Welcome to the Football Recruiting Rewind, a new summer series from Wide Right & Natty Lite designed to dive back into past recruiting classes to evaluate the hits, the misses, and the in-betweens and to track how our perception of these classes changes over time.
We kick the series off by looking back at the 2018 recruiting class, a class that has few members left on the current roster, but a class that was foundational to the current success enjoyed by this program. This was Matt Campbells second full class, following the work laid down by Paul Rhoads and staff in 2016 and his first full class which inked in 2017.
This class was also the first chance Campbell and Co. had to capitalize off of program-changing momentum gathered during a 2017 campaign which included an incredulous road win against Oklahoma and a home win over a top 5 TCU program, capped by a Liberty Bowl victory over #19 Memphis.
Joseph Scates WR 6-3, 180 0.9069
Sean Shaw Jr. WR 6-6, 200 0.8755
Joey Ramos OT 6-5, 305 0.8709
Trevor Downing OT 6-4, 295 0.8640
Brock Purdy QB 6-1, 200 0.8594
Re-Al Mitchell QB 6-0, 190 0.8514
Carson Schleker WR 5-9, 175 0.8481
Zach Ross OG 6-4, 300 0.8160
Brayden Narveson K 6-1, 190 0.8115
Corey Dunn P 6-1, 200 0.8024
Starting with the wide receiver group, it’s clear the coaching staff prioritized size, witch the exception of Schleker, who was brought in as a highly touted speedster. With the departure of Allen Lazard, it’s not hard to see why.
Schleker came in very highly touted, and had a host of other division one offers. His career never took off, and he would ultimately transfer out of the program in 2019.
Joe Scates not only highlighted the WR group, but he headlined the class, coming in as one of our higher rated recruits in program history with offers from nearly every college football power (including Alabama). While we saw flashes of talent, like in the 2020 season when he grabbed two touchdowns, his ability never materialized, resulting in a transfer to Memphis following the 2021 season. The lack of production here definitely hurt this class and the WR group as a whole.
The book is still largely out on Shaw. Shaw has shown flashes over the course of his career, but his health and production have never been consistent. Injuries marred a 2021 season where he saw minimal playing time, and to find his best season requires you to go back to 2019, where he reeled in 5 touchdowns and was a favorite target of Brock Purdy. When healthy, he has shown ability as a possession receiver who is good near the sticks and goal line, but will his health allow him to put a positive note on a disappointing career?
WR Grade: C
This group came in very highly-touted and ready to play early on, a rarity for a position group that always brought in under-sized recruits in years past. Trever Downing was the headline, an Iowa farm boy who wanted to play for the Cyclones.
And Trevor Downing is still the headline. Downing started strong and was named a Freshman All-American in 2019 before suffering a season-ending injury in 2020. Last season, he anchored the offensive line and was named First Team All Big 12, an honor he will likely win again in 2022.
Joey Ramos kicked our doors in with a sick commitment video, but that was probably the height of his Cyclone fame. He did contribute right away on special teams, and did see action in quite a few games in 2020, action in which he acquitted himself quite well. This promise did not amount to much playing time in 2021, and now Ramos is back home with Arizona State.
Zach Ross has came in as more of a project, and he remains a depth player on the roster, seeing action in two games last season.
This class still turned out to be a huge success, as Ramos was a huge get from a pipeline state who was talented but was pushed out, Ross is a solid depth guy, and Trevor Downing is a foundational offensive lineman and program leader.
OL Grade: A
While this class had two names that got us excited, it was always about Brock Purdy, the kid from Arizona who visited Alabama but came to Iowa State.
Re-al Mitchell was a very nice get and he did show promise during his brief time in Ames (mostly in garbage time), but a once-open job was quickly taken by #15, and Re-al left to look for greener pastures instead of taking a backup role or being asked to switch positions.
Brock Purdy makes this class an A+, as he turned out to be the best quarterback to ever wear cardinal and gold over the course of his career. His records are too numerous to list here, and his impact on the program will be felt for years to come.
QB Grade: A+
Any class that contains Corey Dunn gets an F- from me. Even if Narveson did come in highly-touted and turn out to be decent for another school . Don’t care
Special Teams Grade: F-
Will McDonald DL 6-4, 200 0.8614
Jaeveyon Morton CB 5-9, 180 0.8605
Greg Eisworth DB 6-0, 195 0.8582
Michael Rose LB 6-4, 215 0.8580
Isiah Lee DT 6-1, 295 0.8539
Zach Petersen DE 6-4, 225 0.8444
Dallas Taylor-Cortez CB 6-2, 170 0.8431
Anthony Johnson Jr. CB 6-0. 170 0.8402
Tayvonn Kyle DB 6-0, 195 0.8393
CHANDLER PULVERMACHER LB 6-2, 210 0.8294
Gerry Vaughn LB 5-11, 205 0.8160
When it comes to defense, what a class it was.
What an absolute home-run of a recruiting class this turned out to be.
With the exception of CHANDLER PULVERMACHER (that’s how you say his name, it HAS to be bolded like that), who turned out to be a special teams player before transferring out, this class brought Mike Rose and Gerry Vaughn, though #23 is obviously the headline.
Mike Rose ended up being first-team All American, first team All Big 12, and a final four candidate for the Lombardi Award, in addition to being an academic rockstar and one of the unquestioned leaders of the program. And he provided us with some great plays in big moments. Who can forget his pick-six at home against Kansas State? He was also a warrior, tying the school record for 49 career starts. Not bad for a lightly-recruited linebacker out of Ohio.
Gerry Vaughn will be thrust into the spotlight this year, though he shone at times in 2021, playing in every game and starting six. He collected 45 tackles, 5.5 TFL, and 1.5 sacks during a promising season that he will look to build on this fall.
LB Grade: Mike Rose, a depth guy turned starter, and someone named PULVERMACHER? A+
While there are a few players who missed, this group turned out to have some program-changers as well, plus one player still looking to finalize his impact on the program.
Both Dallas Taylor-Cortez and Jaeveyon Morton failed to make in impact, with the former transferring out of the program in 2019 and Morton following him in in 2020. Both players were fairly well-thought-of recruits, choosing Iowa State over some big-time programs. Alas, it did not pan out.
But Greg Eisworth and Anthony Johnson both did. In a big, program-altering way.
Greg Eisworth came to Iowa State from Trinity Valley C.C., and his three seasons to play turned into four thanks to the COVID year. Greg made a splash right away, wining Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year and stabilizing the secondary. Immediately made a captain, his leadership was felt on and off the field, and he was honored for both in big ways, becoming one of the first players in ISU history to be named First Team All Big 12 in three straight seasons. While his numbers weren’t as good in his final season, his durability and playmaking was never more evident. He ended his career with 46 starts, 259 tackles, 11.5 TFL, five interceptions, 22 pass breakups and two forced fumbles, capping an incredible career.
This leads us to Anthony Johnson, a player who has already had a massive impact on the field and will look to continue that in 2022. Johnson has been named All Big 12 Honorable Mention 3 times (a shame he’s never been first team), has a string of 41 consecutive starts, and is a lockdown, NFL-type cornerback, an anchor on the outside for this defense.
Tayvonn Kyle rounds out the class, and he also has one chapter left in his Iowa State story. While his 2021 campaign featured minimal playing time, Kyle has been a factor during his entire career, starting 5 games each in 2019 and 2020, earning All Big 12 Honorable Mention awards in both seasons due to his lock-down coverage. Expect to see more time and impact from him in 2022.
DB Grade: A
Man, Matt Campbell and his staff were on one with this defensive recruiting class.
The accomplishments of Will McDonald IV are too numerous to list here, but I’ll try my best: First Team All American, First Team All Big 12 (twice), two straight seasons tied for Big 12 lead in sacks, single season school record in sacks at 11.5, second most sacks in the nation since 2020, ISU’s all-time career sack leader (29.0), tied for second on ISU’s career forced fumble list (9,) and tied for fourth in career TFL (34.5) at Iowa State.
And he still has one more season to play.
While Iowa State has had a glut of Petersens on the roster, few been as impactful as Zach. An Iowa boy who chose ISU over the TOE, he made an impact right away and did not redshirt. He played in every game for two seasons with little acclaim until his senior season in 2021, where he started 12 games and led all ISU linemen in tackles. He would be rewarded with All Big 12 HM honors for his efforts, capping a successful career which ended with 107 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Isiah Lee is another incredible success story that has another chapter to play out in 2022. Coming in lightly regarded, he has absolutely been a success story. Despite little playing time his first two seasons, he burst onto the scene in 2020, filling in for injuries and anchoring the defensive line. While he started slow in 2021, he really came on strong late, registering 15 tackles and 4.0 TFL in the last six games. Lee is expected to once again anchor the interior defensive line this fall.
DL Grade: A+
Giving this class anything but an A seems irresponsible. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the award numbers from this class:
- Big 12 Newcomer of the Year: 1
- Big 12 Freshmen of the Year: 1
- Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year: 1
- 1st Team All Big 12: 10
- 2nd Team All Big 12: 2
- Honorable Mention All Big 12: 12
- First/Second Team All American: 3
- Freshman All American: 2
If the offensive skill positions had turned out a little better, this class is a slam dunk A+. Special teams misses also hurt the grade as well (and hurt my SOUL). That said, this impactful class is a solid A with potential upside remaining.