Kevin Wilson talked at length Tuesday afternoon in his signing day press conference about the 24-player class of 2015. Here are some of the highlights from that press conference.
Wilson talked about how the Hoosiers signed the 21 high school players that were committed heading into Wednesday’s signing day, one junior college player late and then two transfers from UAB, Jordan Howard and Marqui Hawkins. Those two have been on campus since the semester break.
“There's 10 guys from the Midwest, four from our state,’’ Wilson said. “Isaac James, Brandon Knight, Jacob Robinson, Joe Belden, but four in-state guys coming from great programs, all of those out of Central Indiana. We have three Ohio guys. We've always gotten two, three, four, five out of Ohio. We got two out of Chicago. This is the first time in my time we've got someone from St. Louis. It's good football, Coach McDaniels from St. Louis, we've got good ties. Coach McDaniels in his time, there was a good contingent of St. Louis players. So it was nice to get DaVondre Love. Within five hours we got 10 guys from the Midwest.’’
Wilson also talked about IU’s continued success in recruiting the South.
"I think the last couple of years, we've taken four or five from Georgia, four or five from Florida,’’ Wilson said. “The last two or three years it's kind of been that way. This year was two from Georgia, not counting the UAB guys. Hawkins is from Columbus Carver. Two Georgia natives and five kids out of Florida. I think last year it was four, the year before that was five. What was new this year, we took three guys out of Maryland, the DC area, the DC metro. We took one junior college player, Camion Patrick, and a young man from Texas.’’
Wilson talked about how this class has been ranked in the upper half of the Big Ten by various outlets.
“It kind of follows what we've done the last couple of years,’’ Wilson said. “If you look at it, for example, when I go through and pull up some of those -- you guru guys that rate all the guys, if you pull up conference, it will list 14 teams for all those years, even though 2002 there was 11 Big 10 teams. Nebraska was in the Big 12. But they will rate all teams. Our last three we've been somewhere rated between 5, 6, and 7. Previously there's six 14’s, two 13’s, two 12’s and one 11. Our average is 13.36 until the last three years. So we've gotten three years of recruiting better talent, longer bodies, better bodies. It's guys that are actually, ‘more wanted by other schools.
"The previous four recruiting classes we signed the 2011 class, so the '10, '09, '08, and '07 class, those guys had 28 players that their only offer was Indiana, if I can believe what's on the sites. 27 guys that were offered non-BCS level, and 26 guys had a BCS level other than Indiana.’’
Wilson that is one of the things that sets recent classes a part. Players had plenty of good offers.
"This class of 24, I think the majority, you can do your own research, I think it's not quite a hundred percent, but it's close, three years of competitive recruiting, and that's not me, and that's not our staff, it starts with the administration,’’ Wilson said. “Their commitment, funding, giving us the ability, the resources to see kids, getting kids on campus, first-class visits. Treating kids the right way. They supported them, academic, the weight room guys. Our team has become awesome recruiters, and how they connect and sell our brand and sell our product and sell our vision.’’
Wilson said the class looks good on paper. Now that needs to translate to the field.
“This paper needs to transition into W’s,’’ Wilson said. “The best class on paper is that one that has one spring under its belt. We just started our second winter workout with those guys. They're still green in the developmental stage. We look forward to developing what appears to be some better talented guys to work with, a better starting point.
“Also in the class, as far as your needs, when you're signing 24, 25, you're signing a little bit of a balance to me, across the board, not maybe taking one of everything. We did some point of emphasis. We took four offensive linemen, three defensive linemen, so seven bigs in the class. Big bodies. The four linemen is pretty critical. You're getting to a point we played freshmen years ago, you like to take O linemen, not into red shirting. But sometimes it's nice to get a winter-spring development. There are four O linemen, I think we've got some good linemen going into junior and senior years. You don't want to wait for a lineman to graduate and get another left tackle. You kind of like to develop those guys as you would a quarterback. You want to groom a guy for a little bit.’’
Wilson said the Hoosiers picked up two big tackles. He also had an interesting story about Knight’s grandmother.
"I think the guys we've got at offensive line, Brandon Knight and DaVondre Love, it's D-Love -- two big tackles,’’ Wilson said. “Brandon is an extremely athletic tackle. Very -- he was our top guy we went after that we thought we could get. Very fortunate to get him in state. Great story on his visit. Huge ties to another school within our state with his family. And on the visits the coach is always anal, everything has to be perfect on the visit. We're doing campus tour. I'm doing the tour guide. You're my guy. As we popped in and around the campus, and grandma was getting in our big golf cart, I accidentally ran over her foot. And she screamed a little bit, but that shows that even when you break grandma's foot and give her a big hug, they're going to be Hoosiers. We always send a little direct message about that.
"But Brandon Knight at offensive tackle. Very, very athletic. Going to get bigger in the weight room. Just going to need some -- liked the way he played, his energy, very impressive. DaVondre Love is a bigger guy, will probably be right tackle, Brandon at left. We'll figure it out in time. But he's as big as a house. He's as big as anyone we've got. I think he's more proportioned than Dimitric Camiel, but 6-7 and long like him, 290 pounds, 300, very big frame, very proportioned well, the right way. Two big guys to work with. Brandon Knight will be more athletic, and Love more a road grader.’’
Wilson also talked about the interior linemen that the Hoosiers picked up in this class.
"Hunter Littlejohn, might look at him as center or guard,’’ Wilson said. “We get some centers that are getting to the end of their time. Could see him at one of those inside three positions. A guy we liked a bunch, a fellow Ohio native, Simon Stepaniak, who was our top target at guard. Coach Frey when he started he wanted Brandon Knight and Stepaniak in those top positions. Excited about those two guys. Love and Littlejohn complement the O line.’’
On the other side of the line, Wilson talked about the defensive linemen the Hoosiers picked up in this class. Belden and Robinson are in-state kids and Brandon Wilson committed in early January.
"D-line, we've got two in-state guys, with Joe Belden out of Avon, and Jacob Robinson out of Westfield,’’ Wilson said. “Joe will probably start, he could play starting inside as an athletic kind of nose guy. We'll see how his body transitions into nose, or even consider him as an offensive center. He starts on the D line as an inside guy. Jacob Robinson, Brandon Wilson, these are standup bandits or they put their hand on the ground. Jacob, heavily recruited, as was Brandon Knight, several Big Ten schools, after committing, continued to pursue him. Brandon Wilson, sitting in Florida, Gators and Tar Heels called, see what he's doing, pretty highly-touted guy, playing basketball, excited about Brandon Wilson. He was committed to another school before we got him.’’
Wilson also said he was excited to pick up four players he called in the ‘mid skill area.’
“Tight end Austin Dorris, who played quarterback in his class, we had him in camp last year, liked him, offered him immediately after camp,’’ Wilson said. “Very athletic. Very good, comparable to Fuchs and Bolser. An athletic guy, will need to get bigger in the blocking side of things. Scored a boatload of points. Was their player on a tremendous high school team, on the West Virginia-Ohio State line.
"At inside linebacker, we've got two mid skill guys,’’ Wilson said. “That would probably be the position that was maybe recruited least, because we felt no different a year ago. You're sitting here playing freshmen and sophomore linebackers that are pretty good, getting recognized for All Big Ten, this or that. In the linebacker world, it was difficult to go get some we wanted. We didn't take as many as we might have liked, but we liked what we've got and we'll compliment that with our in-house walk-ons.’’
"We got Reakwon Jones, very athletic, strong guy,’’ Wilson said. “He told us the other day he benched 400 pounds. He was at 380, was trying to go past his father as a 400-pound bencher. Athletic linebacker out of Panama City, Florida. Very intrigued by Reakwon. Great kid. And Omari Stringer has been with us, he'll play outside as our field outside backer, young man out of Chicago.’’
Wilson continued talking about more mid skill players.
"The other mid skill guys, one true quarterback, Austin King. Austin coming out of Georgia,’’ Wilson said. “Plays in a style of offense that's very prevalent in that region; you spray it, it's gone. You can see him distribute the ball, make all the throws you want, great touch on the screen game. Flares to the tailbacks, stepping in the curls, quick games, making the dig shots. Great command presence, good body language. I think he'll be a quality, quality quarterback for us.’’
Wilson said IU did well at the skill positions, too.
"In the skill positions we've got a lot,’’ he said. “Two running backs, three quarterback athletes, four more receivers, four more DBs. If you look at that, basically we've got 13 guys that are skill oriented. I think the area we've improved in the line of scrimmage as an O line, as a D line. I think we've gotten better as a linebacker, but we need to be better defensively in the perimeter. Our receiver play needs to pick up. Those were big areas of emphasis.
“Jordan Howard, on the recruiting rankings, he and the other transfer give you zero ranking, for what's that worth. But as a recruit, probably the biggest target we went after, it was all luck when we got him. We looked into it, they had a great running back. We didn't know it. He's here, he's doing well. He's a big, different back. But we're excited about him. Again, he was, I think, second in the nation in carries. He had two fumbles, 300 carries, so he's dependable. 900 yards -- 880- something as a freshman. So very excited about Jordan Howard.’’
But IU didn’t settle for one tailback, it picked up another one late in the process when Devonte Williams committed this week.
“He is a very, very dynamic player,’’ Wilson said. “Came to us early, actually wanted to commit last spring. I don't know if I want a running back. We continued to recruit him. About two weeks left, he was always Coach McCullough's top running high back, he loved the speed he brought, thought it would be a nice piece to complement his room. He was always Coach McCullough's target. But as we looked at it, wasn't sure if even if we got Jordan, do we need receivers, defensive backs, do we have other needs? Two weeks left, we started looking around, who is the best player on the board, he became a lot better. Especially watching his senior tape, I didn't watch it until after the new year a couple weeks ago. We judged him as a junior, what I liked when we put the senior tape on, the DB coaches said, We need to take that guy because he's a very dynamic player. We like Devonte as a speed like, Jordan as a proven guy at running back.
Wilson said the Hoosiers will start Donavan Hales playing quarterback but that could change. He was initially recruited as an athlete. In fact, IU has five players in this class listed as athletes.
“We'll start Donavan Hale at quarterback,’’ Wilson said. “Bigger kid. His frame says if he's not a quarterback, he might be a tight end or an outside linebacker. He's pushing 6-4, 215 now. He's going to be a Chris Covington size kid. A very comparable body, very raw. I got to work with the quarterback. He's coming off a meniscus surgery. I think someone put out it might have been ACL. It's just a four- to six-week meniscus deal. He'll be running here by the end of the month and training him. We'll start him at quarterback and see where he goes. I can see him playing a lot of positions. A little more big skill than small skill because of his body type.’’
Wilson talked about two other athletes who he plans to play on the offensive side of the ball.
"Mike Majette and Isaac James,’’ Wilson said. “Mike is a DC kid out of northern Virginia, Isaac out of Carmel up the road. Those are two guys that were defensive back, punt return, kick return, wildcat quarterback, tailback, slot receiver, wide receiver, whatever coach wanted them to get the ball. I see them starting on offense, because they're good with the ball in their hand. Whether they're back catching kicks or playing slots on bubbles or reverses, or playing inside or outside receiver. They could play defensive back. There's potential need that they could go there. We'll probably wait for the summer to figure it out. We're recruiting as offensive players because they're good with the ball in their hand. So see those guys as potential slot guys.’’
Wilson also had good things to say about the wide receivers the Hoosiers were able to sign.
“We've got four guys, two high school guys in Nick Westbrook and Leon Thornton, both bigger, 6-1, 6-2, with Leon, 6-1-plus, and Nick pushing 6-3,’’ Wilson said. “Nick led the state of Florida in receiving yards, 1,800 yards. We were worried that several other schools contacted him late. He committed early, fell in love with the school. Was our top guy. Great student. Very fortunate again. He didn't waiver, but we were worried about people coming after him. Leon Thornton, very dynamic kid out of Chicago. Won a couple of state titles, quality program. Very dynamic, very explosive.
"Two older receivers, the UAB transfer Marqui Hawkins, who is 6-2, 210. And I'm very excited today about Camion Patrick. He's a three for three guy. Didn't play his first year at junior college. He'll be like Stephen Houston, he'll have three years. He should graduate here the first of May, we'll try to get him in here for May and get him in the summer. I saw him practice the Thursday before the Ohio State game. I flew down to see those guys at a workout, then I saw them play their national championship game. I think he's a really dynamic, high end, big time, Big Ten player. He's going to be real good. He better be, because I think he's special.’’
Wilson also talked about IU’s defensive backs.
"In the back end defensively, Jonathan Crawford is an outstanding safety,’’ Wilson said. “Continue to be pursued by several power 5 conferences after committing. Big kid, 6-2-plus. Push 205, 210, about 185 now. Big frame, physical guy at safety. Jameel Cook, another safety we took late, very physical kid out of Houston. See those two guys at safety. Start Tyler Green, a lot of people had him listed as a safety. He's a big 6-2, he's long, he's narrow, got great hips. We're going to try him as a big corner. He can flat-out run. Great feet, great change of direction.
“And the last one we have penciled at corner, who is a hybrid athlete, is Andre Brown. We told him all along he'd be a corner, he wanted to play corner. He is very comparable to Majette and Isaac James, hybrid corner. A lot of good skill guys we like. 7 big guys on the front end. A little bit of mid skill. Some nice big guys. Decent here in the back yard as we start."