Today we’re going to examine IU football recruiting. We’ll do it with the help of our new contributor, Hoosier Answer Man. For security reasons his true identity can’t be revealed, but we can say, with absolute near honesty, that he’s had extensive government, academic, sports, religious, amorous and mountain climbing experience. He might also have appeared in certain beer commercials where wisdom and maturity are valued as much as physical prowess.
Oh, yes. Mosquitoes refuse to bite him -- out of respect.
Anyway, you might have noticed that IU coach Kevin Wilson has just one committed recruit for the Class of 2013. that would be Isaac Griffiths, a 6-foot, 185-pound receiver out of Homestead High School near Fort Wayne. He’s a three-star prospect rated as the No. 19 player in the state for the Class of 2013 according to Rivals.com, a national Internet recruiting service.
In other words, a solid player, but not a program changer.
What’s Hoosier Answer Man’s take on this?
Let’s get started.
Q: IU only has one committed player. Is this a problem?
HOOSIER ANSWER MAN: It’s only a problem if IU still has just one commitment in February. That won’t happen.
Q: How good is Griffith?
HOOSIER ANSWER MAN: He’s fast and athletic and versatile. He likely will play a bunch of positions for Homestead this coming season. As far as his college impact, he will never be confused with, say, Robert Nkendich, a 6-5, 260-pound defensive end out of Georgia who is rated No. 1 in the nation in the Class of 2013. But that’s not the point.
Q: What is the point?
HOOSIER ANSWER MAN: We’re not sure. Sometimes we ramble. Anyway, Griffith is a good kid who should be a solid college contributor, although maybe not his first season. Much of that depends on his strength and size gains. In the meantime, he wants to help recruit more good kids to IU. That’s a positive because coach Kevin Wilson could use some help.
Q: Given the Big Ten competition, Wilson needs a lot of help. Michigan already has 22 commitments and, at the moment, has the nation’s No. 1 class for 2013. Notre Dame is No. 9 with 14 commitments. Ohio State is 10th with 12. Penn State is 14th with 11. Nebraska is 21st with 11th.
HOOSIER ANSWER MAN: Since when did Notre Dame join the Big Ten?
Q: Are you mocking us?
HOOSIER ANSWER MAN: No comment.
Q: Figures. So what’s the hold up with Wilson’s recruiting? Why just one IU commitment when other programs have so many more?
HOOSIER ANSWER MAN: Wilson likes to see his players in a camp setting. He wants to see their character and toughness as well as their football skills. He wants to know that when adversity hits, and it will, that they’ll respond instead of break. In other words, he wants the right guy with the right stuff, and he’s willing to be patient to get them. Also, the better the player you go after, the more likely you are not to get an early commitment -- unless you're Michigan, Alabama and the other college heavyweights.
Q: Then what does that tell us about the state of IU football recruiting?
HOOSIER ANSWER MAN: Wilson has more resources than any IU football coach in history. He has better facilities (IU is adding a new FieldTurf surface to one of its two practice fields) and more money for assistant coaches’ salaries and recruiting. The weight room is as good as any in the country. The academic support facility is as good as any in the country. IU has a nutritionist and plenty of strength coaches. Wilson’s coaching background -– including Oklahoma, Northwestern and Miami of Ohio -- is full of success.
It also helps that the state is producing more quality players than it ever has. Guys like Indianapolis Pike defensive end David Kennedy Jr. (committed to Iowa), Indianapolis North Central defensive tackle Darius Latham and Ben Davis defensive back Antonio Allen (committed to Mississippi), and a whole bunch more.
Wilson is getting a lot of good players into his camps and on the campus with unofficial visits. Offers are being made. In the end, it comes down to how good a salesman Wilson and his staff are. And despite IU's lack of football tradition, they have a lot to work with -- gorgeous campus, strong academics, ever-improving facilities.
Q: So why don’t we see IU in the upper half of Big Ten recruiting ratings?
HOOSIER ANSWER MAN: Last year’s 1-11 record hurt. That wasn’t close to convincing big-time recruits that Indiana was the place to be. It also didn’t help to lose high-profile quarterback Gunner Kiel. He might have sold elite prospects on the Hoosiers.
Instead, Kiel backed out, committed to LSU, decommitted (putting him on coach Les Miles’ least-favorite list) and committed to Notre Dame.
Let’s face it. IU has historically landed mid-major-level talent, and that’s still the case. If the Hoosiers can supplement that with a few four-star guys, if they can develop their players to the max, they’ll have a chance to win seven, eight even nine games on occasion.
That’s why former coach Bill Lynch preferred redshirting freshmen unless they could make instant impact. If you take a mid-major player, really develop him strength wise and fundamental wise, by the time he’s in his fourth and fifth years, he can be a solid Big Ten player, a guy you can win with.
IU will rarely beat out Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan and the other elite programs for super-stud recruits. So it has to be strong in its development program and diligent in its evaluations.
Hoosier coaches are going beyond the state and the traditional Midwest recruiting base. They're trying to tap into the talent rich southeast. They’ve offered South Carolina quarterback Michael Julian and Florida cornerback Blake McClain, among others.
Wilson and his staff also have to be good in fitting players into the right positions. A guy might arrive as a running back, but might be better suited for, say, linebacker. When Joe Tiller was winning at Purdue, one of his strengths was moving players into the best positions to maximize their talents. Wilson has to do that.
Q: Can he do that?
HOOSIER ANSWER MAN: It’s way too early to know. If Wilson can, he’ll win. His track record as an assistant coach shows that. If not, he’ll join the couple dozen other Indiana coaches who have failed.
Of course, he’ll be a lot richer than those guys.