Signing day a step forward for Allen, Hoosiers

In back-to-back years, Tom Allen has taken Indiana football recruiting where it has seldom gone before.

On Wednesday, the first day of the December early signing period, IU signed 19 players, including four four-star prospects, who help form the No. 39 recruiting class nationally, according to the national scouting services. That group doesn’t even include former Utah quarterback Jack Tuttle, himself a four-star caliber prospect during last year’s recruiting cycle.

Altogether, it’s a class that could rank higher than any IU signing class to come before it by the time the regular signing period arrives in February. It’s a class that fills areas of need and further bolsters positions where Indiana already enjoyed depth and talent. It’s a class with considerable upside.

Now comes the hard part.

Bridging the gap between upside and results is Allen’s foremost challenge as he enters his third season as IU head coach in 2019.

Allen has now stacked two classes on top of each other that, by Indiana standards, appear better than most. There’s good athleticism, Big Ten size and, perhaps most important to Allen, a degree of versatility that will allow he and his staff to plug and place players as needed.

It takes time, of course, for college football recruiting classes to mature to their full potential. But for a program that has authored merely two middling seasons under Allen, IU needs more immediate results.

The Hoosiers will hope this class — and the developing ones before it — can be the difference in the close games this program so often finds itself in.

‘The reality is that none of us are as patient as we should be, and I’m not either,” Allen said. “So I want to start seeing the benefits of that in the fall, and that’s going to take a lot of hard work (to) get these young guys ready to play. But we’ve got guys that have been here and have been here several years now. And it’s time for them to continue to grow and develop.

“We’ve got some young guys that gotta have a great offseason and step up and fill in some voids, and I expect them to do that. Some of them might be in the freshman class we just signed today or might be guys we signed last year or the year before that. But that’s where the depth has to come to fruition.”

Allen played 14 true freshmen last season, several of whom operated as major contributors on a team that finished off its second straight 5-7 season with last month’s Old Oaken Bucket game loss to Purdue.

When Allen looks at the first 19 players in IU’s 2019 recruiting class, he sees a dozen or so who will also have a chance to play next season. Some of those newcomers will play no more than four games under the NCAA’s year-old redshirt rule. Others, as Allen demonstrated last season, could earn significant roles in helping IU strive to achieve its goals.

“As I tell them, best players are going to play,” Allen said. “We played 14 true freshmen this year. And if there’s more freshmen that are ready to play next year, then they’re going to play, too. Hopefully, (we) get to the point where all the guys, they’re developed and they’re talented and they make it hard for those freshmen to come in and play. But you know what? You’re going to have that opportunity. We are going to tell them that’s the way it’s going to be.”

Allen and his staff deserve a round of applause for putting together IU’s 2019 class. It’s a recruiting haul worth celebrating.

Headlining the class are the four four-star prospects, including three of the top five players in the state of Indiana — Avon running back Sampson James, Carmel defensive end Beau Robbins, Andrean linebacker Cameron Williams and Florida cornerback Tiawan Mullen.

Tuttle, the quarterback transfer from Utah, doesn’t officially count toward the signing class, but Allen is operating under the assumption that he will be granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA after he left the Utes midway through the 2018 season without playing a snap.

So the top of the class, any way you view it, is undoubtedly impressive. Signing multiple four-star players — which are rated on a five-star scale — is a significant achievement for any IU coach, one that Allen hopes will pay off.

“We don’t get too bent out of shape about those rankings, the number of stars a guy has,” Allen said. “But it’s how they evaluate them and how they categorize and judge them. And there’s no question that many of those guys in those higher areas do turn out to be really good players.”

The IU staff did a lot of work early in the cycle, building relationships and establishing trust. It also did some of its best work late.

Indiana signed 16 of the 17 players who were verbally committed to the program entering Wednesday — losing only three-star linebacker Dorian Jones, who flipped to Louisville — then added three more, including Williams, the four-star linebacker from The Region, two-way lineman Antoine Whitner and defensive tackle Juan Harris, who transferred from IU to a junior college this past spring only to return for a second-chance with the Hoosiers in 2019.

Allen said IU has five more spots to fill during the 2019 recruiting cycle, whether with high school prospects or graduate transfers.

Indiana’s staff authored some of its most important work late in the cycle by finalizing the signing of three-star Tennessee offensive lineman Matthew Bedford, who committed to IU in June before fielding late interest from South Carolina and Mississippi State. It was a fight to the finish to pull Bedford over the finish line on Wednesday morning, and the staff-wide victory in doing so was a point of pride for Allen by Wednesday afternoon.

“He was the most challenging get as of this morning, to be able to fight to the bitter end,” Allen said. “And I know how that is there. He’s in SEC country and lives there. And he’s long and athletic and has a lot of upside to him, and therefore, there were two in particular programs that went after him extremely hard.

“… It was a battle. There’s no doubt. And Bill Inge did a phenomenal job with the family, and coach (Darren) Hiller did a great job with the family, as well. Sometimes what happens is — and I think this is one of our strengths — people ask me how do you get some of these guys? I said, you know what, we just be who we are, we be real.”

The reality is that this is a signing class Allen can and should be proud of. The IU coach aspires to recruit at a level that makes the Hoosiers a factor on the Big Ten recruiting trail, and the past few months have served as an example that Allen and his staff can do just that.

Ultimately, of course, recruiting well will get Allen’s Hoosiers only so far. Indiana needs to be a program that executes better, coaches better and rises to the moment in ways that playing in the Big Ten requires.

Wednesday was a positive step forward.

“Recruiting is the key,” Allen said. “And then (when) you get them here, you’ve got to develop them. So that’s what I really am passionate about, because I know that we’re smarter coaches when we’ve got better players. The blitz works better when the blitzer can finish the play. The routes run better when the guy throwing it and the guy catching is a really good football player.

“I just think that you can talk about it all you want but we’ve got to just keep doing what we’re doing and keep recruiting, keep putting class upon class. It’s going to be important. These next five spots are going to be big. Those could be the five guys that could be the difference in next season.”

5 comments

  1. If IU gets a qb that can throw the ball does Bell develop and become a center piece in offense? If Bell goes to Purdue will his growth be stunted with Moore already featured. Does Brohm and Purdue take another step (a giant step) with Moore, Bell and highly rated class?

    1. I wouldn’t count on the Boils just plugging in the next quarterback up and have him turn out to be another David Blough.

      They haven’t had a quarterback like him in a long time and it might be a long time before they have another.

  2. Everyone. Please send your prayers to Terry Hutchens. He was critically injured in a car accident earlier this week. He is s great guy who has covered IU basketball for a long time.

  3. Two very good recruiting classes in a row for T.A. I congratulate him and his coaching staff. Now they have to prove they can channel all that talent and potential into performance that produces a winning season.

    As for the five remaining spots IU needs to fill, unless we can flip some more 4-stars coming out of High School, I’d like to see three of those five spots filled by graduate transfers who will be instant starters or at least major contributors. And it wouldn’t hurt if those grad transfers happened to play on the offensive or defensive line. We still need experience and depth on both lines.

  4. Congratulation to Tom Allen and his coaching staff for signing one of the best, if not best recruiting class in Indiana football history. Tom Allen and his staff has done just about everything that Fred Glass could asked for. Granted Tom Allen has not produce a winning season yet, but recruiting has improved. Now it is up to Fred Glass to keep this positive moment going. What do I mean?? Purdue has ante up the money to Jeff Brohm and extended his contract…..PJ Pleck of Minnesotahas received a contract extension with a bump in pay and yes even Lovie Smith of Illinois has received a contract extension. Fred Glass do not do Tom Allen like you did Kevin Wilson wait to long to extend Tom Allen contract. By doing this you kill any recruiting moment Tom Allen had. If this program is really heading in the right direction (presently maintain the status quo) and if you can see improvements being made, then do not hinder the process by failing to extend Tom Allen contract as every coach hire at the same time as Tom Allen has contract extension.

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