AMES, Iowa (AP) — Running back Sheldon Croney and offensive lineman Jaypee Philbert helped Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads salvage a recruiting class that took some late hits.
Five players who had committed to Iowa State changed their minds in recent weeks, but getting Philbert, a 6-foot-4, 305-pounder from Coffeyville, Kansas, Community College, helped ease that sting, as did this week's commitment from Croney, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards in each of his final two high school seasons in Bakersfield, California.
But even as Rhoads announced his 25-player class Wednesday, he revealed that wide receiver Tad Ecby and running back DeVondrick Nealy have left the team. Their departures follow the dismissal last month of safety T.J. Mutcherson and wide receiver P.J. Harris.
All four players were major contributors.
ISU's class includes six junior college transfers being counted on to provide immediate help for a team that went 2-10 last season and lost all nine Big 12 Conference games.
"I think all six have the opportunity to (contribute)," Rhoads said. "We're going to press them to. There will be no thought of trying to hold them back."
Five of the newcomers are defensive linemen, where the Cyclones were especially in need of help. Among that group are JC transfers Bobby Leath and Demond Tucker, who was the national junior college defensive player of the year in 2013.
Defensive end Seth Nerness (6-4, 235) also could be in the mix. He played eight-man football at Murray in southwest Iowa before spending last fall at Southlake Christian Academy in Huntersville, North Carolina, where he had 30 tackles for a loss on a state championship team.
"He's got a huge ceiling," Rhoads said. "He's extremely explosive and quick off the line of scrimmage. It's probably scary what he could become, and we're going to help him get there."
Asked about the five players who decommitted, Rhoads said it was the "wildest month of January" he has seen in 27 years of Division I recruiting.
"Commitments are not what they should be with student-athletes and families, and coaches are more apt to break those commitments today," he said. "We do it. It's the player that opens the door. If the door opens, you recruit."
Best in class: Sheldon Croney, rb, Bakersfield, Calif.
Best of the rest: Demond Tucker, dt, Copiah-Lincoln CC; Joshua Thomas, rb, Buford, Ga.; Bobby Leath, dt, Coffeyville CC; Dominic DeLira, qb, Austin, Texas; Seth Nerness, de, Osceola, Iowa.
Late addition: Jaypee Philbert, ol, Coffeyville CC, who committed to the Cyclones last week after getting interest from Arizona State, USF and Kansas.
One that got away: Athony Nelson, de, Waukee, Iowa, who backed off on his commitment last month and signed with Iowa.