them. The 5-foot-11, 225 pound runner hails from Cincinnati, Ohio and ran for over 6,600 yards in high school. He is a 3-star recruit and the 67th best running back in nation.
Jerrion Nelson came out of nowhere and signed with ISU over Iowa, Syracuse and Purdue. He is a 6-foot-2, 260 pound defensive end from Missouri and his fax in the later stages of the morning was a surprise for all. He is a 3-star recruit and the 112th best DE in this class.
Headliners for this Class
On Monday, Deshaunte Jones committed to ISU. The speedy 5-foot-10 wide receiver will be the do-it-all athlete who will return kicks, catch passes and even run on occasion. This staff foresees him in the Percy Harvin role, and can line him up anywhere on the field. Jones is a 4-star recruit and chose ISU over the likes of Cincinnati, Georgia Tech and Wisconsin.
Tight end Chase Allen was proclaimed as a "wow" player by Coach Campbell multiple times in his press conference today. The 6-foot-6 receiver is from the Terry Allen family tree, the same Terry Allen who coached in Ames during the McCarney years. He comes to Ames from Missouri, and is ranked as the 21st best TE in this 2016 class. Allen is a 3-star and chose ISU over Michigan, Nebraska, Florida State and Oklahoma State.
Sean Foster and all of his 285 pounds will bring his talents to Ames, Iowa. The monstrous 6-foot-8 offensive tackle chose ISU over 14 Power 5 schools, among them NC State, California, Maryland, Minnesota, Syracuse, Illinois and Virginia Tech. He headlines this group of offensive linemen (5 were signed) and was listed as the 32nd best offensive lineman in the nation. Foster is a 4-star recruit.
Wide receiver Jalen Martin was recruited by the Toledo staff, and flipped his commitment to the good guys. Martin already has a Big-12 body at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds. The 3-star recruit chose the Cyclones over Syracuse and Indiana, and is the 88th best wide receiver in the nation.
Running back Kene Nwangwu brings in 4.4 40 speed to this class and picked the Cyclones over Iowa, Indiana, Kansas and Northwestern. He is a 3-star recruit and listed as the 59th best running back in the country.
Get acquainted with this name for the next three years - Jacob Park. This highly-touted quarterback out of South Carolina was a consensus top-15 QB in the 2014 high school class. After a coaching change at Georgia, Park transferred to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M for a semester, and will now have three years to play in a cardinal and gold uniform. Park will serve as great competition for QB Joel Lanning and will provide tremendous depth at the position.
Another JUCO transfer, cornerback D'Andre Payne played his freshman year at Tennessee, only to go the JUCO route, and now finds himself in Ames, Iowa. He was a 4-star recruit out of high school and had offers from dozens of Power 5 schools. Payne was listed as the 22nd best cornerback in that class, and will have three years to play at ISU.
You want somebody that will hit you in the mouth - Tymar Sutton is your man. This beastly 220-pound linebacker can run all over the field and chose the Clones over Maryland, Illinois, Wisconsin and BC. He is the only linebacker to sign in this class, and will bring the house down on future Saturdays.
If Tyler Catalina stays true to his commitment, I see him starting at one of the offensive tackle positions from day one. First, this staff will have to hoard him away from the likes of Florida, Auburn and Texas A&M plus more. Stay tuned.
Tight end Cliff Fernandez will have the opportunity to play right away, given the lack of talent at that position. Hopefully this year the offense can utilize the TE position a bit more on passing plays.
Lonnie Johnson is known around these parts as the fastest player in this class, and will utilize that speed in the defensive backfield. Gone is safety Qujuan Floyd, and I could see Johnson or Thadd Daniels supplanting that role next season.
When I see Oge Udegou, I think Hayworth Hicks. This mauler will have every opportunity to step into a depleted offensive line and make his mark next year as offensive guard.
When you see players like Jomal Wiltz, Nigel Tribune and Brian Peavy playing as freshmen, my gut tells me one or two of these cornerbacks will be just too good not to play. Romelo Webster, Lawrence White, Jatairis Grant or Arnold Azunna will add tremendous depth to a secondary that will see a lot of passes thrown on game day.
Over a period of just two months, Coach Matt Campbell has brought in the best recruiting class in school history. This one came in at 46th according to Scout.com. Just think what this guy could do in 12 months! Paul Rhoads' average class was 69th, and McCarney's was 60th. It's only going to go up from here, folks.
Campbell mentioned in his press conference that his main position focus is the offensive and defensive lines plus the defensive backfield. He came through in flying colors today, as he and OL coach Tom Manning will utilize their coaching prowess to groom the future of a potent rushing attack.
When you think Big 12 football, you think spread pass attack. Campbell made DC Jon Heacock's life much easier by signing seven players in the secondary. The best part is that these guys could play any of the cornerback, nickel or safety positions. In this conference, more speed is needed on the defensive side of the ball, and Campbell found that today.
National Signing Day 2016 was a fun day for Cyclone fans, but Coach Campbell and company are just getting started.