Aaron Wimberly stood in the auditorium of Iowa State's gleaming new football complex and talked about why he decided to continue his football career with the Cyclones.
The building itself was on high on his list.
"I like everything that I see right now," said Wimberly, a running back from Iowa Western Community College. "I feel Iowa State is going nowhere but up right now. Everything we're doing is going to prepare us for our future season."
Wimberly, who already has enrolled, is expected to become a key member of a 25-player recruiting class that coach Paul Rhoads and his staff signed on Wednesday. That class includes defensive end Rodney Coe, who along with Wimberly helped Iowa Western win the national junior college championship last season, and highly regarded offensive lineman Jake Campos of West Des Moines Valley High School
Also on campus early is tight end Emmanuel Bibbs, who earned second-team junior college All-America honors at Arizona Western Community College. Bibbs, a 6-foot-3, 245-pounder, turned down a late offer from Oklahoma to keep his commitment to Iowa State.
"It was the new facility and coach Rhoads," Bibbs said. "Just coming here is a great opportunity for me."
Wimberly, originally from Snellville, Ga., rushed for 1,125 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. In choosing Iowa State over offers from Iowa, Penn State, Boise State and TCU, Wimberly will join a crowded field of running backs.
The top five backs from last year all return, headed by leading rusher James White.
"There's going to be good competition," Wimberly said. "I feel that's what we need."
Iowa Western's national championship came in just its fourth season fielding a team. The school in Council Bluffs is a little more than two hours from the ISU campus, putting Rhoads and his staff close to a strong talent pool.
Twenty-three players from Iowa Western's 2012 team are moving on to four-year programs.
"By having that proximity, having a location that we can place players and help them help us to so speak, is very beneficial," Rhoads said. "One of the biggest challenges of recruiting at Iowa State is getting out-of-state players here. Aaron was able to get here (from Georgia), so he got that exposure early."
Campos, a 6-7, 260-pound tackle, was rated as a four-star recruit by most scouting services and is considered the top prospect Rhoads has signed in his five recruiting classes at ISU. He originally committed to Missouri, but changed his mind during a Dec. 1 visit to Iowa State.
Rhoads said Campos needs to add weight and indicated he probably would redshirt this season.
"Offensive linemen, defensive linemen, you'd rather not play them right away," he said. "You'd like to get them a redshirt year, like to get them a development year and then get them a high number of reps the last three years of their career."
Other promising prospects include linebacker Alton Meeks, a 6-3, 240-pounder from Orlando, Fla., who's already on campus; quarterback Joel Lanning of Class 4A Iowa state champion Ankeny; offensive lineman Shawn Curtis of Orlando, another high school graduate who enrolled early; and linebacker Justin Madison of Tampa, Fla.
Rhoads hesitated to call it his best recruiting class, but he did acknowledge "there's more high-profile athletes that are part of this group, guys that have been assigned more golden apples than other players in the past."
Iowa State signed nine players in all from Florida, the highest number in Rhoads' tenure. He moved an assistant coach from California to join another coach working Florida and said the Cyclones were helped by having Troy Douglas on the staff. Douglas, who coaches the secondary, is from Jacksonville, Fla.
While the day ended well, it didn't start that way for Rhoads.
"Woke up this morning at 5 o'clock, got the dog out, coffee made, shower, got my way to the office, sat down, the fax machine's on, the paper's loaded," he said. "Went to take the first phone call -- the phone was at home on the bathroom counter. Not the way I wanted to start the day out. I was able to run home and get it and things flowed smoothly from there."