2019 commits Cooper, Passmore already getting IU education

By the time Gary Cooper and Jeramy Passmore arrive on Indiana’s campus before next season, they’ll be versed in all things Bloomington.

They’ll have their coach at Miami’s Columbus High School to thank for that.

For nearly 18 seasons, Chris Merritt has been a staple at Columbus, where the Explorers have authored undefeated seasons and earned district championships under his watch. Long before that, he was a kid in Bloomington, earning a place on the football field for both Bloomington North and Indiana University.

Now, he’s eager to send his two best players to play for his alma mater.

“I told them the things that they were going to see, and I told them what to expect,” Merritt said of Cooper and Passmore, two of IU’s latest commits in its ever-growing 2019 recruiting class. “I still think that people in Bloomington don’t realize how good that they have it. I didn’t realize it as a player. I grew up in Bloomington. I was born on Second Street. My dad retired from IU.

“You just don’t know how good you got it until you leave and go someplace else and realize we had it pretty good.”

Cooper and Passmore both project to be good fits for the Hoosiers, who secured commitments from the three-star prospects amid the past week’s run of recruiting victories.

Cooper, a 6-foot-1, 217-pound prospect who chose IU over Michigan, Florida and Oklahoma, is a versatile offensive skill player who could fit into a few different roles for Indiana in the coming years.

Passmore, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound defensive end, chose IU over Iowa, Maryland and Georgia Tech, among others, and projects to give the Hoosiers a tough, physical pass rusher that should fit well under defensive line coach Mark Hagen, a former IU teammate of Merritt’s in the heyday of the Bill Mallory coaching era.

“These are Mark Hagen-type kids,” Merritt said. “Mark was a captain, a leader and the face of our team. He was Indiana’s best when we played and that’s exactly what these kids are for us.”

Last season, Cooper caught 19 passes for 194 yards with one touchdown. He’s listed as a tight end, but could line up at a few different spots at IU.

“He’s an H-back,” Merritt said. “He’s a player that can put his hand in the ground. He’s not going to live in that stance, though. I have kids in the NFL right now. He’ll be drafted as a fullback. He is a kid that can play multiple positions and can create some serious matchup issues for anybody that he lines up across from.”

Passmore, meanwhile, posted 75 tackles as a junior, including 20 tackles for loss and 16 sacks.

Their commitments extend Indiana’s ongoing pursuit of talent in the Sunshine State, where IU has made visible strides in plucking Big Ten-level talent in recent seasons.

Four of the 11 commits in Indiana’s current 2019 class hail from Florida. Last season, IU signed eight Florida prospects after picking up nine during the 2017 recruiting cycle.

“These guys (on coach Tom Allen’s staff) buy in,” Merritt said. “They believe in the difference in the competition. They believe in what’s in the water down here. To be honest with you, the last time Indiana was really successful, they had a number of kids from Florida on the team, especially South Florida. … I just think that Mark and that staff, they buy into it.”


  1. Merritt is a good spokesman for IUFB and I am glad two of his players are coming to IU. The more connections IU has in Florida the better it is for the football team. Pull in the best Indiana players possible and bring in as many players from the deep South as possible should give IU a shot and moving up in the B1G.

    1. v13,
      I am glad to see this article come over to this side from the HTO. I had already commented on the other posting about this, but I hope the Coach Merritt quote lends credence to something several of us have been saying for a while. Merritt said, “They believe in the difference in the competition. They believe in what’s in the water down here.” As I told 123 in the other posting, I don’t think there is anything in the water in Florida or anywhere else in the south. The DNA of players in the north is just as good as in the south. What is different is the level of competition. The concentration of super competitive HS programs and players is the difference.

      HS FB is to the south as HS Basketball is to Indiana. Until you experience it firsthand and over an extended period of time you really cannot understand the difference. What is believed to be a 3 star player in Indiana is not the same caliber as a 3 star player in a southern state due to the intense competition. The reason being the number of other 3 star and better players on the opposing teams the kid has played against virtually every Friday night.

      It is kind of like the way traditional basketball is played in Indiana. The number of pure shooters a kid will go up against in IN HS basketball is much higher than in other states. It is probably just the program point of emphasis in a given geographic area, not the natural talents of a kid. The hyper competitive nature of a given sport in a given geographic area serve to develope those talents at a much faster pace and to a greater level.

      1. I think all the geographical stuff is overrated…Indiana is not a very populous state. Football takes big numbers…It takes big numbers to field h.s. and college teams. To win in basketball requires putting four to five standout players on one team.
        Much of these differences in finding talent is because of larger population centers(big cities and midsize cities).

        Also, Florida has numerous class divisions in football(almost double that of Indiana)….I’d be very careful getting kids with the ‘blue ribbon for everyone’ mentality which can create softness.
        Indiana Basketball ruined their heritage(and the chances for smaller programs to delight in playing the feisty/scrappy underdog) when they also adopted the blue ribbon mentality via multi-class basketball. Zeller was soft and untested…for never facing the big Indiana high schools. Easily hyped without ever having to face the very large Indy schools.
        I wonder how many Florida football players only experiencing competition in the smaller ‘classes’ (I believe they have 7 or 8 h.s. football divisions/classes in Florida) look a lot better than they really are due to only facing schools and schedules with the same similar enrollment sizes….?

        Be interesting to see if OSU and Michigan..and the prestige of the Big Ten recruit from the bigger h.s. programs/classes in Florida….A 3-star playing in 2-A may be a much different prospect than a 3-star playing in 7-A. We may be getting Florida recruits, but are we getting kids from the bigger schools who have faced deeper h.s. rosters?

        1. H4H,
          I am going to agree and disagree with you. Where I will agree with you is in regards to the utter stupidity of taking Indiana HS basketball to a class system. Not that I think Zeller couldn’t have better developed without the class system, but he was not given that opportunity. A very good comparison would have been the devopment of Larry Bird versus Cody Zeller. Night and day difference and you are correct, I think we have class basketball to blame.

          As for your mistaken belief that geography is overrated, the numbers do not support your contention. For example, Mississippi and Louisiana have much smaller population bases than Indiana, yet per capita produce more NFL caliber players than any other states and the other southern states are not that far behind. The major reason is the emphasis placed on FB in the south. It has historically stayed at the near fever pitch once held in Indiana HS basketball before what you and I will agree, was the abomination of multi class competition.

          I think it is a cultural thing in the south, the kids come out to play football. Don’t always have that in other regions of the country.

          1. Ohio State sure recruits a lot of Ohio kids….Michigan a lot of Michigan kids…and Penn State a lot of Pennsylvania kids. Sure they have players from Florida(Penn State recruiting the fewest from Florida) and other regions, but I’m pretty sure the passion for football is pretty damn high in those states…(and they’re not in the South).
            Notre Dame is a pretty respected football program….with a ton of history. I could only find three kids on their roster from Indiana. We have 6.67 million people in Indiana.
            Florida has 21 million along with multiple population centers/cities with between 100,000 and 1 million residents.
            The demographics of Louisiana and Mississippi are much different than Indiana. African American populations vastly outnumber(32% of total population in Louisiana & 38% Mississippi) the totals in Indiana. The combined African American population of Louisiana and Mississippi is over 3 million(around 1.5 million in each state). Indiana has around 600,000 African American residents(only 9% of total population). 70% of the players in the NFL are African American.

          2. But thanks for 50% agreement….

            Football is a brutal sport. Maybe there something about the South that still needs a bit of brutal to be tasted in the belly of the soul? I do declare, I think men are just tougher in South. They eat nails for breakfast and the leftovers are put on football cleats.

            Indiana has always been a very passive sort of place….We put on short shorts and white sneakers and toss a round ball into a peach basket. If Naismith didn’t give us something to do with our soft desires, I do declare our passion would be slippers and pirouettes and Inside the Hall would be dedicated to only blogging on the subject of ballet. Then again, I do think men on ITH are most certainly wearing tights without football to chat.

            I think I’ll concede that football is a South sort of thing…..We will fill our tiny Memorial with the Florida gladiators while delighting in the violence not of our delicate corn silk and barnyard backboards used for a bit of bouncy ball between chores.
            Hell, if Notre Dame football can only find three native Hoosiers to put under Rockne’s golden dome, then its simply not in our DNA to participate…We are Labradors at a Pit Bull party. We’ll watch and enjoy the complexities stirred into the brutality but please don’t put us in the ring of teeth and terror. Give me a tire swing on a tree….a pile of leaves to jump into…and round bouncy ball to toss in cute woven basket.

          3. Don’t forget….We did loan Rex Grossman out to Florida. Don’t be a Hoosier hater …be a Florida gator. That Snow White Hoosier fumbled more in a Super Bowl than seven dwarfs can whistle while they work.

            And Jay Cutler…..You’re welcome, Miami. He’s from Santa Claus. He’s as soft as a teddy bear. Teddy bears don’t like the cold. Somebody forgot to give Jay a bouncy ball and he’s never stopped pouting.

            Indiana Jones….? Think he would like football? Dude is a professor…He runs from boulders and carries around a whip.

            And then we have that damn ‘candy stripe’ moniker. Way to seal the deal, Bobby Knight. As if Indiana didn’t have enough of a patsy bouncy ball image…..you decide to eternally put us smack in the middle of a Candy Land board game. Damon…Cody….Romeo…? Do they sound like football names to you? Nope. These are bouncy ball types who can’t go to sleep without a goodnight kiss and some tucking in.

          4. North Dakota…Plains and simple. Cowboys are tougher than Hoosiers. Only the clowns at rodeos wear the candy stripes…

          5. thinkaboutit,
            The numbers are so small that, after California, Texas, and a few others, they shuffle around every year. Statistically insignificant. Five, six, seven, whatever, divided by millions.

            I found it interesting that Alabama and Indiana were tied.

            I worked in health care in South Carolina for quite a few years. Most of those kids couldn’t gain admission to schools outside of the south. I don’t know what kind of games Clemson plays academically but I know of several functionally illiterate kids playing ball there.

          6. Chet,
            I wouldn’t disagee with your characterization of some being seriously academically challenged, but they sure can play football. Some of them will make more money in the NFL in a year than most of the posters to this site combined! A significant number will wind up playing JUCO ball or in small FCS, or lower division ball as a result.

          7. Hey, I’m the first guy to stand up and cheer for opportunities.

            Good for them. Financial success should not depend purely on education. It just so often does.

            If a person is willing to put their body on the line then…God bless them…give them the paycheck.

          8. The South truly produces a ton of great football talent….The South also produces a ton of poverty per capita(.

            Sports is such a mirage of opportunity ….It’s nearly criminal to perpetuate the mirage. But without mirages there would have long ago been revolution. You’re more likely to get rich panning for gold in the Mississippi than ever making it in professional sports.

            Football is for the rich to consume and owners to profit…It is for the poor to have dreams and flimsy hopes where jobs are few, health care is unheard of, and education of a higher quality level is nearly totally void.

            But when the Friday night football lights shine bright, the world is momentarily right. Thank you Jesus …for football. Everybody take a knee.

  2. Ahh yes lookin for a Jaylen Samuels type who can line up anywhere on the field well played

  3. I think you also have to look at economics….Much of the South still struggles and has nearly institutionalized poverty in many areas. Basketball and football provide an opportunity(albeit a very slim one) to climb out of poverty. It provides a means to an education and the potential to get out of the grips of economic hardship plaguing families for generations. If you can make it, the return on investment is rather substantial….The dream becomes infectious. Can’t blame any kid for dreaming big when the economic hope is so bleak via other avenues…Golf clubs and private country clubs are rather expensive though there are likely plenty of golf clubs in the South. Also, the return on investment isn’t so hot….One NFL team has more roster spots than most PGA tournaments.

  4. Ohio has a population around 11 million…Mississippi has 3 million.

    Ohio(born in Ohio) has 97 active players in the NFL.
    Mississippi(born in Mississippi) has 35 active players in the NFL.

    Both hover around 10 players in the NFL per million population.

    Florida has a population of 21 million…NFL players born in Florida currently active in NFL = 232. Again, not a ton more than 10 per million.

    Texas has a population of 28 million…NFL players born in Texas currently active in NFL = 196. Texas is around 8 per million active in NFL(28 x 8 =196).

    Population is the main determining factor..I would also say that having a substantial African American population pushes the numbers per capita upward. Football inherently “better” in the South? More African Americans live in the South as a percentage of the populations. 7 out of 10 players in the NFL are African American. Most variances are explained by populations and demographics.

    Fact remains, Ohio has more NFL active players born in Ohio per capita than thos born in Texas. Ohio has ten million less people than Florida…and Florida has just slightly better than a 2 to 1 edge in active NFL players(the differences aren’t that astronomical).

  5. The South is looking stronger and stronger in producing NFL talent….thinkaboutit suggests that football is nearly a ‘way of life’ in the South …? More and more evidence is surfacing that repeated blows to the head in a football career will ultimately lead to very high chances of dementia(the overwhelming numbers beginning to show up in former NFL players is staggering). I see a healthcare crisis….

    1. H4H,
      I hate to tell you this but your comments expose your lack of knowledge concerning Southern HS FB and the Southern Economic situation. If you have lived and been involved in the HS FB of the south, you would know the difference. I have been in both the north and the south for extended periods of time (not a year or two) and do know the difference. As for some of the comments regarding both academic and economic situations in the south, you might want to check your sources.

      There are a lot of sources out there which still play to the sterotypes which were true 30 – 40 years ago, but not now. Yes, there are certainly areas still in the south which remain problematic, but that could also be said if the north as well. A lot of the persistent problem areas are a result of cultural issues which have not yet been effectively addressed. Economically, you could certainly say by recently published HTO statistics, there is a problem in Monroe County, Indiana; students or no students.

      1. You would be hard pressed to find an economic statistic in which the southern states are not all at the bottom. You will usually find a couple western states mixed in due to the large numbers of reservations but the rest are in the south.

        In many categories Indiana is often one of the first non southern states to appear. Indiana has changed a lot since my youth and does, in fact, resemble the south in many ways that are not particularly flattering.

        1. ^^^Agree with all of that.

          U.S. Poverty Rates(source: Wikipedia) ….Higher poverty rates represented by darker shades of pink.

        2. Chet,
          As you well know, statistics do not always tell the whole story. I too have lived in the deep south, not Florida, for a large number of years. True, there are southern states with certain problems, but you find similarieties in northern states as well. If you are going to use the excuse of large numbers of reservations for the western states then you have to use a similar excuse for the problems in the southern states.

          You can’t pick and choose only the indicators which best fit your arguement, all things must be considered. I prefer to look at the reality both good and bad. There certain issues regarding any region of the country which could be considered, “not particularly flattering.” I would rather look at how do we move things forward rather than remain mired in sterotypes and prejudices against one region of the country or another.

          1. Well, there are certainly issues everywhere but I stand by my statement that, by and large, the economic situations of the southern states are in significant worse conditions. You just can’t ignore the data.

            I’ve lived in both Carolinas, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, and I was stationed in Texas for a few months.

          2. I’m not engaging in stereotypes….I presented you with facts and demographics. The NFL is 70% African American athletes. Indiana is 9% African American. Even with less overall populations in certain southern states, the percentages are much more balanced with regard to race(sometimes approaching 50% white and 50% African American).
            You can debate until the cows come home if the chicken came before the egg….Is better football in the South attracting more African American kids to the field….? Or is more African American populations bringing about a better football product? I just don’t expect a small state like Indiana to find a ton of football talent when population and demographics are playing against the historical data aligning with high caliber NFL/college teams. Of course we have to recruit in the South….We ain’t gonna convince many quality Ohio and Michigan kids to bypass OSU, MSU, Michigan, Penn State, etc(though they have very strong pools of talent and population centers conducive to strong recruiting). Is what it is…..

            And, unlike basketball, there aren’t many football players recruited from overseas with anywhere near the numbers present in college hoops/NBA hoops.
            Football is the major sport still attracting most African American kids as the most viable shot/percentages to make it big in pro sports….Baseball has changed drastically since the 70’s and 80’s. Basketball doesn’t have near the size in rosters as football and we are witnessing more influence from overseas.

  6. In many categories Indiana is often one of the first non southern states to appear. Indiana has changed a lot since my youth and does, in fact, resemble the south in many ways that are not particularly flattering.

    Sadly, that comment is also true. Indiana is now one of the top five states (“top” not really an appropriate adjective) in the category of drug addiction rates. From my personal perspective, there are other cultural shifts in Indiana not so flattering as well. I’ll reserve details since it will flow into the political/social realm as well…. The food offerings in any metro area is usually Texas Roadhouse, Chilis, Red Lobster…..Golden Corral, etc. Blandsville, USA. Strip malls, chain restaurants, and drive-happy bored people who clog up roads for absolutely no reason. Pockets of “haves” amongst many “have nots” but Indiana is really a Thomas Kinkade billboard painted upon a very homogeneous canvas of little spice and zest.

    1. Isn’t that the truth.

      I just returned from San Francisco. The population of SF and Indy are nearly identical. The eating options there are staggering. It seemed as if every third business was an eatery. I did some checking. The city by the Bay has 14 times as many restaurants as Naptown…only a tiny percentage are chains.

      San Francisco is where chain restaurants go to die.

      1. Giving credit where credit is due, last month I was in Indy and had the pleasure of eating at a quaint little place named Bosphorus Istanbul Cafe.

        It was absolutely outstanding. Best meal I have ever had in Indy.

        1. I also find eating at a bit higher end restaurant in Indy is far more expensive than many other cities….It’s primarily chains or spending $400.00 for a party of four. I do like a place call ‘The Eagle’ on Mass Ave for excellent fried chicken. My only complaint is that the sides are often delivered a bit shy of optimal hot temperature. It’s not expensive and its some of the best fried chicken I’ve tasted. Only ‘The Loveless Cafe’ south of Nashville can beat it in the fried chicken category. Loveless has fresh made mini biscuits that are to die for….
          I really enjoyed the food in Portland, Oregon. Haven’t been to San Francisco for many years.

        2. I’ll have to try Bosphorous…My wife has gone there with coworkers for lunch and they all enjoy it.
          She says it’s very clean which is a must for me….No matter how good the food, if a place is not conscientious of cleanliness and attention to the details, I have a hard time going back. I’ll never return for a ‘strike three’ if disappointed with cleanliness…

          1. The thing about San Francisco is the striking number of tiny restaurants. I found it to be far cheaper than Portland. I thought Portland was pricey. In San Francisco you can’t walk a block without encountering a couple eateries.

            Portland is kinda Starbucksy to me. A little too ‘everything in place’.

            San Francisco still has its own vibe. You can’t quite pin it down and it is constantly changing. Plus, everyone seems Asian so I naturally assume they were smarter than me.

  7. Speaking of the South, where’s ‘Bama’ Ben….? Come to thinkaboutit, haven’t seen Ben post on here for quite a while.
    We all live in stereotypes…Dan Quayle sure provided plenty for Indiana…Potatoe + Pence = Dense. Indiana Basketball is now mostly associated with an abusive Bobby Knight….rather than our rich and storied hoops history long before the throat grabber came over from Ohio.
    Gary, Indiana? Yeah…No stereotypes there. What a tragic waste of beautiful Lake Michigan coastline….and what a terribly forgotten and cast aside city our state has allowed it to become. We discard people just as much as anywhere in the South….or the U.S.

  8. H4H: I’m not sure your analysis of football talent is very sound considering that it’s based on where NFL players were born. People move around a lot.

    Gary a waste? When we used to drive through da Region on the Indiana Toll Road and my mom would wrinkle up her nose and comment on the smell of the mills, my dad always had the same comment: “Smells like money.” That is, a lot of good jobs. Indiana has led the USA in steel production for generations, and though a lot less people work those jobs, a lot of the production is high-value specialty steel. A good summer factory job let me graduate from IU with no debt and very little burden to my folks.

    1. If you were there the same time as me tuition and fees were $365 dollars a semester. Tell me about the summer job that covers 40 grand a year.

      It’s not about the summer jobs.

  9. You sound like another great success story….What mill did you work at? I had a friend work at Midwest. He used to tell me they would throw garbage on the floor to keep the janitor busy. I have a feeling many of those jobs were very protected and off-limits to certain applicants….The more protectionism enters into any industry, the more corruption can rot from within.

    Though born in Gary and there until his early twenties, my dad wanted zero part of the steel industry….I’m glad it worked out for you to help out in college debt. I don’t think most of the residents of today’s Gary have a lot to be hopeful… Maybe in a hundred years it will be reborn and a beacon of hope for its rebirth and restoration. Remember when they were going to build a nuclear plant near Gary? Now there’s a tale that could use a retelling….

  10. I’ve never claimed to be sound at football analysis….I leave that to v-13.

    But population statistics(whether born or moved) don’t lie. The NFL is 70% African American. Indiana is 9%. I’d say recruiting in the South will be necessary(at minimum, advantageous).

  11. Brother Chet: Right on both counts. I was there ’76 – ’80.
    H4H: It was then J & L (Jones & Laughlin) Steel, actually in E. Chgo. It later became LTV Steel, I think, and prior it had been Youngstown Sheet and Tube. Or at least part of it was; those places are gargantuan.

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