Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hoosier Football -- What Can Roberts Do For IU

What can D’Angelo Roberts do for IU?

We’ll find out in a year or so, when the Bloomington North tailback standout joins the Hoosier football program.

He will arrive with huge high school numbers, perhaps the most of any back to ever play for Indiana. You could look at that and say, wow, he’ll be the next Anthony Thompson or Vaughn Dunbar, two of the most dominant running backs in school history.

You could say that, but would that be true?

Let’s take a look.

First, Roberts is coach Bill Lynch’s 20th commitment for the Class of 2011. Based on the current roster, that would give IU 90 scholarship players, which would be five over the limit and which would cause all sorts of heck with the NCAA.

As we know, the Hoosiers don’t need any more issues with the NCAA.

However, those commitments don’t become official scholarships until they sign in February. And everything will be worked out so Indiana meets the 85-scholarship limit.

Second, Roberts is the only running back in the 2011 Class. He would give IU seven running backs with the No. 1 guy being Darius Willis. It’s safe to say that if Willis stays healthy (yes, we know that’s a big if), he’ll get most of the carries for the first two seasons Roberts is on campus.

IU also has a couple of solid running backs in this freshman class with Matt Perez and Antonio Banks. They will have the edge in college experience by the time Roberts hits campus. However, Roberts hopes to graduate from high school in December so he can participate in winter workouts and next spring’s practices.

Third, Roberts is listed at 5-11 and 185 pounds. This is not the size of an every down running back in the Big Ten. You can offset that by being fast, strong, tough and elusive. Look at Antwaan Randle El. Yes, he was a quarterback at IU, but he also ran a lot and was never really hurt because he was so hard for a defensive player to get big shot on him. They were lucky to even touch him.

Roberts reportedly runs a 4.36 40-yard dash, can bench press 275 pounds and can squat 450 pounds. The speed is good and he’ll get stronger.

Fourth, what are his gaudy high school numbers? Glad you asked. As a junior, Roberts ran for 2,604 yards and 32 touchdowns. He also caught 12 passes for three TDs. He wasn’t bored. He had 388 carries in 12 games, which comes out to 32.3 carries a game.

His single-season rushing yard total ranks 17th in state history. What’s No. 1? That would be 3,366 yards set by New Haven’s Cory Jacquay in 2001.

For his high school career Roberts has rushed for 3,992 yards and 48 touchdowns.

All this was enough for Penn State to take a good look at him. He also got scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Western Kentucky, Ball State and Bowling Green.

Fifth, Roberts’ college tailback prospects depend on his ability to block. If he can’t block, the Hoosiers can’t use him as running back. He’ll have to be tough enough to deal with linebackers, safeties and whoever else breaks into the backfield.

More than likely, Roberts will be used as a slotback. Get him into open spaces -- via outside runs or passes -- and let him use his speed. The key is his receiving skills. He doesn’t get a lot of opportunity to showcase that at Bloomington North because few high school defenses can handle him as a runner. That won’t be the case in college.

So what can Roberts do for IU?

It’s up to him.

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