Thursday, July 28, 2011

Now That Gunner Has Committed, What’s Next For Hoosiers?

Yes, we know that Gunner Kiel has committed to play football at Indiana. Because he’s the No. 1 rated pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2012, because this is perennially struggling IU, because recruiting is such a cutthroat business, bet the house that other schools won’t concede anything. They will continue their efforts until Kiel makes it official by signing next February.

Let’s face it, when the Hoosiers beat out the likes of Alabama, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Southern California, Missouri and the rest of the free passing world, somebody ain’t gonna like it. Somebody will test the firmness of Kiel’s commitment.

Coach Kevin Wilson and the rest of his staff know this, of course. Players changing their minds is common in college football, far more common than any other sport, which is among the reasons why some coaches push for an earlier football signing period.

Kiel seems solid in his commitment. He wants to play for Wilson, an offensive guru and offensive coordinator Rod Smith, who also is an offensive guru. He wants to play with older brother Dusty, who will battle for the starting quarterback position at IU this season. He’s from nearby Columbus, so family and friends can easily drive over and watch all his home games.

Kiel seems likely to graduate in December from Columbus East High School and enroll at IU for the start of January’s second semester. It’s the same early rout Jimmy Clausen took at Notre Dame, when he ended up starting as a true freshman.

Wilson couldn’t talk about any of this. NCAA rules prohibit him from saying anything about any recruit until they officially sign. Still, Wilson knows he has recruiting momentum, much like Tom Crean has in basketball. He knows landing an elite recruit like Kiel could entice other stud players to come to IU.

Nothing is guaranteed, and Wilson knows it. Recruits can go bust faster than you can say Bo Barzilauskas. And when you talk momentum, Wilson said it came before Kiel’s commitment or the 14 other guys (including seven from the state of Indiana) who have pledged to become Hoosiers. It started when athletic director Fred Glass hired Wilson, in part because he had the financial resources to give the Hoosiers a chance to compete with the big boys.

“Our administration gave me a chance, first with me and then the staff and then the strength staff,” Wilson said. “There’s a lot of positive momentum through the whole deal.

“I think that (recruiting momentum) is maybe what it looks like on paper right now, but where it’s really helped is how our players have worked.”

The bigger picture and the true end game is not the commitments Wilson gets or the players he signs, but the games he wins. If victories don’t come, recruiting momentum can shrivel fast.

“What’s going to happen in a couple of weeks is the scoreboard is coming on and that momentum needs to keep going as we keep score,” Wilson said. “The last time we played Ball State, it wasn’t on the right side of the scoreboard. Lot of our guys were on that team. The last time we played Virginia, it wasn’t on the right side of the scoreboard. A lot of these guys were in that game.

“We’ve got a lot of kids who have been playing a few years. We’ve got a challenging schedule, but an exciting schedule. I love the way it sets up. To keep the momentum going, it’s going to come down to executing and getting some Ws.”


IU tried to boost its battered tailback position with the late signing of junior college running back Stephen Houston. The 6-foot, 220-pounder rushed for 1,082 yards and five touchdowns at Independence (Kansas) Community College last season. He averaged 6.6 yards a carry.

“He was being reasonably recruited strong,” Wilson said. “He had a situation that fell through for him. He needed to complete a course to graduate, which he did. Is he in shape or what’s he like? I’m not sure.”

Last year’s starting tailback, Darius Willis, missed much of last season with a knee injury and has been injury prone throughout his college career.

“One of the reasons we recruited him was because of my concern for not knowing what I had at running back because so many guys were injured or out in the spring. I know it needs to be a heck of a lot better than what it was in the spring. So throw one more body in the mix.”

Wilson said he’s confident Houston will do the job academically.

“We have a great support system. We’re developing our players whether it’s nutrition or academics. We’ll have the structure for him. His communication skills are good. He should be a good student. If he’s not, he’s not going to play.”

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