While the start of fall camp is still five days away, Terry Hoeppner and his staff have been anything but idol in recent months. The staff has been trying to make in-roads with recruits both in-state and out in an effort to bring a winner to Bloomington.
Hoeppner knows the challenge that he faces. As the coach of a program that hasn't been to a bowl game in more than a decade, he's had to sell kids on his vision of the future, one that includes life after the regular season. Unlike many of his Big Ten counterparts, Hoeppner doesn't have a proven track record or even a full stadium to point to when trying to attract preps to Bloomington.
But the former Miami (Ohio) head coach is also experienced in dealing with these sort of recruiting obstacles. At Miami, Hoeppner couldn't go toe-to-toe with Ohio State for the best players in the state of Ohio, but he knew he could pick and chose those that he'd make a big push for, and that he'd have to also uncover some diamonds in the rough that he and his staff would develop.
"We felt at Miami that we could steal a player or two occasionally, and then find that guy and develop that guy," said Hoeppner. "Our players will be a product of how we recruit, (but also) how we develop and train them and how we coach them."
That strategy worked for Hoeppner at Miami during his six years as head coach. He compiled a 48-25 record, including a 37-11 mark in MAC play. That included a pair of Eastern Division titles (2003 and 2004) and a 13-1 mark in 2003 that was capped by a win in the GMAC bowl and a No. 10 ranking in the final Associated Press poll.
That's why Hoeppner doesn't think the task of winning in Bloomington is as daunting as some others do.
"I truly believe our formula (for recruiting) works," said Hoeppner. "It worked at Miami. No one knew about the quarterback in Findlay, Ohio, who is now the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was not highly recruited – we were his first offer."
That quarterback was Ben Roethlisberger, who wound up throwing for 10,829 yards and 84 touchdowns in three seasons in Oxford, Ohio, before being a first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2004. While Hoeppner isn't promising to uncover that caliber of player, he does think that he can bring in some players who might not be household names now, but could be by the time their IU careers come to a close.
" Maybe they won't be highly touted out of high school, but I think they'll be highly touted after three or four years in our program," said Hoeppner. "I truly believe that."
In an effort to find those type of players, the Indiana staff has shuffled its recruiting priorities. With the staff's strong ties to the state of Ohio, assistant coaches Bobby Johnson and Brian George are working the Buckeye state. IU is also making a push in the St. Louis area with Matt Canada, while Canada has also joined recruiting coordinator Troy Douglass in Florida.
First and foremost, though, is a renewed interest in getting more of the top in-state players to come to Bloomington. In recent years Purdue has dominated Indiana for the state's best prep players, and Hoeppner would like to see that change. While former Coach Gerry DiNardo made an effort to do just that, the strong ties that Hoeppner and a couple of other members of his staff have in-state should give Indiana a better chance to do just that.
"Indiana high school football has gotten a lot better since I was a high school coach in the state," said Hoeppner, who coached at Eastbrook H.S. from 1970-72. "I still know most of the coaches in the state – it's amazing how many I coached with or against. If I don't know them, (Assistant Head Coach) Bill Lynch does, and if he doesn't (assistant coach/wide receivers coach) Billy Lunch does.
"There are so many good players out there nowadays. Within our state, we have to do a great job. We have to be able to compete for the best players in our state."
Whether the players come from Indiana, Ohio, Florida or anywhere else, Hoeppner is still looking for a couple of other characteristics that served him well at Miami (Ohio).
"I really think the key is we get quality, character guys who can run fast, and then we're going to train them and develop them to fit our system," said Hoeppner.
Hoeppner Has Vision For Recruiting Success
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