Thanks to his travels around the state and his optimism about the future of IU football, Terry Hoeppner has already been a big hit with Hoosier fans starved for a winner. While that's one audience he's made an impression on, he's trying to do the same with prospective recruits, including a 6-6, 300-pound offensive tackle from Ohio.
"I did get an offer from Indiana, and they are still on my list because the coaches seem like the type of guys you'd want to play for," said 6-6, 300-pound offensive tackle Mark Jackson from Brookhaven High School in Columbus, Ohio.
"I know they don't have the winning program of other Big Ten schools, but you feel like they could do it when you talk to (Hoeppner)."
In addition to Indiana, Jackson is also considering Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Illinois, Miami (Fla.), Michigan State and Southern Cal. The Ohio tackle is widely considered one of the top 25 players in talent-laden Ohio.
"I think I have about ten or 11 offers right now, somewhere around there. They are mostly Big Ten schools right now. I'm pretty much sure I'll pick somewhere in the Big Ten," said Jackson, who said Minnesota, Michigan and Miami (Fla.) are currently his leaders.
"Minnesota is at the top of my list right now. I went there for a practice and got to visit the campus and I really liked it. That's the only visit I've been on so far. I liked their coaching staff and everything went good."
Along with playing in the Big Ten, there is something else has Jackson interested in the Hoosiers.
"When I went to junior day at Indiana they told me I could come in and start as a freshman," said Jackson. "That really caught my attention and I want myself to be ready in case that is a real option for me."
While Jackson has played center and defensive tackle in high school, he is projected as an offensive tackle in college, a position Indiana desperately needs to fill. Left tackle Isaac Sowells will graduate at season's end, while Justin Frye will be a senior in 2006.
"Most of the college coaches are recruiting me at offensive tackle. I play center right now, but they think I can make the move," said Jackson. "I love to run block and I'm working hard to get better at pass blocking. I've been working on my footwork to be ready for my senior season. I want to play able to hit the ground running and use that as a stepping stone to be ready to play early in college."
Jackson is in no hurry to make a decision on his future and has more than just football on his mind.
"I plan on taking all of my official visits before I make my choice," said Jackson. "I don't have any visits planned yet, but I want to visit Miami and Michigan soon.
"I've been looking at the graduation rates of the schools when they offer me because I know that I'm not just going to college to play football. I'm going to college to get a degree and I want to know which schools and coaches put the most emphasis on education. I want to major in business and I know that's not going to be an easy study."
Jackson and the Brookhaven Bearcats are getting ready to defend their state title from last season after they went 15-0 on the way to the Division 2 title and should have no problem on the offensive line as everyone up front returns. The team's success should add to the competition to land Jackson.
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