Two years ago, Kristian Pechac moved to Bloomington from Columbus, Ohio.
He plans on sticking around for a few more years, at least.
Bloomington South’s junior running back verbally committed to Indiana on Saturday. That ends the recruiting process in unsurprising fashion for the 6-foot, 205-pound rusher.
Pechac’s father, Mike, is the Hoosiers’ director of player development. The younger Pechac joined his father in Bloomington in 2015 and has since become a star in the Panthers’ backfield.
“I think it’s a great place. I’ve loved it for the last two years, so I don’t see my mind changing over the next four years,” Pechac said. “I look forward to all four of them.”
As a junior, Pechac rushed for a South-record 2,030 yards and 28 touchdowns. That season helped build his list of Division I offers to 14, including Louisville, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Minnesota and Northern Illinois.
When Tom Allen became IU’s permanent head coach in early December, his first scholarship offer went to Pechac. That gesture resonated.
“I’ve never been a coach or anything like that, but I just assume if you extend an offer to somebody, that’s putting your faith in them,” Pechac said. “He went out on a limb for me. Some people could have said it’s because my of my dad it was given to me, and he wasted an offer, and stuff like that. I plan to make the most of it.”
Because of his father, Pechac already knows a great deal about the program. But there have been new faces to become familiar with during the recruiting process.
Just last month, Deland McCullough (now at Southern California) was replaced by Mike Hart (formerly of Syracuse) as running backs coach at IU. Pechac said he has talked with Hart several times, and they have grown “closer and closer each time.”
“He thinks I can do great things playing under him,” Pechac said.
Pechac certainly has the physical makeup to succeed. Blessed with tremendous size and speed, he is rated as a three- or four-star prospect by scouting services. Scout.com has Pechac as the second-best running back in Indiana, behind only Indianapolis Cathedral’s Markese Stepp, a Notre Dame commit.
It’s possible Pechac has only scratched the surface of his football potential. He missed part of his freshman season at Lincoln High School in Ohio because he wanted to focus on basketball. As a sophomore at South, Pechac rushed for 1,059 yards and 15 scores, but didn’t always hit the line of scrimmage heading “north-south,” as coaches prefer.
Pechac seemed to find his stride as a junior, though. In a win over Castle in the regional championship game, he led the Panthers with a career-high 368 yards and four touchdowns. On the year, he averaged 7.6 yards per carry.
There may be even more potential to unlock as a senior. South coach Mo Moriarity points to Pechac’s age: He won’t turn 17 until mid-July.
“He fits. Physically, there aren’t many kids out there like him,” Moriarity said. “Whenever guys came through South and saw him, even during his sophomore year, they knew right away, he’d be a D-1 kid.”
In recent weeks, there have been hints that IU could be Pechac’s choice. In March, Mike Pechac posted to Twitter a picture of Kristian in Panama City, Fla., wearing an IU sweatshirt. Just this last week, Mike playfully tweeted a picture of a No. 5 IU jersey — Kristian’s number at South — and wrote “I’m sure your mom wouldn’t mind wearing one of these on Saturdays during your college career … I’m just sayin.”
Despite his family’s stake in the Hoosiers, Pechac said he “weighed” all 14 schools equally. Moriarity urged Pechac to settle on a choice before his senior year, especially considering how many suitors were in the mix.
Waiting can be a gamble.
“If you’ve already committed, most schools are loyal to you. But it’s the real world. You get injured, all of a sudden they don’t know who you are anymore,” Moriarity said. “Also, it’s very hard to play when you’ve gotten multiple offers. People are recruiting you, and it doesn’t let up. It’s real hard to focus.”
Pechac is the fourth player to commit to IU for 2018, and the second player to commit from in-state. Lowell’s Jordan Jusevitch, a safety, pledged to IU in January.
Without throwing out specific names, Pechac said he has talked with other in-state prospects about joining him at IU. He has high hopes for what they can achieve, including a Big Ten championship “sooner rather than later.”
“It’s the best fit for me,” Pechac said of IU. “I’ve spent a lot of time with the staff. It’s more like a family to me, with the family connections. I know they’ll treat me good, and I know it’s not something I will regret.”