An Iowa football program sorely in need of good news received some of it on Saturday when standout recruit Ross Pierschbacher verbally committed to the Hawkeyes. The Class of 2014 offensive lineman from Cedar Falls said he picked them over Notre Dame.
"Getting a chance to play in front of my home state and my community just felt right," Pierschbacher said. "I wanted to be a Hawkeye."
Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz and assistant Reese Morgan visited Pierschbacher in Cedar Falls on Friday. He became their first verbal commit in '14.
"I sat down and talked with them for a while," the 6-foot-5, 270-pounder said. "They just really helped me feel more comfortable with where they're going with the program and how they see me. I just woke up (Saturday) morning feeling really good about it knowing where I wanted to go. I got the stress off of me and got the 2014 recruiting class going for Iowa."
The Iowa staff can't comment on Pierschbacher's commitment until he signs a nation letter of intent. He will be able to do that in February of 2014.
Scout.com ranks Pierschbacher as a four-star recruit on its five-star scale. The service pegs him as the fourth-ranked offensive guard nationally in his class.
Pierschbacher was one of only a handful of juniors that attended The Opening, a summer event for the nation's top recruits. He held scholarship offers from Boise State, Iowa, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Northern Iowa (his first), Oklahoma and Wisconsin and visited national-champion Alabama in November.
Landing Pierschbacher helps heal Hawkeye Nation after a 4-8 campaign in 2012.
"This isn't the way Iowa football is this past season," Pierschbacher said. "I'm sure they're going to bounce back. I just want to be a part of that."
Pierschbacher makes it three years in a row that Iowa has landed a commitment from Cedar Falls. Barkley Hill came in the 2012 class and Ike Boettger joined up in '13.
Being the first commitment in '14 allows Pierschbacher to begin recruiting prospects in his class to Iowa. One of the top targets in the state is Union High, Laporte City quarterback Jay Scheel.
"I talked to him (Saturday) morning," Pierschbacher said. "He can speak for himself and I'm not going to pressure anybody. I just want to encourage guys that want to be a part of it to come join me, especially the in-state guys. They've been around Iowa football and know what it's about.
"Hopefully with my commitment, they see that things are going in the right way still and that we're not backtracking."
In addition to Pierschbacher and Scheel, Iowa has offered in-state juniors Keegan Render (Indianola) and Allen Lazard (Urbandale, Iowa State verbal).
Pierschbacher said he was scheduled to visit Notre Dame's junior day next weekend. Instead, he will be at Iowa for its underclassmen event.
"it came down to Iowa and Notre Dame," Pierschbacher said. "Coach (Brian) Kelly interviewing with the NFL, that just got me thinking that I wanted to play for the coach I committed to. If he doesn't go this year, maybe he'll go the next year after that."
The Irish also received commitments from four Scout.com four-star offensive tackles in the 2013 class.
"I just started to question if playing time would become an issue," Pierschbacher said. "I want to play. Coming into Iowa, I think I have a better chance to play earlier than Notre Dame."
Pierschbacher verbally committed on the phone to Morgan, Kirk Ferentz and his son, Brian Ferentz, the offensive line coach.
"They were just so excited and extremely happy for me," he said. "They said they were going to push me just to get me my goals. I trust in them that they're going to do their job and help me achieve all that I can.
"Coach Morgan said he was going to go celebrate and that he couldn't stop smiling. If he misses church tomorrow he's going to blame it on me. I think Coach(Kirk) Ferentz said 'that's fantastic' about 20 times."