Iowa’s most coveted recruits detail whirlwind 48 hours of college football coaching carousel

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PLEASANT HILL, Iowa — Until this year the state of Iowa never had a five-star football recruit. Now Southeast Polk High School has two of them and West Des Moines Valley High School has a four-star.

Name a major university and they’ve offered Southeast Polk Senior Xavier Nwankpa and Junior Kadyn Proctor a full scholarship. “They’ve definitely made their final pitches and taken in home visits leading up to Wednesday so it’s pretty cool,” said Nwankpa.

On Monday Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley shocked everyone by leaving for a job at USC and didn’t take long to check in on Proctor, the top offensive tackle in the country. “I’ve actually talked to coach Riley after. He actually had a new California number and texted me from it and I joked with him about the number,” said Proctor.

On Tuesday Notre Dame’s all time winningest coach Brian Kelly left the sports world stunned when he left to join LSU. “I honestly thought this was one of the most stable coaching staffs so that was really unexpected to see him leave like that,” said West Des Moines Valley Senior Eli Raridon who committed to play football at Notre Dame last May. Raridon and his family were planning on having Kelly in their home next week. “The tight ends coach John McNulty came yesterday when all this crazy stuff was happening and he had no idea before he flew here. Once he landed his phone blew up,” Raridon said.

Nwankpa is the state’s top recruit and will make his final decision between Iowa, Notre Dame and Ohio State. He says the coaching vacancies won’t impact his decision. “Wherever I go, I’m not committing to a coach. I’m committing to the brand, everything there and the environment,” Nwankpa said.

For Raridon, whose dad also played for the Fighting Irish, wearing the golden helmet stands for more than just coach Kelly. Raridon said, “I’ve been a fan ever since I was born so it means everything to me. Based off the school, campus and value of the degree I thought Notre Dame was the best decision for me.”

It’s becoming more and more common for coaches to seek the highest bidder. “It’s a better job, better pay so I get it but kind of leaves the recruits with nothing to think about,” Proctor said.

It’s left these recruits with an understanding that they too must put themselves first. Nwankpa said, “It’s a business decision. College football is a business and you just have to do what’s best for you.”

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