The recruiting services aren’t giving Indiana’s latest signing class high marks.
That’s not necessarily cause for concern.
Approaching Wednesday’s National Signing Day, Indiana appears to have filled a list of needs with its 2017 recruiting haul. The Hoosiers have added depth to their defensive line, lined up a couple intriguing playmakers for their defensive backfield and secured a commitment from a Florida quarterback who earned his state’s Mr. Football designation.
And because it’s signing day, a couple more surprises could be in store Wednesday morning.
Indiana enters the final day of the recruiting period with a class ranked No. 57 nationally by Scout, No. 60 by 247 Sports and No. 62 by Rivals. That’s the lowest ranking from 247 Sports since 2010, the lowest from Rivals since 2012, while Scout also pegged IU’s 2015 class at No. 57 in the country.
Each player in IU’s 2017 class, save for Australian punter Haydon Whitehead, is considered a three-star recruit in the 247 Sports Composite rankings. Those stars — and the class rankings they shape — aren’t always indicative of the caliber of player at focus.
For instance, IU’s 2012 class was ranked as low as No. 71 by Rivals. That class turned out to produce three All-Americans in running back Tevin Coleman, left tackle Jason Spriggs and guard Dan Feeney.
Star ratings aside, IU has some intriguing prospects lined up this cycle.
“I think there’s a lot of speed in this class,” said Steve Wiltfong, 247 Sports’ recruiting insider. “I think they’ve added some defensive linemen with some high upside. You look at the interior of the defensive line and Juan Harris and LeShaun Minor, if they can get it out of them, those are two interior guys that can be really good in the Big Ten. I think they got some high upside offensive linemen. Now, we’ll see who coaches them with coach (Greg) Frey gone. I also thought they got more athletic at linebacker and in the secondary.”
One of the signature moments of the recruiting cycle saw Indiana flip Florida athlete Juwan Burgess from USC. Burgess, who is expected to begin his college career at safety, played at Plant High School in Tampa, Fla. alongside early-enrollee Thomas Allen, a linebacker who is also the son of IU coach Tom Allen, and receiver Whop Philyor, who is also expected to sign with Indiana today.
Indiana hit the Tampa area hard this cycle, leaning on the recruiting connections established by Allen, who was defensive coordinator at South Florida in 2015, and former offensive line coach Greg Frey, a Clearwater native who left IU to take a similar position at Michigan last week.
Indiana has five Tampa-area commits, including already-enrolled offensive lineman Tyler Knight and defensive lineman Tramar Reece, giving the Hoosiers more recruits in that area than Florida and USF, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Allen has also used his roots to lockdown the state of Indiana, as well. Six native Hoosiers are set to join the program today, including Avon athlete Bryant Fitzgerald. Like Burgess, the 6-foot prospect is also expected to play safety for the Hoosiers.
The in-state haul also includes 6-foot-9, 380-pound Lawrence North offensive tackle Caleb Jones, 6-3, 293-pound Ben Davis defensive tackle LeShaun Minor, Carmel defensive end Britt Beery and Columbus East center Harry Crider.
The Hoosiers are also looking to sign 6-foot-4 Tri-West tight end Peyton Hendershot. After former IU tight ends coach and Hendershot’s lead recruiter James Patton was let go earlier this month, Hendershot appeared to be weighing other options.
He did take an official visit to Bloomington during the on Jan. 13, though he followed that trip with an official visit to Penn State last weekend. It is not clear whether Penn State has offered Hendershot.
“He certainly can come in and be a game-changer,” Wiltfong said. “He can stretch the field. I’m also not ruling out, if he has the right mentality, maybe a Ryan Kerrigan-type rise on the defensive side of the ball as a stand-up outside rush linebacker, or a defensive end type of guy. Peyton Hendershot is a very intriguing guy to me.”
Should he keep his IU commitment, Hendershot could one day catch passes from Florida quarterback Nick Tronti. After adding Austin King and Peyton Ramsey at the position during the previous two cycles, the Hoosiers wanted another quarterback for this class. They found one in the 6-foot-2 Tronti, a dual-threat passer who won Florida’s Mr. Football award following his senior season.
Tronti’s 72 career touchdown passes are tied for second all-time in St. Johns county behind Tim Tebow’s 95.
“We’ve spent quite a bit of time since we’ve all been together talking about recruiting and formulating a plan to finish up on the guys who are remaining and looking at the possibilities of some new people that we haven’t looked at before,” IU quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson said. “We’ve done it together as a whole staff, so it’s been a good thing. When everybody’s on the same page, we’re gonna team recruit and help each other out and make sure we target the right guys. You can do that by formulating opinions from everybody and getting everybody involved and closing those guys out.”
Indiana’s class, which currently includes 22 players — five of whom are already enrolled — could see a couple additions before Wednesday is done.
Bobby Roundtree, a 6-foot-5 defensive end who comes from the same high school as current safety Jonathan Crawford and receiver Donavan Hale, is believed to be heavily considering IU. Roundtree also holds offers from Illinois, Louisville and Michigan State.
The same goes for Ohio running back Morgan Ellison, who predominantly holds offers from Mid-American Conference schools. Cleveland.com last year called Ellison Ohio’s best-kept secret due to the fact that he missed most of his sophomore season and all of his junior season due to a compound fracture in his right leg.
Come midday Wednesday, he, too, could be a Hoosier.
“This will be a character program and you have to have character players,” IU offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said. “I really believe those are the guys that win for you. Also, too, guys that are going to achieve academically. Those are the first two areas that I’ve looked at as a recruited. I know that will be the same here, as well. Also their football talents and what they can do that way.”
IU’s national recruiting rankings
247 Sports Rivals Scout
2017: 60 62 57
2016: 55 56 52
2015: 52 50 57
2014: 48 39 45
2013: 42 57 49
2012: 57 71 53
2011: 57 63 58
2010: 72 NR 60
2017 Indiana football commits
Thomas Allen, ILB, 6-3, 220, Plant, Tampa, Fla. (enrolled)
Britt Beery, DE, 6-6, 267, Carmel, Carmel
Alfred Bryant, DE, 6-1, 236, Manvel, Manvel, Tx.
Juwan Burgess, ATH, 6-0, 188, Plant, Tampa, Fla.
Mo Burnam, ILB, 6-2, 219, Salem, Conyers, Ga.
Harry Crider, C, 6-4, 260, Columbus East, Columbus.
Bryant Fitzgerald, ATH, 6-0, 200, Avon, Avon
Tyrese Fryfogle, WR, 6-2, 206, George County, Lucedale, Ms.
Juan Harris, DT, 6-4, 368, Parker, Janesville, Wisc. (enrolled)
Peyton Hendershot, TE, 6-4, 227, Tri-West, Lizton
LaDamion Hunt, CB, 6-0, 183, Carrollton, Carrollton, Ga.
Caleb Jones, OT, 6-9, 280, Lawrence North, Indianapolis
Tyler Knight, OT, 6-5, 275, Northside Christian, St. Petersburg, Fla. (enrolled)
Raheem Layne, CB, 6-0, 183, Sebastian River, Sebastian, Fla.
Mike McGinnis, ILB, 6-2, 235, ASA College, Allentown, N.J. (enrolled)
LeShaun Minor, DT, 6-3, 293, Ben Davis, Indianapolis
Craig Nelson, RB, 5-10, 180, Booker T. Washington, Miami, Fla.
Whop Philyor, WR, 6-0, 175, Plant, Tampa, Fla.
Tramar Reece, DE, 6-3, 210, Clearwater, Clearwater, Fla.
Nick Tronti, QB, 6-2, 210, Ponte Vedra, Ponte Vedra, Fla.
Haydon Whitehead, P, Australia (enrolled)
Michael Ziemba, TE, 6-3, 245, Lake Mary, Lake Mary, Fla.