Georgia four-star cornerback Rashard Fant has committed to Indiana according to his father Randy, giving the Hoosiers their third recruit of that caliber in the Class of 2013 with the possibility of more to come.
Fant, a 5-foot-10, 165-pounder from Our Lady of Mercy High School in Fairburn, Ga., picked the Hoosiers ahead of scholarship offers from Florida State, Kentucky, Mississippi and Utah among others.
Fant’s father said that Rashard had always considered his dream school and even though the Seminoles had offered him a scholarship and seem to be undergoing a renaissance as the No. 12 team in the country, Fant still kept his eyes open and liked what he saw from Indiana.
“I think it was a personal thing with Rashard,” Randy Fant said. “He’s the type of young man that’s not easily swayed by logos and trinkets and rankings. That’s not him. He doesn’t have to play at the powerhouses out here. He plays at a program that won two games his first year and had never had a winning season before. Now they’re going on their third winning season. Florida State was his dream school, but that didn’t keep him from looking at other options.”
One thing that swayed Fant was his relationship with cornerbacks coach Brandon Shelby.
“They didn’t talk a lot about what Rashard was doing on the field, but they talked a lot about (Shelby’s) schemes and techniques and how he trains his DB’s,” Randy Fant said. “… Coach Shelby is a younger guy. He’s not too far removed from being on the field. He did a lot of good things at Oklahoma. Rashard is a big internet dude. He does a lot of research on people and places and things. He looked into coach Shelby and thought this was a guy who could help him get better.”
Fant is the 12th member of Indiana’s Class of 2013. He joins two other four-star recruits in Ben Davis safety Antonio Allen and Pike defensive end David Kenney. The Hoosiers are also very much in the running for North Central defensive tackle Darius Latham, who recently de-committed from Wisconsin, and Avon defensive end Elijah Daniel, who is still committed to Clemson.
In Fant, Shelby will certainly be getting an extremely talented player to work with. The 5-foot-10, 165-pounder has posted a 4.48 40-yard dash time according to Rivals.com and a 4.11 shuttle run time. That speed has made him dangerous as a cover corner, wide receiver and kick returner at Our Lady of Mercy.
“I could tell you without a doubt that in 26 years of coaching, he’s the fastest player I’ve ever coached,” said third-year Our Lady of Mercy coach Mike Earwood, who said he’s coached more than 50 players in Division I schools in a lengthy coaching career at Georgia public schools. “They are getting a tremendous amount of speed with him. They are getting a guy who is extremely dangerous on kickoffs and punt returns. Nobody has kicked it to him in the last two seasons. If he gets the ball in his hands, it’s going to be a touchdown.”
It hasn’t always been easy to get it to him, Earwood said, especially after he took back a combined seven kickoffs and punts back for touchdowns in the first three games of last season. Since then, opponents have punted the ball out of bounds, on-side kicked and squibbed to make sure he doesn’t get the ball in his hands. Our Lady of Mercy’s passing game is such that it’s been difficult to get him the ball that way, so the squad has used an array of jet sweeps and has also used him as a wildcat quarterback.
But on defense, he has done just as good of a job at keeping the ball out of opposing receivers hands.
“They don’t throw his way,” Earwood said. “… He’s got great ball skills. He makes a smooth transition out of his backpedal. His ability and his speed to break and close on receivers. His man skills are really good. He can play press coverage and bump-and-run. He’s very gifted in that department.”
The one potential knock on Fant is his size. He’s listed at 5-10, 160 pounds, and Earwood said he’s not the most physical, violent hitter even though he does step up to stop the run. However, Earwood said Fant’s frame is such that he can easily put on additional weight and can become a more powerful defender and tackler without losing any of that speed.
“He’s got great muscle mass,” Earwood said. “In that 160 pounds, there’s not an ounce of fat. He’s cut from granite. He’s well put together. He’s got a sprinter’s body. He’s got really wide, broad shoulders. And he’s still growing. I’d say he can gain another inch or inch and a half. I can tell you his size hasn’t scared anyone off.”
It certainly didn’t scare off the Hoosiers, even though Florida State almost did.
UPDATE, 10:50 p.m. Fant said that while the recruiting efforts of the coaching staff were critical in his commitment, so too was the encouragement he got from other Indiana commits.
Fant said he had several conversations with Fort Wayne Homestead wide receiver Isaac Griffith, Ben Davis safety Antonio Allen and Pike defensive end David Kenney, who made a hard pitch for why he should come to Bloomington.
“They told me Indiana is home for them,” Fant said. “But they also saw a team that wasn’t really noticed and was coming up on the map and could use a little help. And they all thought, why not have this Class of 2013 be the one that puts them on the map.”
That resonated with Fant because at Our Lady of Mercy, he joined a program that had won nine games in 10 years before his sophomore year, but then went 7-3 and 6-4 in his sophomore and junior year and has a 4-4 record now with a good chance of reaching the Georgia state playoffs for the first time.
But so too did the words of Shelby, who impressed Fant by coming to one of his games the night before the Hoosiers had a noon game themselves.
“He came down to watch me play, and no other coach had really done that,” Fant said. “And he had a game, a noon game, the next day. I was like, ‘Man, this guy really wants me.”