Indiana’s 2014 class doesn’t have quite as many headliners as last year’s class. The Hoosiers signed four four-star recruits on signing day last year —three in-state blue-chips in North Central defensive tackle Darius Latham, Ben Davis safety Antonio Allen and Pike defensive end David Kenney as well as Georgia cornerback Rashard Fant — and then added a fifth after signing day in wide receiver Taj Williams, who didn’t enroll because of academic issues.
This year’s class has just two four-star recruits in Pike wide receiver Dominique Booth and former Lawrence Central star offensive lineman Tim Gardner, who enrolled at Ohio State last year, but was sent home after being charged with obstruction of official police business and ended up at Milford Academy in New York. Despite that fact, however, IU coach Kevin Wilson believes this class might be better top to bottom than last year’s.
“I think last year, I had a couple of those, quote, on-paper names that give you a little bit more splash,” Wilson said. “I think this one has probably got a little bit more depth, a little bit more quality through it. I think there’s good kids, I think there’s a lot of potential. I think there’s some areas we needed.”
On offense, the Hoosiers first needed to replenish some of the depth lost at wide receiver with the graduation of Kofi Hughes and Duwyce Wilson and the early NFL Draft entry of Cody Latimer. Wilson said he doesn’t necessarily consider bigger receivers to be outside guys and shorter faster players to be slot receivers and said that he could move 5-foot-7 senior Shane Wynn to the outside this year. However, he still thought it was important to go after bigger receivers. He picked up a proto-type slot receiver in the 5-foot-8 J-Shun Harris, but he also went after larger wideouts — either in height or in bulk — in Dominique Booth (6-1, 200), Simmie Cobbs (6-4, 210) and Coray Keel (6-2, 190).
“We’ve got some good young ones to work with and we’ll be fine, but I wanted to try to get a little size,” Wilson said. “That’s why to get Simmie Cobbs late and to get Dominique in kind of late is good because they were more physically mature, bigger guys. Not that that means they’re better, but you lose some size and length out there. … We weren’t taking point guards this year, we were trying to take power forward guys.”
That was the same plan on defense. Wilson said he didn’t necessarily try to change the recruiting process down the stretch to get players who would specifically fit defensive coordinator Brian Knorr’s scheme. However, the Hoosiers did get in on several players late because Knorr had a connection to them even though they did not. That included defensive back Kiante Walton, linebacker/defensive end Robert McCray and defensive lineman Derrian Meminger, all of whom were committed within the last four days.
“We didn’t have a style we were going after except we wanted bigger, longer, faster dudes,” Wilson said. “I think at every position we did that. I think we’re bigger at linebacker than we’ve been. Not that it fits his scheme, I just think it fits the Big Ten. We’ve gotta be bigger on that side. Getting a 200-pound cornerback is big for us, because when the backs come around the corner, that’s 230, 240 pounds coming at you. I think the key that we were looking for was just guys that could run but had a little bit more length and growth potential to take up space. I think we accomplished that. I don’t think we were looking at this as, is this the perfect 4-3 D-End or 3-4 outside ‘backer or 4-3 MIKE. That was never the conversation.”
Wilson described this as his most stressful signing day, and it was easy to see why. The Hoosiers added McCray, Meminger, and defensive back Chris Covington and also signed safety Zeke Walker, who had announced that he was committing to Indiana weeks ago, even though the Hoosiers didn’t formally take his commitment until Wednesday. The Hoosiers actually lost linebacker Airius Moore, who committed to North Carolina State but apparently hasn’t signed yet.
“The last few days have been a free-for-all,” Wilson said. “It’s been hectic. It’s been hanging on for dear life. Some of the stories that kids hear. It comes back to where you do enough recruiting, you hope there’s enough trust and a strong enough relationship that you can weather the storm. Once in a while you might get a guy late. Once in a while you might lose a guy late. I think at the end, though, it always works out that you get who you’re supposed to coach.”