Syndication: Iowa City Press-Citizen

The 2024 season is one of big, exciting changes in the Big Ten. The conference will add a western wing this summer, with USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington growing the number of schools in the league to 18. Everywhere I go -- around family, friends, or strangers who find out what I do for a living -- I get asked how excited I am about the changes.

I tell them the truth. I'm not as excited about the additions as I am intrigued by them. It will be interesting to see how the additions shift the landscape of the league, but even that's limited because I'm fairly confident they won't be the last additions in the near future.

The one thing that excites me -- but nobody ever asks about it-- is the new-look Iowa offense.

Yes, I'm a man of unique tastes. The Big Ten has four new teams? Cool. Ohio State is acquiring an incredible amount of talent this offseason that could set the Buckeyes up for years? Neat.

But have you heard that Iowa's going to be running far more pre-snap motion? That's change! That's exciting! When it comes to the changes supposedly coming to Iowa City, I'm trying to maintain an "I'll believe it when I see it" attitude. But the more I read and hear, the more I buy into the idea that it's actually happening.

Take this column from the Des Moines Register's Chad Leistikow about former Iowa running back and current running backs coach Ladell Betts. Of note, Iowa's staff and new offensive coordinator Tim Lester visited the Green Bay Packers, where Lester previously served as a senior analyst. The emphasis is mine:

"[Lester] was 100% the catalyst. It was good to see that, too," Betts said. "A guy that only spent one year somewhere, he was so well-received when we went in - from the players to the coaches. It just shows me that he must have made an impact. They clearly remembered who he was. That's a good sign that you're dealing with a great guy."

Team visits are common in the offseason. For example, Ferentz has taken staff to New England Patriots practices in the past. Iowa once visited Georgia football practice to get a window into how the Southeastern Conference powerhouse operates. This particular visit was beneficial because, as Betts said, "We're running the Packers' system. We're running the Shanahan system."

What's that? Iowa will be running the Packers' system? The Shanahan system? Does that include pre-snap motion?

"The bread and butter of it is the run game. It all centers around the run game," Betts told the Register. "But I think the biggest takeaway is how much consternation can we give the defense? How off-balance can we keep the defense? There's going to be a lot of motions. A lot of shifts. A lot of pre-snap changes with the alignments."

I appreciate Betts saying "consternation." It's a good word that needs to be used more often, much like pre-snap motion for the Iowa offense. My problems with Iowa's offenses weren't strictly related to the style of play. I have no problem with multiple tight end sets and smashmouth football. My problem was how easy the Hawkeyes made things on opponents. They lined up and ran the play.

Hearing that the Hawkeyes plan to use more pre-snap motion was a jolt to the system. Motion before the snap is not some newfangled discovery. It's a basic concept teams have used for a long time to force a defense to declare itself and make life easier for the quarterback. How infrequently did Iowa use motion last season? According to TruMedia, only 22.9% of the time; it ranked No. 12 in the Big Ten and No. 112 nationally.

TeamPlays with pre-snap motionNational rank




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Compare that number to Michigan, another offense that played "smashmouth" complementary football on offense. The Wolverines used pre-snap motion 59.7% of the time. That was the second-highest rate in the country, behind only Florida.

The point is not that motion fixes an offense; however, it can make life easier for an offense, confuse a defense, and (as Michigan so excellently showed us last year) it can be run by a team looking to maul you more than run past you.

Maybe, just maybe, Iowa will do it, too.

Rutgers: so hot right now

There have been many changes to college football recruiting over the last few years, and one thing that's truly changed is the lack of surprise. Recruiting is covered so well by places like 247Sports that fans might know a player will commit to their school before the player does.

That's why the move pulled off by Jaelyne Matthews this week stood out. Matthews is a four-star prospect in the 2025 class, according to the 247Sports Composite, the No. 246 overall player in the country and the No. 7 player in New Jersey. Matthews held his commitment ceremony at Toms River North High School. His list of finalists were Georgia, Tennessee and Miami. Each had a hat on the table, but before the 6-foot-7, 320-pound offensive tackle chose one, the ceremony was interrupted by a pizza being delivered by former UFC fighter Frankie Edgar and MLB all-star Todd Frazier, two Toms River legends.

Inside the pizza box? A Rutgers hat, which Matthews hadn't even listed as one of his finalists. A nice surprise reveal with some celebrity help, but just another day in the life of Rutgers football these days.

I'll forgive you if you aren't paying attention to recruiting rankings in mid-June, but if you have you know that Rutgers is crushing it right now. Seriously. At the time of publish, Rutgers' 2025 class is ranks No. 9 nationally following Matthews' commitment. 

Yes, volume plays a big part in it. Rutgers has 23 total commits already (including 10 in one weekend recently), and the odds are very much against it finishing in the top 10 after National Signing Day. But there are also five four-star commits among those 23. The only Big Ten schools with more blue-chippers are Ohio State, USC, Penn State, Oregon and Michigan. The rest of the league (12 teams) has 14 between them, and Rutgers has five of its own.

I've tabbed the Scarlet Knights as a potential Cinderella in the Big Ten thanks to a schedule that doesn't include any of Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon or Penn State. If they take advantage, get back to a bowl game and keep this class together, that's a lot of momentum for coach Greg Schiano heading into 2025.

Iowa's using pre-snap motion and Rutgers football has a bright future. What a time to be alive.

Ohio State still king of recruiting mountain

Speaking of teams doing well in recruiting, the addition of four-star safety Faheem Delane boosted Ohio State's 2025 class to No. 1 in the country, passing Notre Dame. While plenty of people will look at incoming five-star quarterback Tavien St. Clair (the No. 2 player nationally) as the big get, what stands out is the work the Buckeyes are doing in the secondary.

Delane is a four-star safety ranked as the No. 50 player in the country, per 247Sports, and he's the third-best defensive back in Ohio State's class. Cornerbacks Devin Sanchez (No. 4 overall) and Na'eem Offord (No. 6 overall) are in the class, too. Add in transfer safety Caleb Downs (No. 8 overall in 2024) from Alabama via the portal this winter, and the Buckeyes are building an incredible secondary.

You have to think defensive coordinator Jim Knowles got tired of watching all of Ohio State's future NFL receivers terrorize his defense in practice and let Ryan Day know he wanted the scrimmages to be a little more balanced.