Wilson not afraid to play freshmen, already has some in mind #iufb

Kevin Wilson isn’t shy about playing freshmen.

Across his first five seasons as Indiana coach, Wilson has sent a total of 60 true freshman onto the field. That’s an average of 12 per year, or roughly half of a signing class. With 20 newcomers set to join Indiana’s camp next week, including 17 true freshmen, Wilson will be looking for the next wave of youngsters ready to accept the responsibilities of becoming immediate Big Ten contributors.

“The more those guys play, odds are they’re going to do better in school, they’re gonna do better off the field, they’re gonna do better in winter and spring ball because when you practice and don’t play, it kind of sucks,” Wilson said. “There’s no JV team. These guys have played ball — a lot of them — since the third grade, fourth grade, Pop Warner, pewee, junior high, freshman ball, you name it. They’ve played on teams. We don’t have a JV team. We just have the one team and when guys don’t play it can create a lot of negativity.”

There are at least a few freshmen already on Wilson’s radar.

Offensively, the IU coach said Cole Gest, a 5-foot-8 running back from Ohio, may already be one of the program’s most dynamic skill players. Wilson wants to play eight or nine receivers, and Jonah Morris, Taysir Mack and Phil Benker will compete for opportunities in the rotation.

“It’ll be interesting with Kiante Enis,” Wilson said of the one-time Michigan commit from Winchester High School. “We gotta find out (where he’ll play) between running back and receiver. Some of those guys, we have to find their spot. Until you get out there throwing balls and catching them, we gotta find out what spot some of those guys end up in.”

On the offensive line, tackle Coy Cronk will be battling for a spot on the depth chart once camp opens on Wednesday. There’s a lot to like in Cronk, a 6-foot-5, 286-pound prospect from Lafayette, who chose IU after watching how guys like Jason Spriggs and Dan Feeney have developed under offensive line coach Greg Frey.

“He’s a fun person to recruit,” Frey said. “He’s a good person. He has a good mentality. He was a high-level baseball player. I mean high-level, like up there — scholarship offers, those types of things. We’ll see. Being around as much as you can doing the things legally that we can do, you see those same traits that you recruited and it makes you smile.”

Defensively, Indiana is always looking for capable bodies to mix into its secondary.

Incoming safety Marcelino Ball is only 17 years old, but he looks much older. Ball is already 6-feet, 209 pounds and could challenge for reps in the defensive backfield, perhaps as a safety or even as a Husky — defensive coordinator Tom Allen’s linebacker/safety hybrid position.

“Marcelino Ball looks like he has a chance to play early,” Wilson said. “Maybe not, but just watching him walking around and running around, he doesn’t look like a freshman. We’ll see.”

As part of his recruiting efforts, Wilson never promises playing time to freshmen. Plenty, however, have found their ways onto the field during their first season in Bloomington.

Wilson played 12 true freshman in 2015, 13 in 2014, eight in 2013, 11 in 2012 and 16 in 2011.

“As a freshman, if you can play special teams and you can play enough offensive or defensive snaps to merit playing, we’re going to play you,” Wilson said. “Marcus Oliver played as a freshman and got an ACL (injury) his second year. Dan Feeney played as a freshman and got a Lisfranc (injury) his second year. Sometimes there are injuries that happen.

“We don’t force guys to play, but I like playing freshmen. I think it leads to competition. I think all those guys coming back know they’re not entitled to anything.”

One comment

  1. IU coaches are always looking for players that can contribute to the success of the team. There are several of them that seem like they can contribute as freshmen. I hope we see a few of them excel and help the 2016 team have a winning record.

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