IU looking for in-state recruiting boost in 2017 #iufb

They call themselves “#HoosierArmy17” on social media.

That’s the name coined for Indiana’s 2017 recruiting class, one that could carry a distinct Hoosier feel.

After signing only two Indiana natives this year, coach Kevin Wilson’s next high school haul already includes six Hoosier prep stars.

And a few more could be on the way.

“I’m very excited,” said Avon linebacker Bryant Fitzgerald, who projects as a safety at IU. “Some of the good in-state talent is staying home, and it’s showing some of the other in-state talent that is in 2018 or 2019 that they can play with the Hoosiers with us. I’m very excited about what coach Wilson and his staff is doing in the state of Indiana.”

Fitzgerald was the first in-state player to commit to IU’s upcoming class, making a verbal pledge to Wilson’s staff in January.

Since that point, Indiana has also accepted commitments from a handful of fellow three-star recruits, including Carmel defensive end Britt Beery, Ben Davis defensive tackle LeShaun Minor, Tri-West tight end Peyton Hendershot, Lawrence North offensive tackle Caleb Jones and, most recently, Columbus East center Harry Crider.

Together, it’s a group that seems dedicated to bringing some of the state’s top talent to Bloomington with them next summer.

“Three or four of them reached out to me after I got the offer,” said Crider, who committed Monday afternoon. “After I committed, I heard from three or four again, then I got linked up with all the rest of the commits. I’m in conversation with all of them.”

For his part, Wilson is usually quick to acknowledge that a verbal commitment doesn’t mean much until National Signing Day in February. Kids flip, as Crider did, switching from Virginia to stay closer to home.

Prior to signing Lafayette Central Catholic tackle Coy Cronk and Winchester athlete Kiante Enis for this season, Wilson signed four Indiana natives in 2015 and five apiece in 2014 and 2013.

Aside from the top of the class, it’s not necessarily a star-studded in-state senior crop this year, according to rating services. There is some top talent.

Hunter Johnson of Brownsburg, considered the No. 1 quarterback in the nation, is committed to Clemson. Cathedral linebacker Pete Werner, the No. 2 in-state prospect, is headed to Notre Dame.

But there’s still Big Ten-level talent to be had and Indiana is getting its share.

Fitzgerald also has his eyes on adding a couple more to the class, naming four-star Fishers defensive back R.J. Potts and three-star Center Grove corner Russ Yeast as priority targets.

Potts, the son of former Indianapolis Colts fullback Roosevelt Potts, has offers from Notre Dame, Nebraska, Purdue and Missouri. Yeast has a long list of Big Ten offers, and has also been targeted by Alabama and Auburn.

But Fitzgerald wants them to join the crew at Indiana.

“(I’m) trying to get them to stay home and complete that secondary, really,” he said.

Beyond Potts and Yeast, IU is also targeting three-star Carmel tight end Kurt Rafdal. Of the top 10 in-state prospects in the 247 Sports Composite rankings, IU already has three commitments — Fitzgerald (No. 6), Minor (No. 9) and Jones (No. 10). Beery is ranked No. 15, Hendershot is No. 16 and Crider is No. 21.

Wilson and his staff have developed a track record for finishing strong and, for the most part, keeping their commitments in the fold.

At this point, Indiana may start to become more selective in its recruiting efforts.

Wilson says this could be his smallest class at Indiana, and may not even crack 20 recruits. IU already has the 14 high school seniors, plus Ohio offensive lineman Ryan Smith, a 2016 recruit who won’t officially join the program and accept a scholarship until January.

“I like the guys on paper, and I feel good about them saying (they’re committed to IU), and we’ve talked about what a commitment is,” Wilson said. “But there’s a lot of water that goes over the dam.”

That’s true, but the early returns are promising.

“I think it’s all a little bit more meaningful now that I’m playing for my home school, representing my state of Indiana,” Crider said. “We definitely want to get the best players to come play with us here. I’d love to be a part of helping out and recruiting other kids like that.”

Staff writer Jon Blau contributed to this story

20 comments

  1. Getting to the point IU can pull off a core of top talent in Indiana gives them a leg up in recruiting. They can count on a base to start with and go after top players from other states they target. It will help them be consistent in bringing in the players they need to compete in the B1G.

  2. If IU can win consistently for a 12 to 20 year rest of KW tenure (and he stayed at IU for at least another 12 years or more and even possibly retired from IU ) this whole IU KW experiment could then be labeled a successful courtship that conquered trials, tribulations, solved problems and would then turn out to be what could be called a successful marriage.

  3. t: I like your enthusiasm and optimism. But, before we worry about Wilson retiring from IU with a sparkling legacy, let’s just beat Florida International.

  4. t, I agree and Kurk81 t isn’t overlooking FIU. I agree that with the upswing in recruiting and the way the team is getting after it here in the preseason I would like to see coach Wilson stay until he retires. Now that envisions that the improvements will continue with IU getting better recruits as the team wins more games. We at least get recruits that we compete with big name schools to get as before we couldn’t get that caliber of player. To do even better IUFB needs to win games instead of being close like last year. Other downtrodden football programs have risen [NW, Baylor, TCU, even FSU way back in the day] and it looks like coach Wilson has our program on the rise to move up in a few years.

    Yes there can be interruptions and the team can come up short so that the dreams don’t happen but right now things are looking up.

  5. It is highly unlikely Wilson will be coaching IU Football 12 years from now! No matter how successful IU football becomes in the immediate future, Wilson is now 54 years old! Coaching college football is a very stressful job. The burden and stress that most head college football coaches endure can be mitigated and reduced by major-power football schools who have the money to insulate winning head coaches (Alabama, Ohio State, etc.) and surround them with large staffs that alleviate a lot of the stress and fatigue, but IU Football is nothing to become one of those programs in the next decade. And while we’re all excited about the progress Wilson has made at IU, let’s not forget that he has yet to produce a winning season. The progress his leadership and skill has produced for IU is encouraging, but it’s also relative. He took over one of the worst college football programs in the country, so the progress he has demonstrated is relative to IU’s history. Ironically, if Wilson produces much greater success in the next two or three seasons, he’s likely to be lured away by far wealthier football programs (Michigan is paying Harbaugh $9 million this year with the Life Insurance premiums thrown in) that would not hesitate to pay Wilson twice what IU is paying him now. But the money aside, I think the lure of such offers for a coach like Wilson would be the opportunity to pursue the next levels of success and coach a team that can compete for championships, up to and including a national championship. So, as I see it, if he is very successful in the near future, he gets poached while he’s still young enough to pursue greater success. And if he does not produce surprising levels of success in the near future, he either stays at IU until he’s ready to retire, or he’ll get fired before his current contract expires.
    IU is, in relative terms, investing a lot of money to improve it’s performance in football. While it will never be a job that carries the expectations of an Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama, etc., IU won’t be able to afford having a football program that backslides toward it’s once hapless and pathetic status. I’d love to see Wilson retire at IU’s coach after leading it to six or seven bowl victories in a row.

  6. And there is a 6’5/210 kid outside of Columbus OH that WANTS to come to IU to play football and we are playing hard to get!

  7. Jeremy- Have you dropped Tsao an email during any of this long period Scoop has been absent his contributions? Hope he’s just found another passion…outside of writing eloquently on Scoop. Sure miss his input and friendship.
    I remember when we lost Andy Russell….(known as Aruss on Scoop). 12 hours..12 days…12 years? This place gives us no face to a friend where we can deposit our tears. I regret not having the courage to hook up with Tsao in Chicago for lunch….Just never thought I could stack up to his life and successes.

  8. It is not a forgone conclusion a hi flying program could lure KW away and the reason why is he is a solid family man. When hired by Glass he stated he’d had other opportunities but they did not fill his needs of he and his family and he did not mean $. I can easily see KW staying at IU for an extended tenure past this season if he keeps gaining on success for the program. With his ability to evaluate and hire competent staff there is no reason he can’t insulate from some of the stress of B1G FB.

  9. What a nice change of pace from last year when all the talk was whether or not KW should be fired. Now everyone is worrying about how long he will decide to stay. Wow, what a difference a year makes.

  10. Kurk81, the way the defense is playing in practice and the talent on offense FIU will be surprised at how well IU plays this year compared to last year. The coaches will have the players ready and the players are ready to hit the field and win games instead of coming close to winning games or barely winning games. The team is stronger than you think on both sides of the line and I hope they show it the first three games. Then I hope they show the B1G they are able to beat anyone they play instead of coming up close to winning against the best.

  11. HC, I agree. Like Frank Beamer did at VT, Wilson may choose to stay at IU until he retires. (Aside from dismal attendance at home football games, what’s not to like about Bloomington?) On the other hand, Wilson may eventually conclude that IU Football’s inherent limitations and traditional obstacles will not allow him to achieve the success he believes he’s capable of as a head coach. But I think IU’s administration has to be feeling good that Wilson’s age is 54, and not 44.

  12. v, have you checked out the latest edition of Sports Illustrated? They have four Big Ten teams ranked in the top 14 teams, and IU plays three of them. Two of those three games are on the road. In addition, IU plays MSU, OSU and Nebraska in consecutive games before we get to the easy part of the Conference schedule. If IU goes 6-6 again in 2016, it will be a much bigger accomplishment than going 6-6 last year.

  13. PO- going into last season, IU’s strength of schedule was 52 and going into this one ESPN has them at 57. Not a big difference but they have IU with an easier schedule this year. Remember OSU, MSU, Michigan and Iowa where all ranked last year in the top 25 and OSU was #1. For what it’s worth, I’ve seen several predictions of IU finishing with 7 wins and one with 8. No one I’ve seen has them with less than 6.

  14. Thanks Jeremy ….Hope he’s well. Same goes for JPat.

    Wish I had the same optimism as many for IU’s football season. I have to agree with Podunker…Don’t pay attention to the strength of schedule rankings. IU plays as brutal a conference schedule as any team in the country. There are a lot of uncertainties and kinks to work out with a new QB and the “third time is a charm” latest revolving door of defensive coaches. I’m not expecting more than 4 wins.

    We were once the Jamaican relay team of college basketball….Sometimes you have to stick with the ‘gold’ that makes for your best chances at a national/international stage. Never thought I’d see the day when our ultimate focus is consumed with getting the top football talent from Indiana…I find that akin to Jamaica searching out their best bobsledding team.simply because they can sprint fast.
    Meanwhile, a basketball Sweet 16 has become our ‘Rose Bowl’ of confused distortions in this heist of national prominence by way of own hand…This must be the ‘McCracken Martyr Era’….I believe Tsao had given up on basketball ever becoming a credible place to believe… (And by the looks of the magnitude of declining interest from top Indiana basketball talent, he was ahead of that curve). Don’t get me wrong…We have a ‘Bolt’ over at McCracken…Unfortunately, it’s the stiff thread on a nut variety and not lightning in a Dusani bottle….
    Thus we have places all our hopes in the Jamaican bobsled team with those new ‘zero tolerance’ chrome helmets. We will speed to the top of the BIG standings with ‘Slip-‘n’- Slide Wilson…Push…v13! Push Clarion! Take your foot off the damn brake, Podunker! Too much tempering will put us into the wall! But where is the team captain! Where is Tsao to steer this foolish tragedy…..? Now he leaves ….I can only hear the distant and fading thunder of a storm once his massive beating upon a belief that must have been more hallow than heart. Let football be fallen angel for the greed and abuses of the child at McCracken we abandoned faster than Devin Davis with a charlatan tongue, Tijan Forever mockery, and a lazy-ass “wrecked program” curse..

    Let the Winter Games begin….

  15. Even for Irish it will be tough playing FB from a jail cell. We’re going to find out what Swarbuck is made of now. I suspect the best producers will be coddled but the least productive/promising players will have their scholarships go to new high caliber recruits. A Win-Win for ND.

  16. I look at the IUFB schedule and think that its completely realistic that IU could win eight games- and just as realistic that IU could lose eight games. Last year we had nail-biters against the likes of Ohio State and Michigan and the likes of So. Ill. and W. Ky. And I don’t even know where on that spectrum to put the Rutgers debacle.

  17. The Rutgers game put Knorr permanently in the cross hairs and the Pinstripe Bowl did him in. Should have been 8 W’s. KW had no choice. Just having Tom Allen and Mark Hagan this season will gain IU 1 more win. I now consider this staff 1 of the very best in the B1G and even in the country.

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