Recruiting can be a huge beast to follow and a lot of the news can go unnoticed by the casual fan. So what we’re going to do here at WRNL is give you a monthly breakdown of all things Iowa State football recruiting. This recurring article will give you everything, from the big news of recent commitments all the way down to notable offers that were given out by the staff.
The month of May was a big one for Matt Campbell and his staff as they secured five commitments for the 2018 class and even got some immediate help for the 2017 season along the offensive line. Let’s get this recruiting rewind underway with the commitments from the month of May.
Re-al Mitchell - Quarterback
With what appears to be the prized possession of the 2018 class, Matt Campbell hauled in a dynamic playmaker at quarterback at the beginning of May. Re-al Mitchell chose Iowa State over the likes of South Carolina, Northwestern and Arizona.
If you look at teams Matt Campbell has coached in the past, many have involved more of a pocket passer with little scrambling ability. Mitchell will allow Matt Campbell and Tom Manning to be more versatile with their offense and allow them to attack opposing defenses in different ways.
Look for Mitchell to redshirt his first year while Jacob Park finishes out his Iowa State career. Then, he should be allowed to compete for playing time as Iowa State will be looking for a starting quarterback heading into the 2019 season.
C.J. Bolar - Wide Receiver
After the 2017 season, Iowa State will lose a good chunk of their receiving corps and will need some replacements. Christmas came early in May with the commitment of C.J. Bolar, who’s the highest rated wide receiver commit for ISU since Allen Lazard.
Bolar is a 3-star prospect and hails from right in the middle of SEC territory. He had offers from Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and more. Bolar is 6-foot-2 and shows great speed and hands. He’ll definitely have a shot to play early on in his career with the holes opening up on the depth chart.
Trevor Downing - Offensive Line
Considered as one of the top targets in the class, Matt Campbell never laid off the gas when recruiting Trevor Downing. It’s not hard to see why. Downing sits at 6-foot-5, 290 pounds and already has the body frame to play at the collegiate level. He’s also considered one the premier run blockers in the entire offensive line class.
Downing played mostly the tackle position during his high school days, but don’t be surprised to see him move inside to one of the guard positions and be an anchor in the middle. Coach Manning should have a lot of fun developing this 3-star prospect who also had offers from Iowa, Minnesota and Kansas State.
Zach Ross - Offensive Line
Much like Trevor Downing, Zach Ross is a big-bodied interior offensive lineman. At 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, there’s no question that Ross will be on the inside. Much like Downing, Ross is great at run blocking and is currently a 3-star prospect.
Ross is also no stranger to winning. Being part of the Dowling Catholic football team, he has been on three straight state championship-winning teams. He certainly fits the mold of what Coach Campbell is looking for out of high school recruits. I would expect Ross to redshirt his first year in Ames to allow time to develop.
Anthony Johnson Jr. - Cornerback
Anthony Johnson Jr. committed in mid-May with the other flurry of commitments. He’s a speed corner and it’ll be interesting to see if he ever finds himself in the mix in the return game during his time in Ames.
Johnson Jr. had offers from Tulane, Buffalo and Marshall and is a 3-star prospect with an 84 composite rating according to 247Sports. Currently, he’s the only cornerback to commit to Iowa State, so this may be an area where we see another commit come into play for the 2018 class.
Josh Knipfel - Offensive Line
Out of all the recruiting news this month, this may be the most exciting. Coach Campbell got himself an immediately-eligible offensive lineman for this coming season in Josh Knipfel. Knipfel was an immediate qualifier out of high school, but elected to go the JUCO route instead and attend Iowa Western.
With the loss of grad transfer Khaliel Rodgers to North Carolina, this commitment helps fill the void. It remains uncertain what position Knipfel will play, but he has the build to play inside at guard, which is what he played at Hampton-Dumont in high school. I would expect to see Knipfel in the mix for the offensive line this season, as there are still one or two spots left up to competition.
Three Names To Watch
As always, recruiting is a fluid situation as prospects are narrowing down their lists and lining up their visits. Offensive line, cornerback and outside linebacker are three holes that I think Iowa State will need to add to in this class. I expect the staff to keep attacking those positions until they have one more commit for each of them.
Here are three names that could fill those holes.
Vincent Gray - Rochester, Michigan
As mentioned earlier with Anthony Johnson Jr., there may only be room for one more cornerback in the 2018 class. Gray may be the one Iowa State wants the most. He’s a 3-star cornerback prospect out of Michigan and currently sports an 85 composite ranking according to 247Sports.
Iowa State offered Gray back in December and currently appears to be the frontrunner as of today. Gray’s recruiting appears to be picking up however, as he recently received offers from Missouri and Kentucky and took a visit to Wisconsin. Expect Iowa State to keep the pressure on as Gray, because he could be a player that can change their secondary for years to come.
Joey Ramos - Glendale, Arizona
Joey Ramos, an offensive tackle out of Arizona, has been on Iowa State’s radar for awhile now. Ramos has recently picked up offers from Washington and Kansas State and also has Oregon after him. If he was to end up picking Iowa State, he could be one of their best offensive line recruits in Coach Campbell's three classes as a Cyclone.
Ramos is currently ranked as a 3-star prospect and there appears to be no timetable as to when he’ll announce his choice for a top 10. Coach Manning is the lead recruiter on Ramos, and you can bet this is one recruit he’s going to continue pursuing hard.
Khalan Tolson - Saint Petersburg, Florida
Tolson is a 3-star outside linebacker out of Florida. He currently has offers from Michigan, Indiana, Pittsburgh and Louisville. With Brian Johnson apparently heading to Baylor, Iowa State may need need to find themselves another option at outside linebacker, and Tolson may be it.
Tolson shows the ability to rush the passer and also play your typical linebacker spot. He’s the type of linebacker that doesn’t give up on plays, and if you watch his film from high school, you’ll see how he can chase down a play from the other side of the field. Coach Campbell recruits players that have relentless effort, and Tolson fits that mold all the way.
Recruits will sometimes throw out their top remaining schools they’re looking at in the recruiting process, and Iowa State has made a few of them in the month of May. Here are the recruits that have listed Iowa State as one of their top choices.
DeAndre Square - Detroit, Michigan
Square is a 3-star outside linebacker that could be a four-year starter for Iowa State. With Michigan State and LSU on his radar, Iowa State looks to be a long shot here.
Justin Birdsong - Stephenson, Georgia
Birdsong is a 3-star cornerback prospect with a ton of upside. With previously mentioned Vincent Gray on Iowa State’s radar, we may see Birdsong taking his talents elsewhere.
Ricky Williams Jr. - Tampa, Florida
Williams Jr. is a 3-star defensive end with the capability of playing the outside linebacker position. Baylor and Iowa State appear to be the frontrunners at this time for Williams Jr.’s services.
Meechi Harris - Xenia, Ohio
Iowa State is looking to add another receiver to the 2018 class. Harris, a 3-star prospect, would overtake current commit C.J. Bolar as the highest-rated receiver to join Iowa State since Allen Lazard. With Ohio State still showing some interest, his top choices may change.
My Top 9. Please respect my decision. Next will be my Top 3. Thank you again to all coaches. Truly a blessed man. B.B.B. pic.twitter.com/gNJLQvGnW7— Meech1 (@king_dj_sosa14) May 23, 2017
Kam Scott - Manvel, Texas
Kam Scott, another 3-star prospect, announced on Twitter that his commitment was coming soon. Scott and high school teammate Brian Johnson, who is also an Iowa State target, appear to be heading to Baylor.
In Matt Campbell’s time at Iowa State we have seen his staff get in early on recruits and build relationships that last all the way to signing day. Iowa State is identifying targets all the time and even a few years out. Here are some of the notable offers the staff has handed out in the month of May.
V’Lique Carter - West Palm Beach, Florida
Carter is a 3-star safety out of Florida and holds a 85 composite rating on 247Sports. He currently holds offers from Kentucky, Oklahoma and UCF. Carter is currently stuck in the middle of the Stoops brothers battling for his commitment. If Coach Campbell and staff can build a relationship with him, he could become a dynamic player for the Cyclones.
Tayland Humphrey - Hutchinson Community College, Kansas
Humphrey is one of the most sought-after community college defensive tackles for the 2018 recruiting class. He currently holds offers from Alabama, Florida State, Georgia and Oklahoma. Iowa State may have extended an offer too late, but as we know with recruiting, anything can happen.
Drue Jackson - Sachse, Texas
Jackson is a 3-star wide receiver that’s just below the rating line for a 4-star requirement. He holds offers from Texas Tech, Houston, Louisville and many others. Jackson is a versatile receiver that can also make an impact in the return game. This may be another target that Iowa State offered too late in the process.
Jared Mangham - Detroit, Michigan
Mangham is a 2019 running back target that is garnering attention from many top programs like Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. Right now, Iowa State is appearing as one of top suitors for Mangham’s services. Although it’s early on in his recruitment, this may be a name we’ll start to hear a lot about in the next year.
Noah Potter - Mentor, Ohio
Potter is a defensive end in the 2019 recruiting class, and much like Jared Mangham, he’s getting a lot of attention from Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. A lot of things can happen between now and 2019 signing day, but Ohio State feels like his choice.
What could this class end up looking like?
This class doesn’t look flashy in the Big 12 rankings right now, but Iowa State only has around 18 scholarships open for the 2018 class, so that will play a part in their ranking at the end of this recruiting cycle. What this class has done so far is fill some voids that will be left at the end of the 2017 season, especially on special teams, where Iowa State will again lose their kicker as well as the punter Colin Downing. CoachCampbell has been able to address both positions and now can round out the rest of the class with quality playmakers that will continue to bolster depth that this team has lacked for so many years.
What can we expect the rest of the way? We should see another wide receiver, cornerback and possibly another offensive lineman or two join the 2018 class. We have yet to see a running back, linebacker or tight end commit just yet. A tight end may be one of the last positions to come off the board as the staff has a few more priorities to fill first.
What’s certain is that from now until the new early signing period in December, things are going to be rather interesting and fast-paced. So stay tuned to WRNL for recruiting updates as well as more monthly summaries in the future!