December 1, 2011

JUCO DL sets visit

The road traveled by many junior college football recruits can be an interesting journey. None may be as interesting as the one traveled by Jake Sheffield, a U.S. Marine, who served two tours of duty in Iraq before pursuing the dream of playing college football.

Sheffield is now a 6-foot-4 and 280 pound defensive lineman at College of the Desert Junior College in Palm Desert, CA. In the fall he made a verbal commitment to Arizona State and thought his recruitment had ended. With the coaching change this past week in Tempe, Iowa assistant coach Rick Kaczenski made his way out to California to make his sales pitch for the Hawkeyes and secured an official visit from Sheffield.

"Jake got along great with Coach Kaczenski on his visit. The Iowa coaches are exactly how you would think they are, honest and straight forward. I know Jake appreciated that, "said College of the Desert assistant coach D.A. Littles. "They went over some film about how Iowa plays on the defensive line and Jake really liked what he saw. He set up a visit to Iowa for December 9th."

Littles said that along with Arizona State and Iowa, Washington and Oregon State are also showing interest in Sheffield, who will be able to transfer to a four year school in January after graduating this month.

Sheffield grew up in Colorado, but his coach says that distance won't likely be a factor in his final decision.

"He has a young son, but we always tell him, he's always going to be there for you and you can have a greater impact in his life if you go out and earn your college degree," Littles said. "I think he understands that. The big thing for him is that he needs to make a decision sooner than a lot of guys because he is going to transfer somewhere in the next month."

Littles is the coach who discovered Sheffield. At one time, Littles was in those same shoes as a Marine who was recruited by a Marine officer to play college football. After football came coaching, but once a Marine, always a Marine, Littles was took over the reins of recruiting Marines to his coaching stops, with the latest being at the College of the Desert. He knew right away that Sheffield was a player he wanted on his team.

"For the minute I saw him, I knew I would be recruiting him. Jake was actually playing tight end on his Marine team and his size and athletic ability really jumped out at you. I knew if he was going to play in college, it would be with his hand on the ground at defensive end. He's been a great player for us and will do well wherever he ends up."

The Hawkeyes were also taking a look at another sophomore prospect at College of the Desert in linebacker/defensive end Robert Caldwell. The 6-foot-3 and 248 pound linebacker is rated by some junior college recruiting services as the top player in the country at his position.

Littles said that Coach Kaczenski liked what he saw from Caldwell and that the Hawkeye would be in touch. But, Caldwell will not be able to graduate at semester and that could be a sticking point for the Hawkeyes and several other BCS schools that have been showing interest.

"He's got a lot of schools that have called about him and come by," Littles said. "We have heard from Florida, Kentucky, Boise State, Baylor and of course, Iowa was by for a visit. He already has offers from basically every school in the WAC and the Mountain West."

Caldwell could fit into a variety of different schools wherever he eventually lands, according to Littles.

"He's a really explosive athlete, especially off the edge. We moved him around quite a bit on defense, but he primarily played middle linebacker. I think a lot of school, including Iowa, see his potential with his hand on the ground as a defensive end as a pass rusher."

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