Brotherly, family bonds shape Jones

During a three-hour cruise down the streets of Memphis, LaRon Harris kept his hands on the wheel and his mind on his brother’s future.

The journey Cam Jones was about to undertake at Indiana, LaRon had completed a decade earlier at Tennessee. In 2002, he was a highly touted recruit for the Vols, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound lineman with NFL potential. He lasted two seasons in Knoxville, detouring to Northwestern Oklahoma State and eventually the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent.

Every right and wrong turn, LaRon had faced the consequences. His hope was a late summer ride down memory lane, shortly before Cam departed for offseason workouts, would impart some wisdom. LaRon just kept driving and talking, veering from academics and relationships to faith and temptation.

“We were just driving, and he told me the mistakes he made and the things he wishes he could have done different,” Cam said. “He was telling me, if I stay focused, the sky’s the limit for me.”

The promise of Cam Jones has revealed itself in moments when running backs are flattened and quarterbacks run scared. Ranked third on the Hoosiers in tackles, the 6-foot-3, 224-pound sophomore is shaping into an aggressive, determined force for the IU defense.

But it’s a path Cam has been on for a long time.

There is a picture of LaRon cupping a 2-year-old Cam in his meaty left arm as the right reaches for a Tennessee state player of the year trophy. Cam is captured with his mouth wide open, looking up at his big brother, mid-question.

“How do I get one of these?”

LaRon pushed him.

When little brother wanted to enter a room, LaRon blocked the doorway with his massive frame. Cam had to claw his way past. When he found Cam and his friends playing football, LaRon asked for the ball. He chucked it down the street as far as he could.

Brotherly torture was fun for a competitive boy who watched football games in an orange Tennessee uniform and plastic white helmet. He ran down the street and brought the football back, every time.

Cam aimed to please. It wasn’t until ninth grade he learned the value of hard hits. LaRon, who coached for every one of his brother’s teams from fourth to 12th grade, recalls how Cam’s teammates howled after he laid out a ballcarrier. “After that, he was like a missile.”

Laser-guided in focus, he’s a product of his influences. The rights he’s been taught, he embraces and copies. The wrongs, he has tried to avoid.

Sitting in the passenger’s seat of LaRon’s car, all Cam had to do was listen.

“He’s latched onto every word,” LaRon said.

***

LaRon and Cam talk on a variety of subjects. It could be girls. Sometimes, Cam’s having trouble studying for a test, and LaRon will tell him to parody his favorite song with the answers.

On Aug. 31, he called with a more urgent concern. Cam had just sprained his ankle in the opener with Ball State. He was looking at as many as six weeks on the sideline.

“Man, I’m hurt,” Cam told LaRon. “I think it’s serious.”

The battle of Cam versus the Ankle Injury is the stuff of legend now. He spent eight to 10 hours a day in IU’s training room in the days that followed, aiming to reduce the swelling and regain flexibility.

LaRon played a part in that.

“First, make sure it’s not something really, really serious,” LaRon told Cam on the phone. “If it’s not, you need to spend the night in the training room. You need to stay there.”

LaRon knew he would because Cam has a different level of dedication. And by different, LaRon specifically means different than what he had.

Gifted with enormous size and athleticism — he could land a backflip at 345 pounds — LaRon didn’t have the same passion for the work of football. He only watched film when the entire team was together. In the weight room, if there was a set of 10 reps, he did the 10. That was it.

LaRon planted seeds, hoping the hard parts would be more fun for Cam. When he was watching cartoons, LaRon told him that out there, somewhere, another little boy was working out. Cam would grab LaRon for pushups in front of the TV. In the middle of football games, Cam pulled LaRon outside and made him run whatever play they just watched.

LaRon chucked the ball. He blocked the doorway. And in the weight room, he mentally counted Cam’s reps. A funny thing would happen when Cam reached Rep 10.

”10, 11, 12, 13 … “

A do-everything mentality made Cam a do-it-all player for St. Benedict, leading in tackles, sacks, receptions, rushing yards, and touchdowns as a junior and senior.

Cam loved everything about football. So, naturally, he hated sitting out. When he busted his ankle, he bunkered himself in IU’s training room, texting with his mother, Diane, who sent him lists of vegetables and fruit that reduce inflammation.

“Mom, you’re not a doctor, stop googling,” he wrote back.

But just a few hours later, Cam followed up. “What’d you say I need to eat?” Pineapples, oranges, carrots, and green beans, specifically.

Cam spent one game on the sideline, miserable, his foot in a boot. But that was it.

He returned for Ohio State on Sept. 14, limited but present. The next week versus UConn, Cam returned an interception for a touchdown. He also blew up a read-option play, blasting a Husky running back in the backfield.

The score: Cam Jones 1, Ankle Injury 0.

***

When it comes to that one-game absence, Herb Jones can relate to his son. He loved the game too much to sit out, as well.

Back in his day, Herb was a star high school running back in the Memphis area. He had an offer to play for Tennessee but came up one point short on his ACT score. The offer stood, as long as he’d be willing to sit out his freshman year and get eligible.

That didn’t appeal to Herb. He chose instead to play at a junior college, Northeast Mississippi. If only he knew it would be a path toward losing the game altogether.

In the summer following his freshman season, Herb went riding around a parking lot on his friend’s motorcycle. Only his friend failed to fully disclose an issue with the motorcycle’s breaks.

“I was downshifting,” Herb said. “By the time I looked down and looked back up, a guy was backing out of a parking spot. We just met each other.”

The crash tore the bumper off the car. It also tore flesh from Herb’s leg, requiring 98 stitches to close the wounds. From then on, running hurt.

One season of college football was all Herb got. If LaRon’s cautionary tale wasn’t enough, Cam heard his father’s warnings a few times, as well.

“Think before you make your decisions,” Herb said. “I didn’t think I could get hurt on this thing, or it could end my career, or end my life.”

There were so many people in Cam’s life offering guidance. Herb, in particular, was a disciplinarian and critic.

Cam may have scored a touchdown, but Herb asked why he held the ball so loose. Cam obliterated one ballcarrier but Herb talked about the one time he whiffed on a tackle.

It set up a good cop, bad cop routine with mom.

“I have a nicer sort of way of getting my point across … ‘OK, so what happened with so and so play?’ His dad, ‘I looked over and you were on your butt. What happened on that play?’” Diane said.

But there’s a logic behind it.

“I wish I had someone who told me when I was playing, so I could have corrected my mistakes,” Herb said. “I never did want him or LaRon to make the mistakes I did.”

Cam was steered toward the right things. Herb and Diane moved out of a rougher part of Memphis and into the community of Cordova on the city’s eastern edge. They sent their son up the street to St. Benedict, where he focused on academics and community service. A good chunk of Cam’s 100 hours was spent with LaRon, a life insurance agent, visiting his older clients and helping them around the house.

Cam also had a special relationship with his grandmother, Merry Jean Norman.

Merry was a giver. For LaRon, she’d sneakily slip him CDs of his favorite “dirty” comedians, such as Richard Pryor and Robin Williams, which he’d surreptitiously listen to on his Walkman. Cam, the baby boy, spent hours by his grandmother’s side, dancing, playing checkers, or painting angel figurines.

He was with her until the day she died in January of Cam’s sophomore year.

“She just made me feel special,” Cam said. “Every single day, coming home after school, she was the first person I saw, the first person who asked me how my day was. I could do no wrong. Cam could do no wrong.”

There is a reason it makes Diane uneasy to hear the word “violent” associated with Cam’s play on the field. It was especially hard when Cam knocked out Michigan’s Berkley Edwards on a kickoff last year, drawing a targeting penalty as well as some online vitriol for an alleged “cheap shot.”

There is an aggressive side to Cam, harnessed by his father and brother. But he’s also quite tender, a people-pleaser and a family man.

At IU, there is a picture of Merry on Cam’s nightstand, so she’s there when he wakes up. Cam has put a drawing of her in his car. He also keeps candles and flowers, items Merry enjoyed.

Before every football game at St. Benedict, LaRon and Cam had a lengthy embrace, invoking Merry’s memory.

“I love you, I’m proud of you, work hard, your family is here for you. Nana is watching,” LaRon would say. “Go ball out and have fun.”

It was a small enough gesture to go unnoticed, but when Cam returned an interception 44 yards for a touchdown versus UConn, he tapped his right hand against his chest and then his facemask before pointing to the sky.

He was sending a kiss to Merry.

“I know she’s proud of me, she looks down on me, and she’s happy for me,” Cam said, smiling. “I kissed her.”

***

His entire life, Cam has listened to those around him. But there was one day when no one could give him the correct answer.

It was the early morning hours of signing day, Dec. 20, 2017. The plan was to wake up at 5 a.m. and sign his letter of intent. Cam walked into LaRon’s bedroom at 3:45.

“He had no clue,” LaRon said.

Up until that point, LaRon had helped Cam in every facet of his recruitment. He handpicked the plays on Cam’s highlight reel, placing them in a specific order to show off his do-it-all skillset. He accompanied Cam to prospect camps, needling him to walk up to Memphis’ head coach and knock his socks off with a question about academics.

It had all worked out. Memphis offered. Tennessee offered. IU found itself in a mix with Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Missouri and others.

Cam verbally pledged to the Hoosiers initially but pulled back on his commitment in May. Memphis, his hometown school, was making a hard push. The Tigers’ team bus stopped at the house. They flew a helicopter into one of his games.

“He was basing his decision off the right things,” LaRon said. “It wasn’t about the glamor and the glitz a lot of other schools were selling as their main attraction … at Indiana, it’s ‘Come and be part of a family. Love each other.’”

Memphis coach Mike Norvell was selling the same thing, just with some flair.

As far as Cam’s actual family, they already had a preference. Herb and Diane were, silently, rooting for IU; they didn’t want him hanging around Memphis. LaRon liked what he saw from coach Tom Allen and the Hoosiers, as well.

But this was Cam’s decision. No one could tell him what to do.

“Cameron, you have to man up and make your own decision,” LaRon said. “Go in your room, close your door, you pray, and you talk to whoever you need to. Whether it’s nana or anyone else … talk to them and don’t come out until you know what you want to do.”

When Cam reemerged, he knew.

He signed his letter of intent for IU that morning, as scheduled.

“The night before signing day, I really didn’t know where I wanted to go,” Cam said. “I woke LaRon up, we talked about it … and he was like ‘I’m there. I’m there for you no matter what.’

“That’s one thing I love about him, diehard Tennessee fan, but he’s happy I’m here. I’m happy I’m here. My family’s happy I’m here.”

Cam’s family is now a part of IU’s. LaRon texts Coach Allen after games and he replies. It’s a level of care he never really felt from his coaches in Knoxville.

The Hoosiers’ head man was effusive in his praise of Cam when he worked his way back from a six-week ankle injury in less than two, returning that pick-6 versus UConn.

“That’s who he is,” Allen said. “Whatever he’s doing, that’s how he’s going to attack it. That’s how he was raised. That’s the kind of young man we brought here.”

And that’s the young man LaRon and others sent to IU, priming him with that three-hour car ride down the streets of Memphis. The very same streets where Cam ran back and forth, retrieving the football for his big brother.

“As a kid, I always thought it was fun and games, but what it was really teaching me was to keep going, keep trying,” Cam said. “No matter what, be competitive and do your best.

“I kept going back and forth, back and forth — and it kept pushing me.”

31 comments

  1. Very nice article, Mr. Blau. I’ll put your writing and ability to craft an article up against anybody in the sports world these days. Great insight to Cam Jones, who certainly comes across as a fine young man with a bright future, be it in or out of football. And kudos to Tom Allen for landing a player based on principles, not on a flashy production. Anyone who doesn’t believe Tom Allen is building his own brand of program and has IU pointed in the right direction isn’t paying attention. With players like Cam Jones, he is laying the foundation for a solid, consistently competitive program. The current team laden with Sophomores and Freshman may well develop into one of the better squads IU has seen in quite some time. GO HOOSIERS!

    1. Pac,
      There is a reason why a lot of folks want TA to be a success and this article pointed out one of the many. If TA can keep it real in as dirty a world as college athletics, as especially football can be, it is exactly the Rx most of these kids need. Big brother was telling it like it is, these kids can make some terrible decisions coming out of HS with the wrong college choice. The big programs will do everything to dazzle, but don’t always show the downside. Getting into a college program which intends to instill into their athletes more than just the ability to play, is priceless. Nothing better than to see great athletes who are also great people.

      1. It’s easy to forget the distractions the Hoosiers routinely dealt with under the previous regime. No doubt a bad actor will arise from time to time but there seemed to be more than we have experienced in the past.

        This bunch is pretty easy to cheer for.

        1. Didn’t expect you to get it…When a program never turns corners, all that’s left is “feel good” stories. We’ve had many years of those feel good stories. It’s a good way for coaches and administrators to make 30 million over 10 years but, basically, be rather inept or….simply lacking in having the goods to deliver on what they promise/imply/hype/market.

          There’s never been a door into a Hoosier winning football program. It’s the home of apologists and excuse makers.

          Sounds like a really good kid….much like Ramsey and the many other “feel good” and underdog stories we ingest year after year…after year…after decade after decade.

          Where are the “commentaries” as to why this program cannot turn the corners continually hyped to the fan base? If there is lack of objectivity in approaching that topic, it makes one wonder if every “feel good” story is rooted in protecting a rather unqualified head of a program.

          Lastly, I’m sure Penn State had plenty of feel good stories. What in the hell do you think lured children into grown men’s football locker rooms?

  2. Great article with an in depth story about one of the young guys we are so excited about. I am glad that Cam chose IU and came to Bloomington. This season can be a very good season for IU and it will be a preview of what IU will be like when the young players get experience in playing B1G games. This will be a fun team to watch this year and in the future years.

  3. I enjoy these sorts of stories because they temper the idea that accountability within a coaching profession shouldn’t include success on the field/court.
    It fosters perceptions that we have perpetually struggled at football (and the last decade of basketball) because we will not compromise values, decency and faith and, thus, offers some sort of explanation and apology for decades of absence on the biggest stages of our two most prominent sports.

    We must always quell the disappointment and letdown seasons falling far short of marketed hype because we, only we, are doing things the right way. All those other programs may be winners on the big stages, but they lose in life when they invent ‘ghost classes’…or provide hookers for incoming freshmen…or offer dirty money from unscrupulous agents to entice recruits more easily tempted by a piece of paper with Ben Franklin’s mug shot.

    Can you run a clean program with great kids like Cam…and still be held accountable (as in performance to win games or be present on the biggest stages)? Or, are merely guardians of “the good” in a sporting world containing very little? IU Football is pure in its efforts. When you watch all those other teams on January 1st and in the BCS, remember how we betrayed that wholesomeness when we sent a very good man packing to Georgia.

    Give me a winning season wrought in cheating, hookers and skipping classes. Give me guys juiced on steroids and paid under-the-table to don the Hoosier colors. Give me coaches unfair and tyrants in a locker room. Give me all the demons for one winning season….I’ll ask for forgiveness when it’s all over because we are all made of sin. Just one season of sin…which rhymes with win. That’s all I ask of those who preach “breakthrough.”

    Somehow I didn’t think “breakthrough” meant through the Pearly Gates. I thought it meant something about the score on a scoreboard at the end of a game.

    1. Penn State sounds like a good fit for you. Maybe Louisville. Baylor usually has something bad cooking.

      Watch that door on the way out.

  4. Nice article. But….I think there is no denying this years recruiting is, at least so far, a near whiff. Right now IU is listed 12th out of 14 teams with an average rating per recruit only ahead of Illinois. I don’t see how IU can ‘move up’ in the league with this trend. Last year they did well, treading water at #8. I’d like to hear anyone’s thoughts.

  5. Signing day is a ways off, and hopefully IU will get it’s sixth win before the day. If so, that will put a little wind in IU’s recruiting sales.

    If only every young boy and girl had the benefit of being raised with a family like Cam Jones has. Great story.

  6. Brad, it is good to know you recognize or at least notice the importance of recruiting rankings, both individual and team. Yes, you are 100% correct that a team program cannot and will not move up with any kind of consistency in a any league by recruiting at or near bottom of that league. Sure they may have a season or two where they make it to the peanut butter and jelly bowl (winning a game or two or even three above 500) . Then, that team program will take its rightful place back to the bottom or near the bottom of that league. Some of the big ten teams that have somewhat succeeded over the last several years find that success up and down and struggle to hold onto it. Those teams have usually/mostly gotten higher rated recruiting classes than IU. Therefore, Brad you make an excellent point that others refuse to admit. Yes, I get coaching and development. Higher ranked recruiting classes are coached and developed also.

    1. t- Wake up. The only way you get highly ranked players and seasoned coaches without preaching and clownish behavior to mask ineptitude is by making deals with the devil. Just enjoy the “feel good!”
      You’re old enough to remember, t. Question: Do you recall “feel good” stories back in the day when we were hanging banners and going to Final Fours about every four years. It was pretty much assumed we got the best kids in the country….And much of that argument was based in the many down to earth kids right from our backyard. Always great work ethic and great values. It was a given.
      What was not a given was that it would ever be used as an excuse for mediocrity.

      1. Nice. H4H is now the old guy saying get off my lawn. Kids like that don’t exist anymore, time has moved on, there are no good old days, these are the good old days. For most kids playing D1 bball it is about the me, not the we. Sure there are a few that pop up, but once those kids have success they start counting the dollar, dollar bill y’all. What is a clean program? Heck in the Adidas scandal even the great Romeo Langford’s name came up and I am sure as a result question even the great Indiana University program as being clean. What is clean?

        H4H you are the guy that gets together with the other old guys at the local diner and o’pine those good old days of past championships and great teams and complain why kids aren’t like that today. Again, there are no good ole days, these are the good ole days.

        1. Yeah…I’m the old guy wanting it like the old days when just about everyone other than this “old guy” was dragging Kelvin Sampson to the gallows for a 3-way calling scandal…The IU forums and Scoop overwhelming full of torch carrying witch hunters referring to the Sampson recruits as thugs; screaming of their 19 F’s (while NC was sending kids to fake ‘ghost’ classes)…and referring to all those “me first” kids as cancers …or wreckers of IU Basketball.
          Yup, I was the old guy saying “get off my lawn” to the hypocrites and to the fraud named Tom Crean who couldn’t find an honest bone in is pious body.

          Boy, for being young and with it, you sure have a short memory of the ugliness on these forums not so long ago. Now it’s angel food cake because the hunt for a make-believe monster satisfied a fear far more conveniently than the mirror.

          GET OFF MY LAWN, KELVIN!

  7. t, short of cheating the odds of IU pulling in top rated classes won’t happen. Now should they give up and stop trying to be a good enough team to beat B1G powers? Filling the team with solid players with a few higher rated players that have talent not recognized by the big programs IE Whop, Ellis, Bedford, Scott, ect. Bringing in Penix and a few other key players will get IU to become a winning program. From there, IU can start to compete for higher rated players to beat the big boys of the league.

    Nebraska hired a big name coach and has a roster of 4 star players yet they struggle in the league. I am sure coach Frost will get N turned into a top program again but it takes time even with a strong tradition and name coach.

    The 2020 class needs an upgrade but their is time to bring those players in plus we have a few extra scholarships to give. I hope the team wins games they shouldn’t to show recruits what they can do by coming to IU and fans hope for what is to come.

    1. Nebraska, USC, Florida State, and UCLA are loaded with recruits with lots of stars.

      They just aren’t good football teams.

      1. I heard UCLA defeated Stanford tonight (Thursday night) …First time in eleven years they’ve taken down the Cardinals. Maybe Stanford is just having a very down year.
        Why can’t we ever catch OSU, Michigan or PSU in very down years…? I guess we probably do catch them in down years. Those are the years we lose more graciously by four scores instead of five or six.

  8. H4H, yes I do remember a feel good story. On the Bob Knight Show hosted by Chuck Marlowe. A Jackass named George King/Purdue AD was introduced to the show. Bob Knight graciously talked to the Purdue representative to promote goodwill between the two Universities.

    1. Always loved the fact that Knight didn’t place his kid’s on character podiums. Much like a natural swagger, the character was a given. How could you not have character when agreeing to put yourself through some years of Knight? There were things you placed above “upside” and limelight.
      It was the simple desire to want to learn from one of the best.

      Not saying he was for everyone….but the utter aura of confidence emanating from his teachings of basketball left little need to search for the feel good tales within Bobby or his recruits.

      I do remember the feel good story of Tolbert helping Landon Turner deal with Knight….But not much of anything went beyond life around basketball and the maple at McCracken. Different times, I suppose.

      1. Yeah, Pat Knight was a real feel good story. His character was certainly a ‘given’.

        He was one of those creepy east coast kids, right?

  9. Correction: actually BK invited George King was on the show due to his complaining about the Bob Knight Show. Since he refused invitation a Purdue representative was sent. His name was JACK. You can figure out the last name.

  10. Relating to IU football 1976 was another feel good moment as IU took lead over Ohio State 7 to 6 early in second quarter. Lee Corso took team in front of scoreboard and snapped a picture to capture that “feel good moment.”

  11. I went back and looked at the recruiting being mentioned by Brad, t, and others and I noticed something. For the most part, the ratings are a combination of the number of recruits and their average score. When I look, what I see is IUFB has not recruited as many players so far this year as most of the other B1G teams. When I look closer the cumulative average score for players is not that far off, currently 2.93 on Rivals. Several B1G teams have much higher rated classes, but the cumulative average is very close.

    I looked at KU’s 2020 class which is in the top 30. They have recruited nearly twice as many as IUFB, but the average player rating is in the 2.2 range. I think the real question is two-fold. Are the players being recruiting at or near the caliber IUFB needs, and how many recruits does TA need for 2020?

    1. I’m not sure what the total number will be but TA did mention before that this class wouldn’t be a big one. Maybe that changes now with the recent departures.

    2. tia, exactly right. Lots of ways to compare the data. The # of players committed is fluid right up to signing and cannot be overlooked.

      1. CTC always used up his scholarships. That gave us Tom Priller, Tijan Jobe, et al.

        I’m glad Coach Allen isn’t engaging in desperation recruiting just to use up scholarships.

  12. If you are going to look at class rankings I think you must go by average scores. It is the only method that compares apples to apples. Teams have different # of scholarships that skews the points the class earns in rankings. IU is still getting the level of players they have in the previous two classes but until signing day ends we never know exactly what the class will be like.

    1. V13,
      I’m kind of glad the conversation moved in this direction as it caused me to take another look at the recruiting class numbers over the last 10 years. t is correct, the real indicator of how good the recruiting class was is in the W/L column. However, using Rivals for an example, I saw some very interesting numbers.

      Currently Wake Forrest has moved into a tie at the #55 class with IUFB. Looking at the numbers, both schools have a 990 score. However Wake has recruited 17 players to IU’s 14. Wake average recruit ranking is 2.59 to IUFB’s 2.93. I think I would rather have IU’s class.

      Here’s something else which caught my attention. While IUFB is currently at 2.93 average, a lot can change between now and the signing periods. What caught my attention was the improved class rankings since TA became HC. The ’19 class was a 3.05 which is the best class by far in the last 10 years. ’18 was at 2.88, and the only other class in the last 10 years close to these levels was ’13 and ’15 with a 2.8 and 2.82 respectively.

      Bottom line, if the trend continues, TA is significantly improving recruiting for IUFB. Contrary to popular opinion, KW’s recruiting prowess is a bit overrated. The class rankings were mainly due to the large number of recruits being brought in, not necessarily a quality of recruit improvement. Truth be known, Lynch’s ’09 class at 2.68 had a better average than most of KW’s.

  13. I am assuming somewhere down the road when looking at class rankings scores on the scoreboard (wins and losses) are the only final class rankings that count.

  14. Note this day for all the “feel good” and gleefulness.

    I hope V13 doesn’t ride into the sunset with very little to cheer as we approach the chillier days of fall….It’s always the first winds of chillier fall air, usually around the time of trick or treat, when IU Football turns most of you from Mother Teresa to Freddy Krueger.

    Some will be wanting Coach Allen off their lawn…Some will call for
    Fred’s head for a bit part for the next Texas Chainsaw Massacre. By Thanksgiving, IU Football will be sleeping on tryptophan, turkey gas…and, the usual, resignation.

    The “feel good” stories will be shelved…and the short film of uneventful existence known as IU Football will collect another year of dust in a storage box somewhere snuggled between old Halloween costumes and Christmas ornaments.
    Feel good? Just give me Charlie Brown while Lois pulls the football away…and some vinyl from Mr. James Brown.

  15. Look, it’s no secret that IU’s current FB-recruiting strategy is that the majority of FB recruiting targets will be 3-star rated players with a few 4-star players included in each class. Then the plan is to use the S&I program and good coaching to develop the guys into solid Big Ten players. This has been stated publicly on numerous occasions, including TV broadcasts and publications. Create a few winning seasons and then the quality of players being recruited will go up to high 3-star and more 4-star players. Plus, then IU becomes an increasingly attractive destination for guys entering the transfer portal or graduate transfers.

    The key is the quarterback, and I am delighted at TA’s early success in recruiting better QBs. Talented QBs attract better skill players, but most importantly they can make the difference between a roster full of 3-star players that produce losing seasons and one that goes to bowl games every year. Daniel Jones, the QB from Duke is a classic example of this strategy. Duke’s roster was filled with mediocre (i.e., 3-star) rated talent, but Jones was a difference maker, leading Duke to consecutive winning seasons and consecutive bowl-game victories. I think most IU fans would trade Duke’s record in FB over the last three seasons without hesitation. And having your QB drafted #6 in the NFL Draft is only going to strengthen Duke’s recruiting ability in the future.

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