Indiana Near Top of Wisconsin Lineman's List

With commitments from Pete Saxon and Jarrod Smith already in hand, Indiana is continuing to try to attract some more top linemen in its 2006 recruiting class.

After not signing any offensive linemen in the Class of 2005, the front five is a top priority with the Class of 2006. Indiana has already drawn two commitments from Ohio lineman Pete Saxon and Jarrod Smith and is in hot pursuit of other top lineman from Wisconsin.

High on Indiana's wish list is 6'7", 285-pound offensive tackle Mike Stark from Platteville, Wisc. Indiana solidified its interest in the 2004 Honorable Mention All-State tackle by offering him a scholarship in mid-July.

"(Indiana) is really putting an emphasis on improving the team," said Stark. "I know they haven't been great in the past, but I know they are really trying to turn that corner with the new staff they have in place.

"Offering so quick shows me they are really interested in me and they really wanted me to get down there."

Stark said his visit to the campus is one of the reasons Indiana is near the top of his early and short list.

"I'm looking for a school where I like the coaching staff and I guess the school's success in the past has something to do with it, too," said Stark. "Indiana doesn't have that success, but I went there and I liked the coaching staff. That's what is keeping them at the top of my list.

"I'm interested in Wisconsin and Michigan State, too. I would say Wisconsin is my number one right now, but when I went to Indiana their facilities and program really stuck out to me. They're probably at the top of my list, too."

Stark is not rushing his decision on a college and is still waiting for offers from the likes of Wisconsin and Michigan State before he gives his commitment.

"I think I'm going to wait until the season gets going before I make my decision," said Stark. "My coach and my parents think it's best to wait, so I'm going to listen to them.

"I'm going to wait and see what other offers I can get. Wisconsin, Michigan State and Illinois all told me they are interested but wanted to wait and see my game film before they make a decision. I just kind of want to see what happens before I make my decision."

While the homestate Badgers might be tough to beat if they wind up offering, Stark did take positives from his first visit to Indiana and his first meeting with first-year head coach Terry Hoeppner.

"I thought the excitement that the players had and the coaches had about the years to come was great," said Stark. "What they are trying to do for the future really stood out in my mind while I was at IU.

"I think Coach Hoeppner is a really nice guy. He's a real people person and all the players called him a player's coach. I think he's a nice guy."

Stark was happy with his honorable mention All-State recognition from the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association last season, but feels anything less than first-team All-State this season would be a disappointment. He said he hopes to round out his game on the defensive side of the ball as well.

"I was kind of proud of it (being picked honorable mention all-state)," said Stark. "But I wanted to be better than that. I wanted to be All-State. Hopefully I can do that this year. I also want to improve on my defense. I play defensive end and my defense last year wasn't that great.

"None of the coaches yet have shown interest in my defense. They all have had me come in to show my offense capabilities."

One of Stark's strengths is his size, but he combines that with good athleticism for an offensive linemen, evidenced by the other sports he competes in.

"I play basketball, run track and play baseball," said Stark. "I'm a pretty athletic lineman and Indiana told me they need that type of guy for the way they play. They are looking for tall, athletic linemen and I think I fit that profile at 6'7"."

Stark sees Indiana's efforts at bringing in top offensive linemen as a stepping stone for the future and something he could see himself being a part of.

"I want to play around good people and I want to be on a good team," said Stark. "I think down the road Indiana really could be a good team. Starting with the line is a big help to that because an offensive line is the front of an offense. I want to play on a team that has a good line so we can really help the team."

Besides the offer from Indiana, Stark has received offers from Ball State and Northern Illinois.

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