June 3, 2009

The final chapter for the Class of 2005

Recruiting can be a tricky business. I've always said that the ranking for any class or individual is simply a projection done in February before a prospect sets foot on a college campus. Ask me in four or five years how that class looks based on results and that will give you a much clearer picture.

Without question, the most heralded class in the Kirk Ferentz era at Iowa was back in 2005. At the time when the class signed, Rivals.com rated the 23 prospects as the 11th best class in the country. It included multiple U.S. Army All Americans and several other players who held many BSC level offers.

At the time, Iowa Football was coming off winning a share of their second Big Ten title in three years and a Capital One Bowl victory over LSU. Frankly, there weren't many programs in the country that were hotter than Iowa.

It also happened to coincide with a very talented group of Chicago area prospects graduating from high school in 2005 and a very good group of in-state talent as well. This was a perfect storm for Iowa Football and they took full advantage of it.

What got me thinking about the 2005 class once again wasn't to lament that expectations haven't been met or to provide another cautionary tale on the dangers of buying into recruiting ranks. This past weekend, I picked up several of the college football magazines at a local bookstore and one of them, Lindy's, had Dan Doering as a pre-season 1st team All Big Ten selection.

My initial reaction wasn't to scratch my head. All I did was smile and think what a great story that would be for Dan Doering.

I don't claim to know Dan very well and my interactions with him have been in professional settings during media interviews. He's a well spoken and thoughtful young man who has had his share disappointments since arriving in Iowa City. Dan is a good kid who has never had a problem off the field and by all accounts is a good teammate and student. There is a lot to be said about that. He comes from a terrific family and every time I have seen his parents they always have a smile on their face and a kind word. Good kid from a good family and Iowa fans should celebrate that fact.

Doering came to Iowa rated by Rivals.com as the 27th best prospect in the country and the #1 player in the state of Illinois. He was the only five star prospect in the class and he earned it. Once he arrived, injuries and illness have always seemed to sidetrack his progress. I'm sure Doering has been frustrated. I know I would be if I were walking in his shoes. But, I have never once heard him complain about the fate he has been dealt at Iowa.

This fall he has one more shot.

Doering will be battling for a starting spot at guard on the offensive line with at least two other players from the Class of 2005, Dace Richardson and Andy Kuempel, who have also had their share of bad breaks in their Iowa careers.

When you look at it, the story of the Class of 2005 isn't as much about not living up to great expectations. It has been about injuries and the impact it has had on their development as players at Iowa.

Doering has had an illness that zapped his weight down and injuries to his foot and wrist.

Richardson's history of knee problems has been well chronicled and it is amazing we are even talking about him playing football this fall.

Kuempel has had a variety of injuries, including shoulder surgery this past winter that prevented him from participating this spring.

Rafael Eubanks has fought through a variety of knee problems in his career.

Tony Moeaki has had more injuries to more body parts than you can count.

Pat Angerer finally emerged from his various injuries that nearly led him to give up the game to have an All Big Ten type season at middle linebacker last year.

Angerer's close friend, Alex Kanellis, had to give up the game due to concussions.

Vernon Jackson gave up football due to knee problems. Tyler Blum opted to not stay for his fifth year after a variety of back problems in his career.

Sure there are guys who left the program and had their problems on the way out the door with academics or off the field troubles. Every class at nearly every school in the country has their share of that each year. I doubt there is one recruiting class in the country at the high D1 level that doesn't have their share of defections. Its college football and it happens.

It would be easy to sit back and say that this class hasn't lived up to the fans expectations. I'd bet if you asked each of these players, they would tell you that when they arrived at Iowa in the summer of 2005, their vision of the future was very different than the way it has played out thus far.

But, the good news is they have one more chance. They have one more opportunity to prove it on the gridiron.

Wouldn't it be something if these Hawkeyes could stay healthy this season?

Wouldn't it be something if in late November when the Big Ten releases their all conference selections we are reading names like Doering, Richardson, Moeaki, Kuempel, and Eubanks?

One of the things that draws us to athletics is not only the love of competition, but good stories. This is one story that I am hoping to write about the Class of 2005. It would make a heck of a final chapter.


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