Cyclone recruiting mailbag: What's next for Iowa State football in 2019 and 2020?

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Randy Peterson, rpeterson@dmreg.com

Busy mailbag this week, so let’s get right to it.

What recruits does Iowa State realistically have a chance on to finish the football class before the final signing day? — @LoganHayes_30

As expected, Philadelphia three-star safety Isheem Young signed with Iowa State on Wednesday. He is the only 2019 recruit the Cyclones added on the Feb. 6 signing day.

That does not mean Iowa State is done with its 2019 class. Not at all.

Wide receiver is still a position to watch, as the Cyclones are looking for someone to fill Hakeem Butler’s spot. Miami graduate transfer Lawrence Cager has been a big name to monitor for a while. He officially visited Ames in late January and also has Georgia, Penn State, Oregon, Nebraska and other schools involved. 

Arkansas graduate transfer La’Michael Pettway officially visited Iowa State last weekend, and he has Auburn in on him, too. Theoretically, both Cager and Pettway’s recruitments could extend until summer workouts — although that’s not likely.

The Cyclones also hosted Illinois graduate transfer cornerback Cameron Watkins for an official visit two weekends ago. A Nashville native, he visited Vanderbilt last weekend and also has South Carolina, Memphis, Pittsburgh and Louisville on his radar.

Penn State graduate transfer cornerback Zech McPhearson told me he visited Ames last weekend. He’s not looking to make any decision until the spring. McPhearson was a four-star 2016 recruit ranked the No. 224 prospect in the country by 247Sports.

With all that said, almost all of the Cyclones’ recruiting focus will turn to the 2020 and 2021 classes as we move past the second signing day.

They are working to make big splashes in a talented in-state 2020 class. They got a great start with Central Decatur linebacker Cole Pedersen, who committed to Iowa State last July, and Greene County offensive tackle Tyler Miller, who committed in November. 

Cedar Rapids Xavier offensive lineman Josh Volk (who just picked up a Nebraska offer) and Carroll Kuemper defensive end Blaise Gunnerson are the top two remaining in-state 2020 prospects, currently. Iowa State was the first to offer Volk last December, and it’s been thought to be positioned quite well with Gunnerson for a long time.

Any comment on (how Isheem Young’s commitment happened)? — @wiggitwiggit

You may have noticed that I reported Young’s commitment to Iowa State on Sunday. In response, he tweeted that he had not committed to any school yet. Now, his weekend commitment has become official.

Here’s what happened: On Sunday, I asked Young’s position coach at Imhotep if Young had committed to Iowa State during his official visit over the weekend. The coach, Cyril Woodland, said that, yes, Young had committed to the Cyclones over the weekend.

Due to a miscommunication and the rush to report, I wasn’t aware Young didn’t want that information publicized until he signed on Wednesday. By the time I became aware of that, the information was already out on Twitter.

So, that’s why Sunday played out the way it did. 

Now, moving on: Iowa State is getting a really good player in Young. There’s a reason he was a four-star 2018 Penn State recruit with offers from Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Ohio State, Florida State and plenty more.

Legal issues derailed his Nittany Lion commitment and Young chose to reclassify to 2019. It looked like he would sign with West Virginia, until the coaching change there. And when Matt Caponi, the Mountaineers’ former defensive backs coach, joined the Cyclones’ staff in January, he brought the interest in Young with him to Ames.

How early do you start looking at young football talent? — Brook

I’ve gotten some form of this question many times over the past couple years, both for football and basketball. And it’s a good question.

As a general rule, I won’t start seriously looking at young football talent until high school. Middle school ball is just so different from varsity competition. For potential Division I-level kids, I’m interested in how they fare against guys who are one, two, three years older than them. Plus, we can’t know for certain how a prospect’s body is going to develop through their high school years. “Jimmy” could have an early growth spurt and check in a 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds as an eighth-grader, and he might dominate middle school opponents.

But what if he stops growing? What if he doesn’t have the type of body that can add weight while maintaining speed and athleticism?

That’s not to say seventh- and eighth-grade performance is meaningless. If I hear about an impressive middle-schooler, he’ll go on a “young talent to keep an eye on” list in my head. But I, and I think most of the recruiting community, will hold off on writing or reporting much until the player plays in high school. There’s just a lot that goes into a prospect’s recruiting stock. It’s hard to ever be 100 percent certain about a kid. But there’s a little less gray area in high school.

A good example: Clear Creek Amana 2021 defensive end T.J. Bollers was on my radar when he was in middle school. His strength coach, JC Moreau, showed me his film and told stories of how he looked like a man among boys on the football field. And, if you’ve seen Bollers’ middle school games, you know Moreau wasn’t exaggerating. 

I wanted to wait until watching Bollers play a high school game in person to write a story about him, though. And, when I finally did see him when the Clippers traveled to West Delaware in late September 2017, the phenom proved to be legit.

Now, he’s the youngest-ever Iowa Eight member for football, and he’s been one of the major talents the Register has written about the past couple years. 

Any idea on when Xavier Foster will announce his commitment? — @CjNascar6767

I would not expect a decision any time soon. For a while, Foster has suggested he’ll wait until his senior year to commit. And a few days ago, I was told that he’ll at least finish summer AAU ball with Pure Prep Academy before making a decision.

Of course, things change in recruiting all the time. But that’s the latest I’ve heard.

And it makes sense to play out the spring and summer. Iowa and Iowa State are the two schools most on Foster right now, and that’s not going to change — no matter how late into the summer or fall the five-star, 7-footer wants to extend this.

USC is definitely involved, especially since hosting Foster for an official in early December. UCLA is also still in the picture. It was a bit unclear if the Bruins would continue recruiting Foster after Steve Alford was fired, but most of the same staff is in place and they are still in contact with the Fosters. 

Foster holds a Kansas offer, although the Jayhawks haven’t been as involved as Iowa, Iowa State, USC or UCLA. Baylor and Creighton are in the picture, too.

In addition to all that, Foster has had interest from Duke and Kentucky since last AAU season, and schools such as Michigan and Ohio State have nibbled in the past, as well.

With a recruiting landscape like that, it makes a lot of sense to play things out in the spring and summer, see if any new schools offer or bump up their interest, and then make a decision from there. Foster is the type of prospect that doesn’t need to feel rushed. Schools are going to be more patient with a five-star, top-25 guy than your average prospect.

But, if the kid wakes up one morning and decides he wants to end his recruitment and be a Cyclone or a Hawkeye, you can’t fault him for that, either. 

Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at mbain@dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.

Source: Des Moines Register