Saturday, January 22, 2011
Indiana Football: Quarterback Battle and Recruiting Drama
Here’s a shock -- Kevin Wilson wants to win right away. He wants a winning record and bowl appearance next season. A lot of things have to happen to do that, but the No. 1 thing is finding a Big Ten-caliber quarterback.
Ben Chappell and his record-setting accuracy are gone. IU has a pair of inexperienced guys in Edward Wright-Baker and Dusty Kiel (pictured). Wright-Baker is a dual-threat quarterback. Kiel is a drop-back player.
The Hoosiers also are bringing in Indiana Mr. Football Tre Roberson, a dual-threat quarterback from Indianapolis.
Rod Smith (pictured) is the new quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator. He’s from the spread offense of Rich Rodriguez, working with him at West Virginia and Michigan. He’s coached a couple of outstanding dual-threat guys in Pat White of West Virginia and Denard Robinson of Michigan.
Is a dual-threat quarterback crucial to Indiana’s offensive hopes?
“You like them, but it doesn’t have to be,” he said. “You use what you have in your arsenal. We have the ability to mold the offense to the quarterback. We’ve said that everywhere we’ve been. We’ve been fortunate to have dual-threat guys. If we have it here, we’ll do it. If we have more of a drop-back guy, we’ll fit the offense around him and fit his strengths.”
Moving forward, what does Smith look for as he recruits quarterbacks?
“I want a kid who is accurate, tough and smart. A kid who is a winner. Then when you get around him, can you tell if he’s a leader? A lot of things go into it. Everybody has their different philosophies on how that guy can mold into your offense. That’s what it is – lot of time our offense is quarterback centered.”
What does that mean for next season? It’s going to be an awfully interesting spring and August camp.
Recruiting drama has hit the football program. Why? Because new coach Kevin Wilson and his staff have apparently decided that some of the high school players who committed to Indiana under former coach Bill Lynch aren’t good fits for the Hoosiers’ new offensive and defensive schemes.
This isn’t a shock. It happens all the time when a new coach with a new philosophy arrives. The problem comes because IU athletic director Fred Glass had earlier said all scholarship offers would be honored.
According to a story by Dustin Dopirak of the Bloomington Herald Times, defensive tackle Shafer Johnson said Wilson told him his scholarship offer was being pulled. The story also mentioned defensive tackle Donte Phillips and offensive tackle Jalen Schlachter as possibly having their scholarship offers pulled.
Glass told Dopirak that it was a misunderstanding. The scholarship offers still stand.
So what does this mean? Wilson wants the best players for his system and has probably identified some, but lacks the scholarships to make them offers. He also believes some of the committed recruits won’t cut it in his program. Better to cut them loose now rather than waste scholarships on them.
However, this is tough on the recruits who believed they were wanted and needed, and now have to scramble to find another school. With signing day almost here, most college programs have already locked up their classes.
In the end, Wilson might have to take some of these players. If so, they’ll get a chance to prove him wrong; that they can thrive in his system.
The bottom line -- Wilson was hired to win, and he needs quality players to do it. And if that means some returning players also will have to move on, well, the buzz is some veterans can’t handle Wilson’s new, rigorous conditioning program. They’ve quit, which is freeing up more scholarships.
That, too, is typical. The sooner all this settles, the sooner Wilson can get the players in place to do what he needs to do. He means business. So does his staff. They’re here to turn the program around ASAP and sometimes that means playing hardball.
Nobody said this was going to be nice and easy.
If Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel is right, IU is in good shape with Wilson. Mandel gave IU an "A" for hiring Wilson. Only one other hire got an "A" out of the 21coaching changes at the major college level.
Mandel said Wilson "brings the experience of having spent the past nine years working for a perennial BCS contender (Oklahoma). He has Big Ten and Midwest familiarity from his time at Northwestern and Miami (Ohio). And he's an acclaimed offensive coordinator who will maximize Indiana's underrated skill talent."