Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Running Big – IU in Search of Running Back Breakthrough
While coach Kevin Wilson has been known for producing prolific passing attacks, he hasn’t neglected the rushing attack during his years as an offensive coordinator (see Adrian Peterson for Exhibit A). A good running game is crucial at any time, but especially this year given IU’s quarterback inexperience.
The Hoosiers have a lot of running backs to choose from, although who the favorite is remains uncertain.
For the record, Wilson has junior college transfer Stephen Houston (a 1,000-yard rusher last year) and true freshman D’Angelo Roberts (he rushed for 6,002 yards and 75 touchdowns in high school) joining a banged-up bunch of veterans. Darius Willis, Antonio Banks and Xavier Whitaker all had season-ending injuries and missed spring practice. Matt Perez also is coming off a knee injury. Indications are they are healthy and ready to knock each other around.
Willis was recruited to be the dominant tailback the program needed, and has shown flashes of that when he's healthy. Given that he's an injury waiting to happen, the odds of him making it through a full season are unlikely. Still, he’s rushed for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns in his career.
Also in the hunt are Nick Turner and David Blackwell, who got the bulk of the spring work because everybody else was hurt. That doesn’t count fullback, where Wilson has moved D.J. Carr-Watson from linebacker to fullback. Redshirt freshman Leneil Himes will battle Carr-Watson for the fullback spot.
Still, there is potential with this group. Wilson plans to utilize that depth.
“Unlike quarterback, I think you do need more than one running back because they wear out and lose some gas,” Wilson said. “I don’t know that we have seven guys we can jog out there and be starers, but I think we’ll have two or three.”
IU has 17 football commitments now that Ohio safety Sebastian Smith has picked the Cream ‘n Crimson.
Smith has been extremely versatile in high school. He’s played safety, linebacker and cornerback, plus has done a ton of special teams work. He’s not the biggest guy at 6-3 and 185 pounds, but he can bench press 315 pounds and can break 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Indiana was the only school to offer a scholarship, but Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan State, Iowa, Kentucky and Minnesota were interested.
Yes, IU's basketball program could have used Mitch McGary. The guy is big (6-10, 250 pounds), athletic and has made a huge ratings jump. He’s the No. 5 guy in the Class of 2012 according to Rivals.com.
For a lot of reasons, a union between McGary and Indiana apparently wasn’t a good fit, both from McGary’s standpoint and from IU’s. It happens. He had some academic issues while at Chesterton High School, but got those resolved at Brewster Academy. He had become more disciplined both in terms of his academics and his basketball. In other words, he had matured. After backing off for a while, Hoosier coaches did seem to show renewed interest during the July evaluation period.
If you believe ESPN and Scout.com, McGary’s maturity has produced a six-school final list. Kentucky is on it. So are North Carolina, Michigan (which seems to be on everybody’s list these days), Maryland, Duke and Florida. Those are some impressive heavyweights.
Anyway, the Hoosiers already have loaded up inside in the Class of 2012 with forward Hanner Perea and center Peter Jurkin. They have one more target in the class and he’s a big one –- Gary Harris of Hamilton Southeastern. Purdue and Michigan State appear to be IU’s biggest rivals for this guy. Figure he'll wait until late October to announce his decision.