Thursday, June 10, 2010

For IU Football Recruiting, It's About Evaluation and Development

Let’s face it, when it comes to football recruiting, Indiana ain’t gonna land the next Tim Tebow and Reggie Bush. It’s not gonna rival Florida, Texas and Ohio State in elite signing.

But you know what, it doesn’t have to.

The key for the Hoosiers is doing a thorough enough job in evaluating and developing players.

Case in point is commitments No. 9 and No. 10 in the Hoosiers Class of 2011, Ohio defensive back Nick VanHoose and Michigan defensive tackle Shafer Johnson. Neither is ranked. Neither has a bunch of stars by his name. Neither was wooed by national powerhouses.

But VanHoose is very fast (a sub 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash) and Johnson is very big (6-1, 300 pounds). Both are good athletes. There is potential there.

Okay, it’s hard to see that potential when IU's main rival for VanHoose was Ball State, or when it had to beat out Bowling Green and Arkansas State to get Johnson. Those aren't exactly college football superpowers.

Still, that misses the point. It’s not as much about getting highly rated guys as it is getting good players who are the right fit for Indiana.

Coach Bill Lynch has a philosophy of getting under-the-radar players, redshirting them if they can’t be instant-impact freshmen, developing them (the new 25,000 square foot weight room makes that easier) and then turning them loose.

VanHoose fits that description. He has decent, but not great size (6-foot, 175 pounds). He’s a versatile athlete and Lynch loves those kind of guys because it maximizes the things coaches can do with him. For instance, last year VanHoose rushed for 1,877 yards and 25 touchdowns as a tailback. As a defensive back he totaled five interceptions and 12 pass break-ups. He also returned kicks, was the placekicker and did everything but drive the team bus.

VanHoose is from the same St. Paris, Ohio, high school as IU co-defensive coordinator Brian George. In fact, George is a family friend and was a big reason why VanHoose came to Indiana.

Johnson, meanwhile, is a big guy who can get a lot stronger. The goal is to turn him into a run-stuffing defensive tackle opponents will struggle to handle.

For those who equate recruiting success with recruiting rankings, consider that four of IU’s 10 commitments are ranked nationally at their positions. They are No. 11 linebacker Zach Shaw, No. 23 tight end Jake Reed, No. 30 offensive lineman Ralston Evans and No. 44 linebacker Max Pirman.

Yes, it would be nice to be 10 out of 10, but that's not realistic. And the fact remains Lynch and his staff do sign talent. In fact, they are recruiting better players all the time and just because the Hoosiers aren’t beating out Ohio State and Penn State to get them doesn’t mean these guys can’t play.

They can play, but in the end that won't mean anything unless the Hoosiers win.

The sooner, the better.


  1. A. Its Pirman, not Pirnon

    B. Why didn't you mention that Rivals has IU with 1 4star and 4 3stars right now, which is similar to what a ton of other successful schools have right now?

  2. Good column post offering an alternative to the usual "Lynch can't recruit talent". Though everyone knows the clock is ticking and winning results are paramount at this point.

    Consider the effect talented players with attitude or lack of discipline can have on a team...they are a cancer. Jeremiah Masoli just got booted from Oregon and Michigan wouldn't admit Demar Dorsey because of his academics (though I'm sure he brings a lot of other baggage). There can be great value in recruiting guys who bring, in place of a little more talent, a big heart, a desire to improve, and a team-oriented attitude. That's the stuff you can build a program mentality around. I'm not a huge Lynch supporter but I do think he's doing the right things and I wish him luck this season.

  3. That Evans kid is great i seen him in action at the IU camp n watched him at the HSPD camp he is very athletic kid and even as some wheels for his size he could be a TE for the hoosier but i think he will play left tackle