Ohio running back Gest becomes IU’s 8th commit

Indiana is recruiting Cole Gest as a running back, but the Hoosiers expect to get much more out of the three-star Ohio native than mere carries.

Gest, who committed to IU on Wednesday morning, is expected to start his college career in the backfield, while also seeing time as a slot receiver and as a return man when he arrives on campus as part of the 2016 recruiting class.

Gest’s commitment represents the eighth verbal pledge for 2016 and the fifth commitment the Hoosiers have taken since the weekend. IU offered Gest during a visit on Tuesday morning, and he quickly accepted it.

“It just seemed that everything was falling into place,” Gest said. “I was being led to Indiana. After getting the campus tour and everything, meeting the players, meeting the coaches, and after the camp I went to last Friday, I definitely knew that Indiana was where I was meant to be.”

Considered a three-star prospect in the 247 Sports composite rankings, Gest chose IU over offers from Bowling Green, Toledo, Kent State and Ohio. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound back was a first-year starter in 2014 at St. Edward High, rushing for 1,854 yards and 25 touchdowns on the way to being a Northeast Ohio Lakes All-District first team selection. Gest was also named an All-Ohio Division I special mention.

St. Edward coach Tom Lombardo is entering his first season at the helm of the Cleveland area program and said he quickly learned that Gest had an interest in playing at the Big Ten level. Lombardo says he envisions using Gest this fall in many of the same ways that IU has planned for him.

“Just like last year, he’ll be the primary ball carrier from the tailback position,” Lombardo said. “He’s super explosive, fast and runs a sub-4 40 and also has the ability to (be versatile). We’ll use him on screens and getting him out of the backfield because he has really good hands. His explosiveness is his greatest strength. You watch him do plyometrics and the way he jumps out of boxes with one leg or both legs, you can see the explosion in his hips. He runs really low to the ground, so not only can he break the big one, he can get you tough yards, as well.”

Running backs coach Deland McCullough led IU’s recruitment of Gest, who said he’s been timed at 4.35 in the 40-yard dash. St. Edward won the Ohio Division I state title last season in a game where Gest rushed for 158 yards and one touchdown while averaging 6.1 yards per carry.

“I think it got me on the radar,” Gest said of his high school performance. “After my season, Coach McCullough followed me right away. I think my season led to that. I wasn’t being flooded with people trying to recruit me. It didn’t happen like that. It was kind of slow, but Indiana followed me, and that’s when I knew everything was going to fall into place.”

He joins Alabama’s Tyus Flakes as the second running back in the 2016 class. The Hoosiers are expected to have a long list of options at running back when Gest and Flakes arrive next year.

UAB transfer Jordan Howard, who has two seasons of eligibility remaining, appears to be in line to earn the starting job this summer. Sophomore Devine Redding will also push for playing time, as will redshirt freshman Tommy Mister. This year, IU is also bringing in versatile three-star prospect Devonte Williams, who could also see time in the slot or catching passes out of the backfield.

Gest is the fourth Ohio player to commit for 2016, joining A’Shon Riggins (corner), Peyton Ramsey (quarterback) and Ryan Smith (defensive line) in Indiana’s 2016 class.

With Gest’s commitment, Indiana is no longer at the bottom of the Big Ten in verbal commitments for next season. Purdue is last among conference teams with seven commitments. IU is tied with Illinois with eight.

Indiana also had eight commitments at this time last year before coach Kevin Wilson signed a class of 22 players for the upcoming season.


  1. Maybe he’ll be another Mike Harkraker, who rushed for over 1,000 yards in 1976, with a 5.2 yard per carry average as a freshman. Like Harkraker, I hope he’s very quick and tough as nails. Not surprised that the only other schools to make him an offer were in the MAC, but I trust Wilson and staff’s ability to evaluate offensive talent. The greatest running back of all time, Walter Payton was about the same size. Different web sites have Gest listed between 5’7″ and 180 to 5’9″ and 190. I assume he’ll play at about 195 lbs. Certainly, a lot of IU’s female students will be pleased to have him on campus.

  2. Another good get by CKW (coach McCullough) and staff. St. E’s is another good Ohio program (2014 state champs). They frequently play Cincinnati Elder& Moeller as well as Cleveland Glenville. If looks like the recruiting flood gates are beginning to open for 2016. Go Hoosiers!!!

  3. Congratulations to Gest and to the IU coaching staff……love the fact that IU is not last on the number of verbal commits….they all sound like good recruits and a good class of recruits developing……Hopefully we can see some 4 or 5 star recruits commit…..a good recruiting class this year, couple with the last two good recruiting class could be of major benefit in future years….IU football is looking a lot better these days…GO IU!!

  4. Updated this after speaking with Gest’s high school coach, Tom Lombardo, who says he’s around 5-foot-9. Lombardo was very complimentary of Gest’s explosiveness. Seems like an interesting pickup. A couple years from now, IU could have a lot of options between Gest, Devonte Williams and whoever else is in the mix as the No. 1 running back.

  5. I think his stock might be a low because he might not project as a #1/every-down guy (he certainly could prove people wrong), but he at the very least looks like a GREAT #2/change of pace RB.

  6. Good point, PB. In Wilson’s offense at IU, there really is no such thing as an “every down back.” Not even one of the best backs in college football last year played as an every down back for IU. So if other power-conference football schools downgraded Gest because they thought he was too short to be an “every down back,” good for IU. If he gets to 5’9″, he’ll probably peak at 200 or 205, which is fine for that height. And who knows, he may not be done growing. I grew 2.5 inches after I graduated from High School. As we’ve seen with a lot of shorter running backs, with a lower center of gravity and “condensed” muscle mass, they can produce a lot of power relative to a taller back. Walter Payton is the best example of that, but many other shorter backs have since demonstrated that a shorter-than-average back can be very productive.

  7. If this guy was 6’0″ and 210 everyone on here would be saying he has the intangibles to be the next big time back for IU. At 5’9″ and 190 the research I’ve done on him tells me he has the intangibles to be the next big time back at IU. Along with 2-3 others in classes ahead of him. Recruiting at every position is offering the same outlook trajectory for IU fans.

  8. Really good comment HoosierC. There is little doubt that the quality of the players recruited has improved and the cumulative number of them over the Wilson years now give us a chance to be competitive. In itself, that is a changing factor in the culture of football at Indiana and a fundamental reason why I have great confidence in our B1C future; even considering we are, in what is clearly, the strongest of the two divisions.

  9. It’s just satisfying to see us 2-3 deep in many key positions. Keeping Wilson for 8-10 years will give this team the stability that it hasn’t had since the 80’s. Obviously by that time frame we will know if the long term strategy means keeping Wilson. I could see more successful programs changing coaches but a carousel of coaches only puts IU back further.

  10. Ben, you are so correct…..it is very satisfying to see quality athletic on the team and the ability to go 2-3 deep at some positions…no it is not Ohio State deep, but we are middle of the pack BIG 10 deep…Coach Kevin Wilson has done an excellent job of making this team competitive…Given enough time i believe that Coach Wilson will have this team competitive with all teams in the BIG 10….Looking at the IU schedule i believe that the IU football program will be very competitive with the likes of Rutgers, Penn State (could we ever say that before), Iowa, Maryland and Purdue….GO IU!!

  11. IU79, it takes a sustained effort to build that. A class full of 3-stars won’t wow ESPN, but a junior and senior class full of three stars–particularly if a few of them turn out to be studs– makes you very competitive. And you build on that. Look no further that K-State or Virginia Tech: historically bad programs that turned it around.

    We’re building something. It needs a solid foundation. I believe we have it. We just need to keep building.

  12. Ben, IU79 and Punjab, Excellent, no way could I express your observations any better. I have come to the mind that if Wilson only wins 5 games for the next 3 seasons he should be kept as the elevation of competition he has created is good for IU’s FB future and he will keep making the program better. His assistant coaches and the rest of the staff he has hired in the program is so far superior to any that have ever been at IU before it gives me great optimism to IU’s prospects for as long as Wilson wants to coach in Bloomington.

  13. I love the talk. Q When was the last time we gave a coach a 5 or 6 year contract to get it turned around? Everything seems to look good EXCEPT the D and the wins @ losses. Size and speed matters. I have seen comments over the years that maintain D is much easier to put on the table than O.. Wilson is very good on the other side. I truly hope we get it right this year otherwise he might be gone. I do agree with Punjab!

  14. Absolutely agree that recruiting under this coaching staff has come a million miles! The team that IU is putting on the field is far more competitive. I agree that we need to stay the course with CKW. We may not make a bowl game this year or even next, but we are definitely trending in a positive direction and we will be B1G competitive at some point. I completely reject the comparisons with other institutions that have turned their programs around in a shorter time frame. Those schools may have battled back from long down periods but they have not had to combat our lethal history of chronic under investment, lack of institutional and fan support, substandard facilities and deficient “marketing.” Even Northwestern’s turnaround, while enviable, did not face our challenges. Stay the course…go Hoosiers!

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