Some attrition is expected for a Midwest football program forced to draw its recruits from all over the country in order to be competitive. Kirk Ferentz has experienced a well-documented serving of this attrition over the years, which has strongly affected the depth on a team that doesn’t recruit like Ohio State or Michigan. When Iowa loses valuable underclassmen backups because of homesickness, playing time, or the trappings of Iowa City’s night life, it affects the Hawkeyes more than it would a higher profile program that consistently pulls in a swath of four-and-five star recruits to reload. This was seen especially on Iowa’s defensive line and linebacking corps in 2011; when Ferentz is forced to start players who haven’t spent a couple years seasoning in the program, the results show.
Iowa is a program built on player development, consistently recruiting tight ends and turning them into offensive guards and linebackers, so when high profile recruits transfer to be “closer to home,” the Hawks are forced to start players before their development has peaked. Some of the mediocrity Iowa has battled since the famed 2002-04 stretch can be chalked up to this attrition, which is a nasty combination of bad luck, geographical circumstances, and a large number of stalwart starters who manned their positions 3+ years without relenting. Simply put, Ferentz doesn’t have the talent base to plug and chug; Iowa’s notable “next man in” philosophy hasn’t really rang true for awhile now because the attrition has sapped the team’s depth.
Mini-rant aside, it’s understandable when shaky, highly ranked recruits who come to Iowa City far from the heartland’s borders choose to leave and return some place warmer. The Hawkeyes have always been more successful with maintaining oft-neglected, under-the-radar guys who obviously have something to prove anyway. But it’s a little more painful when a “local” boy expected to contribute and provide depth right away transfers before his career could really begin. That is the case with Dan Heiar.
The junior college transfer was not recruited out of Goose Lake High School in eastern Iowa, so he spent a year at Iowa Western and became a dominate force. Ranked as one of the top 25 juco players in the country based on some services, he picked the Hawks over offers from Michigan State and Minnesota, among others. He was expected to provide immediate help at the guard position and possibly start in 2012; Black Heart Gold Pants initiated comparisons with Marshal Yanda, similarly a local boy who went the juco route and pancaked his way from an Iowa uniform into the NFL, where he has been a reliable starting guard for the Baltimore Ravens ever since.
But all that promise faded before the season even began, when Heiar was involved in a frightening one-car accident in the middle of the night on April 10 and suffered injuries severe enough to keep him off the field, redshirting the entire year. Heiar’s car rolled over and he had to be plucked out from the crumpled heap by paramedics, where it was soon discovered that he had been drinking fairly heavily. Heiar remembered nothing of the accident and was charged with DUI once he recovered from his injuries, so it’s probably fair to say that it wasn’t a huge shocker, after such a tumultuous beginning, when it was announced last week that Heiar would be leaving the program. It’s unfortunate that such promise will go unfulfilled, and a veteran presence at the offensive guard position would be greatly appreciated in 2012 with the graduation of Adam Gettis and unreliability of the Matt Tobin/Brandon Scherff combo. But Heiar’s career at Iowa ended before it began, so it’s difficult to get too upset about this one. Hawk fans should wish him all the best in his future endeavors, football and otherwise.