Iowa football’s offensive newcomers and what they bring to the Hawkeyes

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Incoming freshmen have moved into their dorms and have started summer workouts at the Hansen Football Performance Center. They have 6 a.m. weightlifting and conditioning followed by multiple afternoon courses. Welcome to college, young ones. The Hawkeyes bring in 19 scholarship freshmen this month along with perhaps their best group of preferred walk-ons. The summer is about setting a tone and building a foundation for those players. They’ll get a week-long reprieve around Independence Day before a few more weeks of workouts. With Iowa landing as many as nine likely depth-chart players in the transfer portal, including eight on offense, the likelihood of its incoming class making a wholesale impact in 2023 is minimal compared with past years. But Iowa’s recruiting goal is for true freshmen to develop into contributors and starters two or more years down the road. For the most part, that’s the expectation for this group, too. Here’s a look at Iowa’s incoming offensive freshman scholarship players. Quarterbacks (1) Iowa offered Marco Lainez III in March 2021, and he committed nine months later. At The Hun School in Princeton, N.J., Lainez earned several honors, including first-team New Jersey Prep as a senior. Lainez (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) led his school to 9-0 records in 2021 and 2022. Last year, he completed 77.6 percent of his passes for 2,182 yards, 23 touchdowns and five interceptions while rushing for 573 yards and five scores. In 2021, he completed 80.2 percent for 1,761 yards, 21 touchdowns and two interceptions. In addition, Lainez ran for 451 yards and two scores. Lainez’s offensive coordinator was noted passing specialist Tony Racioppi, who worked previously with Iowa quarterbacks Nate Stanley and Spencer Petras along with first-round NFL Draft picks Kenny Pickett and Joe Flacco. Lainez likely will redshirt, but the Hawkeyes were smitten with him years ago. “Marco is a really good athlete,” Iowa recruiting director Tyler Barnes said. “He’s got a really sturdy build, almost looks like a linebacker. He’s got those innate leadership abilities. Guys like being around him. That’s what you want in a quarterback. “You want a guy that can come in and command the huddle, command the team, wants guys to follow him into a burning fire, and that’s who Marco is. He’s an ultimate competitor. Obviously, he has played really good football the last three years out there, and his stats back that up.” Iowa Hawkeye commit/Hun School QB Marco Lainez working Gun 3 Even playing Curl/Flat activating flat defender with eyes on turn throwing 12yd Curl. A great Base gives us Balance, Power and keeps us athletic. @MarcoLainez5 @HawkeyeFootball pic.twitter.com/LgsSIVfqgd — Tony Racioppi (@Tonyrazz03) May 20, 2023 Wide receivers (3), Tight ends (2), Running backs (1) The Hawkeyes bring in three receivers who all appear to be projects. Alex Mota (6-1, 175) played multiple positions at Marion (Iowa), and it likely will take time for him to learn the position’s nuance. Dayton Howard (6-4, 190) of Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo., and Jarriett Buie (6-3, 185) of Tampa (Fla.) Jesuit were ranked 1,073 and 1,322 nationally as prospects. All three are good athletes with size, which was “an emphasis,” Barnes said. Buie had 47 catches for 735 yards as a senior. Howard moved to the Kansas City northland for his senior football season after living in Savannah, Mo., in northwest Missouri. “(Buie is) every bit of 6-3-plus, a 195-pound kid and played in a unique offense,” Barnes said. “He played in an offense where he probably didn’t get to showcase his true receiver skills, and they moved him all over the place a little bit, which probably helped us out a little bit in the recruiting process as well. But we just liked his versatility. He does a lot of different things on film. He can really run. “What’s amazing when you see Dayton, he is bigger than advertised. He is all of 6-4 plus extremely long arms. We like that he comes from an athletic background. One year of production. I’m still shocked he didn’t have more offers, like completely shocked. I don’t know what Kansas and K-State are doing; I hope we prove them wrong.” Iowa initially looked at Mota as a defensive back, but he preferred to play offense. The plan is to bulk up Mota and then determine whether he’s a slot or outside receiver. “We thought he was a really good athlete, a really good kid and has a ton of familiarity with our program, obviously,” Barnes said. “He’s very versatile, so it’ll be good to get him here.” Iowa landed two tight ends. Zach Ortwerth (6-4, 225) of University High in St. Louis, Mo. He caught 11 passes for 194 yards last year. Grant Leeper (6-5, 215) played football for only one year and caught 27 passes for 376 yards and six touchdowns for Fort Wayne (Ind.) Homestead High School. Leeper, who enters as a grayshirt and will have a scholarship after the fall, averaged 9.0 points and 6.7 rebounds per basketball game. At running back, Kamari Moulton (5-11, 185) flipped from Florida Atlantic to Iowa last fall. Moulton rushed for 800 yards and nine touchdowns last year for Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Cardinal Gibbons. He tied the program record as a junior with 18 rushing scores along with 1,100 rushing yards. Iowa’s other true freshman running back, Terrell Washington (5-11, 195), enrolled in January and participated in spring practice. Offensive linemen (4) Iowa’s four offensive linemen arrive at different stages of development. The top prospect is four-star tackle Trevor Lauck (6-5, 295) from Indianapolis Roncalli. Lauck had offers from Ohio State, Michigan and Tennessee, but his choice came down to the Hawkeyes and Michigan State. Lauck could have depth chart potential this year. “He had some bigger schools coming after him, and Coach (George) Barnett just did an unbelievable job relationship-wise with Trevor and his family,” Barnes said. “We were trying to sell him on our tradition and our history, and he’s a great fit here. He fits in with our guys. He fits in the locker room.” Indy 🔜 Iowa pic.twitter.com/mskIB9TWGQ — Trevor Lauck (@TrevorLauck) May 13, 2023 Interior line prospect Leighton Jones (6-2, 275) comes from Brownsburg, an Indianapolis suburb. He won Indiana’s state heavyweight wrestling title in February, one year after finishing third. “They’re our type of guys, especially Leighton, who loves Iowa, loves wrestling, is tough as shit, obviously, and he’s got a chip on his shoulder,” Barnes said. Iowa’s projects include Kade Pieper (6-3, 250) from Norfolk (Neb.) Catholic and Cannon Leonard (6-8, 270) from Iroquois West High School in Gilman, Ill. Pieper originally was committed as a defensive lineman to North Dakota State before Iowa made a late-fall push. This spring, Pieper set the Nebraska Class C record in the shot put at 63 feet, 7.5 inches at the state meet. “A pretty serious kid, pretty serious demeanor,” Barnes said. “He’s just going to bring some toughness to that room. Kind of a no-nonsense guy. You like his family dynamic and his makeup. We’ve had some pretty good farm kids from Nebraska in recent history here. So we’ll keep that pipeline going.” One of the tallest football recruits in years, Leonard impressed Iowa’s coaching staff at the school’s lineman camp last year. While projecting a large class, Iowa’s staff then decided to extend an offer. Leonard’s older brother, Clayton, plays offensive line for Illinois and provided an assist for the Hawkeyes. “We didn’t really think we’re going to offer him and then coming out of camp as we talked in that next week, it was like this kid is a sleeper,” Barnes said. “This kid should have more going on and we offered him. “His brother — which is funny — he’s at Illinois. He was like, ‘If you don’t jump on this Iowa offer, you’re an idiot. So his brother, who is at a rival school, was telling his brother, ‘Hey, you need to come here.’” Grant Leeper joins Iowa as a grayshirt and will have a scholarship after the fall. (Scott Dochterman / The Athletic) Walk-ons to watch The Hawkeyes announced 13 incoming preferred walk-ons this spring, including five wide receivers. It would not surprise anyone if any of these five players vault past those coming to Iowa on full rides. Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Xavier receiver Aidan McDermott (6-2, 180) gave up a full ride to South Dakota State to walk on at Iowa after 45 catches for 804 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Class 4A state champion Saints. Ayden Price (6-0, 180) caught 67 passes for 685 yards and five while rushing for 274 yards and three touchdowns for Iowa Class 5A runner-up West Des Moines Valley. C.J. Leonard (6-2, 175) caught 40 passes for 607 yards and seven touchdowns last year for Shawnee Mission (Kan.) East. Judah Mallette (6-0, 180) led Chicago Hope Academy to a 10-1 record with 64 catches, 1,525 total yards and 19 touchdowns. Luke Pollack (6-3, 190) is a long, physical receiver with good hands and totaled 800 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns. It’s a similar scenario at tight end. West Des Moines (Iowa) Dowling’s Jayln Thompson (6-3, 235) turned down a scholarship from Northern Illinois to walk on. Thompson caught 22 passes for 305 yards last year and shows enough athletic ability to become a scholarship player in time. Pleasant Valley (Iowa) fullback Rusty VanWetzinga (6-1, 220), a Southern Illinois linebacker commit, flipped to Iowa as a signing-day walk-on. He scored eight touchdowns last year. Offensive lineman Cael Winter (6-3, 260) was an all-state performer at Waukee (Iowa) Northwest, and the Hawkeyes almost annually reward a walk-on offensive lineman with a scholarship. Quarterback Tommy Poholsky (6-1, 200), son of former Iowa quarterback with the same name, walks on from Evergreen, Colo. Poholsky threw for 2,622 yards, 37 touchdowns and six interceptions last year.

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