Remember when Iowa scored a slam dunk in football recruiting in the Chicago area five years ago? When coach Kirk Ferentz signed five of the top six players, including two starters on next season's squad, tight end Tony Moeaki of Wheaton Warrenville South and offensive tackle Dan Doering of Barrington?
Well, the Hawkeyes haven't done well in the Chicago area in recent years--Illinois and Notre Dame have landed a majority of the elite players--but Ferentz and his staff, including chief recruiter Les Erb, are showing signs of making a major comeback with the class of 2010.
Iowa bounced back last season, finishing in a tie for fourth in the Big 10 with a 5-3 record and winning its last four games in a row for a 9-4 slate, closing with a 31-10 victory over South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.
Iowa isn't a football-crazy state so Ferentz, and Hayden Fry before him, have to go elsewhere to find talent. Chicago always is a priority. Fry did well in Texas. Ferentz also goes to St. Louis, Florida, Texas and New Jersey. And Ferentz, in my view, is one of the leading coaches in the country.
Iowa has one big-time, nationally recruited prospect this season, 6-4, 225-pound quarterback/athlete A.J. Derby of Iowa City. His father played at Iowa. It appears he likely will choose Iowa or Florida. If the Hawkeyes land Derby, it could be the making of a banner recruiting class.
The Hawkeyes also are among the 10 finalists for the nation's top-rated player, offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson of St. Paul, Minn. Henderson, who dropped Notre Dame from his list, also is considering USC, Florida, Michigan and Minnesota.
Iowa also is in on several of the top prospects in the Chicago area, including tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz of Johnsburg, quarterback Taylor Graham of Wheaton North and offensive lineman Zach Fulton of Homewood-Flossmoor.
Fiedorowicz, the nation's top-rated tight end, likely will choose Iowa or Ohio State. Graham favors Iowa or UCLA. And Fulton may choose Iowa or Tennessee.
Other Illinois products on Iowa's recruiting chart are fast-rising defensive tackle Bruce Gaston of St. Rita, offensive tackle Marek Lenkiewicz of Andrew, running back LaSteven McKinney of Nazareth and quarterback Sean Robinson of Rochester.
Another big-time prospect who could command attention from Iowa and other Big 10 schools is 6-3, 305-pound defensive tackle Frank Boenzi of Geneva. He was a standout on Geneva's 13-1 state runnerup last season.
However, Boenzi is a borderline student at best. He is enrolled in special education courses and plans to go to summer school to improve his academic standing. He has great size and looks good on film. If he can improve his grades, he would be a major college recruit.