With National Signing rapidly approaching, Dear Old Gold will be bringing you in-depth profiles of several of the Hawkeye commits and signees in a segment called “Meet the class of 2014.”
When Kirk Ferentz set up his 2014 recruiting board, there is little question that the linebacker position was extremely high on his priority list. The Hawkeyes lose all three starting linebackers to graduation, off what was the strongest unit on the 2013 team. Iowa has secured commitments from three linebackers in the 2014 recruiting class, including one from, Kansas City Winnetonka High School athlete, Aaron Mends. Mends chose Iowa over other offers from Iowa State and North Dakota State, in the midst of growing interest from other Big 10 and SEC schools. Mends will become the first division-1 scholarship athlete out of Winnetonka, since former Iowa Basketball Player, Jarryd Cole, back in 2007.
Kirk Ferentz has been known, over his tenure at Iowa, to follow a script when dealing with the bulk of his recruits. He takes a recruit with a lot of potential, who other schools seem to be passing on, offers him a scholarship, and by the time the other schools become interested, it’s too late, Iowa has a solid commitment. That is the exact journey that the First Team All-State linebacker Mends, took during the course of his recruitment. “It was frustrating at first. I was wondering when schools were going to offer me. I didn’t think schools were taking me seriously,” Mends said. After months of frustration, finally a school showed they were serious about Mends. “Iowa offered me first and then all of a sudden a couple other schools started showing interest and offering me. I told them I was not interested,” Mends said.
There are always things you can look at, beyond how many stars a recruit is given by a website, that tell the story of a player. Scouts from other schools will look at Mends and point out his size. At 6’0” 200 pounds Mends is somewhat undersized for the linebacker position. However, he has the make-up to be a dynamic middle-linebacker in the Hawkeyes 4-3 scheme. He will have to put on some weight, but that will likely not be a problem once he enters Chris Doyle’s strength program. The first thing that sticks out on tape about Mends is his ability to hit and take on blocks. He shows he is fearless hitting the hole against linebackers, fullbacks, and even linemen. On one particular play on his game film, Mends put a hard charging, near 300 pound linemen, flat on his back to disrupt a play. Mends also has great instincts. He seems to be able to anticipate where the play is going and gets to the right gap quickly because of his good speed. Mends looks to be a plus pass rusher and flashes the ability to drop back in coverage. While pass coverage is admittedly an area that Mends need to improve on, he shows the ability to drop into coverage and change direction fluidly.
Beyond the great success of Iowa sending linebackers to the NFL, Mends also cites academics at the University of Iowa as a big reason for his commitment. “I want to study Health Sciences and Iowa has a great Health Sciences Program,” Mends said. The former Kansas City prep football star will head to campus in mid-June to partake in summer workouts. Mends addition is a welcome one for a football program trying to rebuild its linebacking corps.
Welcome to Iowa City Aaron, thank you for taking time after your late work shift, after school, to talk with us. We’re glad you’re with us!