4-star RB Sampson James flips commitment from Ohio State to IU

Indiana lost the game to Ohio State, but won a recruit.

Four-star Avon running back Sampson James announced on Sunday evening that he has committed to IU, flipping his college choice from the Buckeyes to the Hoosiers. James instantly becomes the highest-rated recruit in IU’s 2019 class, joining fellow four-star prospects Beau Robbins, a defensive end from Carmel, and Tiawan Mullen, a corner from Florida.

He’s considered the eighth-best running back in the nation and the No. 3 overall recruit in the state of Indiana. James revised his decision after taking an unofficial visit to Ohio Stadium for Saturday’s game between Ohio State and IU. The Buckeyes won, 49-26.

“He didn’t get a real good vibe yesterday, for whatever reason,” Avon coach Mark Bless told The Herald-Times.

Avon and IU, meanwhile, have close ties.

The Orioles have been regular participants at Indiana’s team camps during Mark Bless’ nine seasons as coach. First-year IU strength and conditioning coach David Ballou also spent 14 years as the head strength coach at Avon.

Familiarity and comfort with Indiana played a significant role for James, as did the recruiting relationship of second-year running backs coach Mike Hart.

“They recruited him heavily,” Bless said. “… I think it’s a number of things that fell into place with Sampson. He feels very comfortable with IU.”

James originally committed to Ohio State in March, choosing the Buckeyes over offers from IU, Purdue, Michigan, Penn State, Notre Dame, Georgia and Florida State, among others. He attended the Buckeyes’ 49-26 victory over the Hoosiers on Saturday at Ohio Stadium before reportedly changing his plans.

In eight games for Avon this season, James has rushed for 1,011 yards on 173 carries with 10 touchdowns. He’s averaging 126.4 rushing yards per game and 5.8 yards per carry.

“Sampson is a downhill runner and he’s got some wiggle to him,” Bless said. “He’s a North-South guy; a strong, physical back.”

James will give the Hoosiers an interesting mix of talent in the backfield next season, joining a position group that includes Stevie Scott, a true freshman starter this season, and former four-star prospect Ronnie Walker.

Morgan Ellison, who led IU in rushing in 2017 and is currently serving an indefinite suspension, could also be a factor. Indiana will also return speedster Cole Gest, who suffered an ACL injury in last month’s season-opener.

James is the second running back to commit to Indiana for 2019, joining three-star prospect Ivory Winters of Missouri. Winters reportedly took an unofficial visit to Arkansas this weekend.


  1. HUGE get!! And an Indiana kid too. Guess who recruited him at Ohio State? Some guy named Wilson….the name sounds familiar?

  2. This is a great pickup for IU and could bring a couple of other top players from Indiana to IU. The 2019 class is developing into one of the best class for IU in a while. IU needs to still add a couple players with high level of talent to the class but the rating of the class is rising.

  3. I’m starting to get the feeling that WR David Bell from Warren Central will be signing with the Hoosiers…

  4. Ivory Winters taking a visit to Arkansas. I guess we should not count him in yet.

    Need another quarterback and a few very large, athletic bodies for the offensive and defensive lines to fill out this class.

  5. Ivory is supposed to be very solid for IU as other teams want him on defense and he wants to be a RB which is where IU will play him. You can never be sure until they sign there NIL but this staff has had a pretty good track record of hanging on to commits.

  6. We’re going to need him, and probably one more, because Ellison isn’t going to be available for a long time, if ever again.

  7. James was at IU-OSU game last Sat.? “Holy cow, I’ll never crack that line-up! Better sign with IU.”

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