Florida DT Sparks commits to Hoosiers #iufb

Indiana and coach Tom Allen picked up their fourth commitment in three days on Tuesday morning when three-star defensive tackle JeJuan Sparks made his commitment to the Hoosiers via Twitter.

The 6-foot-2, 327-pounder from Clearwater, Fla., is the 10th commitment overall in the 2020 recruiting class for IU. He was was high school teammates with current Indiana freshmen D.K. Bonhomme and Sio Nofoagatoto’a at Clearwater Academy International. As a junior at CAI, Sparks had 44 tackles, nine for loss, two sacks and one fumble recovery.

Sparks, who visited Indiana this past weekend, also held offers from Central Florida, Colorado State, Florida Atlanta, Florida International, Mississippi, Syracuse and Troy among others.

48 comments

  1. I’m probably not the first to notice this, but I’m seeing a very encouraging trend in IUFB recruiting. Even though the current level of recruiting is modest with primarily 3* recruits with a 4* or two mixed in, how these players are being recruited is a good thing. I keep seeing recruits from other regions of the country committing who were HS teammates of current Hoosiers. Best case example is the kids from Florida coming up north to play football. What it tells me is our current roster members from other areas of the country are satisfied enough with the program to recommend former HS teammates join them at IUFB. In my mind, that’s a very good thing.

  2. Agree = program stability = could it be TA leadership and character carry over to maining and replacing assistant coaches = carry over to team = networking recruiting?

  3. think, you make a good point and I agree. And having a former HS teammate or friend who is a year or two ahead helping recruit you reduces the risk that the kid will get homesick and want to transfer to a school closer to home after his freshman year. As seen on the videos on this year’s freshman (you can watch their interviews on The Dailey Hoosier), many of the kids from Florida or the Southeast make specific reference to the benefit of having a former HS teammate or friend help them make the adjustment and get settled in to IU. It’s a huge benefit.

  4. Given the population of Florida and how competitive HS football is in that part of the country, I’m glad TA and staff are mining the southeastern states for talent. And as I’ve said before, it’s probably easier, given IU Football’s history of losing and general reputation (in football) within the state of Indiana, to recruit football players from out of state than it is to recruit kids who went to HS in Indiana. With a few exceptions, the best Indiana HS football players tend to choose other Big Ten Schools (or ND) over IU. I’m under the impression that familiarity with IU Football’s history breeds contempt for the program.

    I’d like TA and staff to expand recruiting into Texas and California for the same reasons they recruit Florida and the Southeast. Tons of talented football players overlooked by the big schools in those areas of the country, and IU would represent a much better overall opportunity (quality of campus, education, football competition, exposure, facilities, etc.) than many of the lower-tiered schools those overlooked kids tend to sign with. The other reason is quarterbacks. California and Texas are known to produce a lot of excellent quarterbacks every year. It still blows my mind that Baker Mayfield had almost no offers from D-I schools (New Mexico) coming out of High School! He won a Texas HS State Championship as the starting QB and was almost completely ignored by D-I Schools. How so many college football coaching staffs failed to see his talent and potential is mind boggling.

    1. Po,
      Adding to that, you just got a OC and a QB transfer with significant ties to the west coast vicinity. Giving KW credit for starting the serious effort at Florida recruiting, TA has taken it to the next level. Granted a lot of these guys are of the under the radar variety and not all of them will develop into B1G starting caliber, but knowing how deep the southern talent pool is, a good number of them will. I know after a 130 years of IUFB futility it is difficult to ask the fan base to be patient, but given enough time, I have high hopes that TA can make it work.

      1. I would have to believe that Coach Allen is a lot more charming in a family living room than Kevin Wilson could ever be.

        I wonder what CKW’s recruiting responsibilities at OSU are. His light doesn’t seem to be the brightest on the porch in Buckeyeland.

        1. …I have no doubt in that same living room Coach Wilson comes across as genuine and full of resolve…differing personalities don’t steadfastly establish + or -, W/L nor success or failure…his brusk, staccato, director delivery kept Deland and Frey + others on board… also brought Hagen back home then brought Allen home too…something authentic and genuine working there…I like em both for the culture that has become IUFB…No bitch no moans.

    1. BB
      What did I say? Of course KW started the serious recruiting of Florida, but TA has definitely taken it to another level.

  5. Just because players are from Florida, Georgia, and the South they still have to be high enough ability and good enough. I can’t remember exactly but Purdue comments were commonly made about one of the Purdue coaching regimes were recruiting the South trying to bring more speed and ability to team. It helped very minimally.

    1. t,
      Someone correct me if I am wrong, but I think it was Tiller who tried that. Worked very well in the early part of the season, but when the weather turned bad, the speed was negated. Did work well enough for him to post some winning seasons.

      I’m not sure if TA is approaching this from a purely speed perspective. V13 or someone may have better perspective, but it looks like he is recruiting for body type as much as for speed. You can’t rule out speed totally because as the B1G has found out repeatedly on the national level, what it takes to win in October and November in the midwest, doesn’t always pan out very well in the perfect conditions of the BCS locations.

      1. It was Danny Hope, not Tiller, and he lasted four years. Allen coached at a high school in the Tampa area, so he knows coaches well, and that’s a big part of the battle to gain a foothold with kids.

        An interesting aspect about this kid and the other current IU players from his high school is that Clearwater Academy is operated and funded as an educational arm of the Church of Scientology. As a part time Floridian who has a place just south of Clearwater, it’s a well known fact.

    2. It was Danny Hope. But his shine was already off the dime when he steered toward southern talent. Also he was not near the talent evaluator or as adept at recruiting Coach Allen and staff are. Tiller IIRC liked Texas talent.

  6. think, not sure our OC spent enough time in California to develop the relationships necessary to effectively recruit the talent in that state. But maybe I’m wrong.

  7. Recruits like Sparks were 2nd or 3rd choices for IU. IU had a bunch of top recruits in the past few weeks but those kids chose other schools (according to Matt Weaver of PEEGS). Not that the players signed the past few days aren’t good, but they’re not the difference makers IU needs to climb out of 2-7 in the Big Ten. TA really needs to find a way to win 1 or 2 more games this year.

    1. H86,
      Not being harsh about it, but two points: No one is signed, either for IUFB or anyone else. All the are at this point are verbal commitments which can change between now and the early signing date in December. Second point, a freshman class normally does not a season make, it can help, but how the season goes will depend on the guys already in the system.

      1. I think you missed my point. Maybe I didn’t explain it well. Nothing illustrates IU’s recruiting problems more than this: IU has offer a staggering 325 players to gain only 9 commitments. And the majority of those commitments were unranked or poorly ranked when they committed. That is the result of back-to-back 2-9 seasons in the Big Ten and an overall losing record. Unless TA can show progress this year, recruits will no longer view him as a coach turning around a program but just as another unsuccessful coach.

        1. H86,
          I agree it is a tough hill to climb, but check my other posting on PU under Mollenkopf. It took him 10 years to finally deliver, but when he did, they had 5 good, great by PU or IU standards, years before retiring. Up till Mollenkopf, the PU program wasn’t much better than IU. Later on, Tiller took the program to much higher levels which they seen thus far since.

  8. Purdue recruits from Florida May have come towards ending of Tiller era but I was thinking Hope or it was increased under Danny Hope.

  9. My bigger question is why have Keyes, Sparks, and Williams, not been rated yet by Rivals? Appears to me when they are rated IUFB’s projected class rank will jump significantly. How much will depend on how highly rated 3* these guys are.

  10. No Tiller recruited Florida and Texas thats how he got Drew Brees to go there come on people do your homework he was the first spread guy in the big ten he had to go outside the box,i like IU but to say Tiller didnt have success is the dumbest thing I’ve seen on this comment section

    1. Thanks for confirming my aging memory BB,
      I thought it was Tiller who did so. He did have some success and if memory serves, had PU ranked as high as number 4 in the early part of one year. The only problem he ran into was the weather in the latter part of the season. It really hampered his strategy and kept him from really putting PU back on the FB map as Mollenkopf had years earlier. He did have some great Septembers, if I remembering correctly.

      Interesting thing I found when going back to refresh my memory on how to spell Jack Mollenkopf’s last name. It took coach Mollenkopf nearly 10 season to get a break out record with 7 wins. Most of the time they were barely treading water with 4 and 5 win seasons, to along with three 6 win seasons. His last 4 years he won at least 8 games every year with the Rose Bowl year winning 9. The question is would IUFB be patient enough to endure nearly 10 years with TA struggling to push the program forward with the payoff of stellar winning seasons after that point?

      btw, Joe Tiller only had 3 losing seasons at PU, to go along with three 9 win seasons and a Rose Bowl bid. Been pretty much all down hill for them since then until the last couple years.

  11. Yes, I know about Tiller success at Purdue and Brees from Texas and his spread offense he brought from Wyoming. My point was I remember during the Danny Hope years of emphasis on Florida recruits trying to correlate it with team speed and talent which brought him minimal success.

  12. Sparks looks to be a very athletic big man to add to our 2020 DL class. He looks better proportioned than I imagine when I saw his weight and height. He looks to be one that the S&C program can really change into a strong athletic DL player giving IU a DL that can hold up in the B1G.

    If you go by the numbers colleges need to get their QBs from Texas or California but you can find some really good ones in other states – Indiana has one that will just be a sophomore this season at Gibson Southern. Texas and California QB/s benefit from Spring ball and Summer programs that run leagues for 7 on 7.

  13. I’m glad that these young men decided to be Hoosiers, but as far as Rivals rankings go I would not expect any of them to be high 3* players. They’ll more than likely receive a 5.4 (2*) or 5.5 (low 3*) rating based on other defensive linemen with similar measurables and offers in the Rivals database.

    1. What do Brandon Weedon, Clay Matthews, Aaron Rodgers, Antonio Brown, Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware, and Josh Norman have in common? Zero stars coming out of high school.

      If you head up into the lofty 2 star recruits you’ll find JJ Watt, Russell Wilson, Le’Veon Bell, Khalil Mack, Jordy Nelson, Aqib Talib, and a ton of other Pro Bowlers.

      Venture into 3 star territory and you’ll find the bulk of the NFL.

      Some of the biggest disappointments to come to Bloomington people were all excited about because of all those stars.

      I wouldn’t get too caught up in such a subject evaluation. Five star guys the size of a truck who can run a 4.4 forty will usually pan out as predicted. Most of the rest are rated by guys who have never laid eyes on them. Good coaches find talent that fits their program and don’t give a rat’s hiney about stars.

      1. Well over 90% of the 5 stars are drafted into the NFL. Well over 90% of the 2 stars aren’t. Really all you need to know.

        1. That is what we, in the science field, call ‘bad science’.

          By that reasoning, Boise State has never had a winning season.

          1. That’s what called a non-sequitur. Boise State winning or losing has no bearing on whether ratings of high school players are predictive of an NFL career. Unfortunately, lotteries are set up for people like you. Just because someone always wins doesn’t mean that millions don’t lose. Just because several players with low or no stars make the NFL doesn’t negate that the preponderance of low or no-stared athletes will never get drafted. And the fact that some highly rated players don’t make the NFL doesn’t negate the majority of highly rated players will get drafted.

        2. That being said, you are absolutely right. We would have a much better football team if the roster was filled with 5 star players. You should pass that tidbit up the ladder.

  14. Everyone agrees that it takes time to turn a losing program around. But these days, that amount of time is 4 to 5 years. No IU coach should ever be given ten years to turn IU football around. IU and the football program literally can’t afford to be that patient. The “elephant in the room” in this discussion is that TA took over the head coaching job at IU without a proven track record as a head coach, and relative to his peers, he was and still is a virtual unknown. Combine that with below-average facilities (at the time), very weak fan support/home game attendance and the history of losing, and you create the image of program that the best football talent would even consider. Compared to other established head coaches, TA is not the best bet for the vast majority of the most talented football players coming out of HS. These really talented players (and their families) see college as a three to four year period in which they can prepare themselves for a career in the NFL. The most talented players evaluate the offers they get, based in large part on which coaching staff gives them the best chance of making it to the NFL. The less talented players apply a vastly different set of criteria to the schools offering them a scholarship. TA may end up building a winner at IU, but he started out with a huge disadvantage, no matter how good a man he is and no matter how hard he works. He’s hobbled by IU’s administration and history. The best opportunity IU has to build a winning football program is to hire a head coach with a proven track record. Then give him the resources (i.e., coaching compensation and recruiting budgets) he needs to demonstrate success within three or four years. IU needs to hire head coaches who have proven that they’re winners, who have built a winning program, which means those men who have proven they can punch above their weight class, who can recruit better players, develop those players to their full potential and enable about 90 guys through on-field tactics that allow them to win games. Until a coach proves he can do that, his program represents too big of a risk to the best athletes coming out of High School, and they’ll always have better options. And before anyone starts with the ridiculous straw-man argument that “IU can’t afford” to hire Urban Meyer, Nick Saban or Dabo Swinney, there are a lot of coaches at mid major programs that are building that record of success every year. But you can’t attract any of those successful “up-and-coming” coaches with what IU chooses to pay their head football coach. The amount of money that IU pays TA right now is, in relative terms, is a joke. Money talks and all the blathers coming from Fred Glass walks, sending the clear signal to the college football coaching community that IU does not place great value in its football program. TA’s compensation does not make any up-and-coming coach think to themselves, “wow, that’s a job I’d really like to consider some day.” In fact, the amount of money IU pays T.A. does the opposite; it repels the up-and-coming football coaches.

    I have good, long term friends who are IU alumni and rabid IU supporters who laugh at me when I suggest their is reason to be optimistic about IU Football. They laugh, shake their heads, and look at me with pity as if I suffer from a mental health issue. Since I remain an avid IU Football fan, maybe I do!

    1. Po,
      I know you got on a major tear there but come up for air every once in white with paragraphs. My eyes glazed over with all that dialogue!!! No, it is not that IU can’t afford to pay what is needed, it is they won’t!!!!!

      Never forget, in many cases, perception is reality. Just like it is a problem for recruits to take a chance on IUFB, it is also an issue for prime coaching talent. Do they want to risk their career at a school which will put the necessary resources on the table to build a program? When some of these coaches were looking for greener pa$ture$, where was IUFB? Were they willing to offer what was necessary to bring in the caliber of coach needed. The answer as always is obviously, no.

      No disrespect for TA, if he can pull this off, he deserves to be paid megabucks and IU better be there to answer the call. If he can pull off a miracle at IU, you can count on a number of schools out there ready to snatch him away if IU doesn’t up the ante in a big way.

  15. Po, there are always detractors and they are right until the team proves us right. NW showed with Barnett that an established HC isn’t needed to turn a program around IE Denny Green couldn’t do it despite a good resume as HC. Barnett was an energetic coach that sold players on being the ones to change NW similar to what coach Allen is doing now. Can Coach Allen have the level of success Barnett did at NW, we will have to wait and see.

    Right now I see coach Allen making the moves a good HC makes. When he sees shortcomings in the program he makes a change even when that required reassigning himself. Each off-season we see changes to improve the program, they don’t always work out but I hope several will.

    To be an avid IU football fan we must be patient as it has taken decades to have a chance at improved results. One day we will die or IUFB will become contenders whichever comes first.

  16. If coach T Allen coached at IU for the next 100 years and maintained his 5 plus game win average (maybe with a game or 2 improvement in big ten) that would be a substantial improvement compared to the last 100 years.

    1. Actually t,
      That is quite an astute observation. Keep this up and Chet might have to reconsider the west laffy designation. Just keep it real.

  17. V. In recent years Indiana high schools had a number of QBs that could have fit IU. However, IU was unable to land them because of their perceptions and they chose to go elsewhere. Often their choices to go elsewhere were not in their best interest and ended up not being even the better choice let alone the best choice.

  18. Just in case no one has noticed, something I have been talking about ad nauseam, is getting play in the CA legislature. While the legislation appears to be limited to athletes being compensated for use of their names, likenesses, etc. I look at it as the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent. NCAA begging the legislature to give them time to come up with a solution. Which means something will have to be developed with the framework of the NCAA. If CA goes ahead and passes this, it will have a huge impact on collegiate athletics, if for no other reason than the size of population CA brings to the table. Once it starts, where will it end?

  19. think, sorry for the mega paragraph. Still too passionate about this subject. You are right is saying, “No disrespect for TA, if he can pull this off, he deserves to be paid megabucks and IU better be there to answer the call.”

    I would not hold Barnett up as an example of the type of coach IU would needs. Although he had 11 years of head coaching experience (HS and Small college) before going to NW as a position coach, let’s not forget that Barnett’s reputation was destroyed by the scandals that took place while he was Colorado’s coach. Numerous scandals and accusations of serious improprieties while he was at CO suggest that Barnett ran a dirty program. Recruiting scandals involving sex and alcohol during on-campus recruiting visits, remarks about his female place kicker after she claimed to have been raped by a CO teammate, accusations of tampering with sworn testimony and numerous rules violations. Of course, we have no idea if that type of behavior is what lead him to turn NW around, but CO Football was a dumpster fire after Barnett was forced to resign. CO didn’t have a winning season for another 11 seasons.

    So let me amend my previous statement: IU needs a coach who has proven success in leading a clean program.

    1. Barnett was squeaky clean at Northwestern. Arrogant guy who ran out of friends in Boulder, where he was probably blamed for way too much but lost all support that Mac had in spades. On subject, he was far more eexperienced than Allen was when he got the IU job.

  20. think, can you imagine IU ever paying a football coach more than it pays its basketball coach? Cause that’s the type of money it’s going to take to keep TA at IU if he can “pull off that miracle.”

  21. On an entirely different subject, IU just offered a 20-year old South African point guard a scholarship for the class of 2019. Based on what I read, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher given the kid’s age and that his shooting stats are terrible. Archie must need a back-up ball handler really bad in case Phinisee goes down with an injury, cause it does not look like this can is the answer to IU’s outside shooting problems.

  22. “Indiana has reportedly offered a scholarship to class of 2019 guard Austin Van Zyl. The 6-foot-5 prospect announced the offer on his Twitter account.”

    As published in today’s The Dailey Hoosier.

  23. Yep, and his tweet said, “Blessed to receive an offer from Indiana University!” Not sure why he would say that if it were not true, but maybe something got lost in translation.

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