A couple of days ago, it appeared a commitment from Lufkin, Texas, linebacker Mandela Roberts was imminent for the IU coaching staff. But IU might have to wait a little bit longer before adding Roberts to its '06 class.
The 6-0, 220-pound linebacker was one of four players making their official visits last weekend, and he appeared close to committing before he left the IU campus. But upon his return to Lufkin, a phone call from the Rice football staff convinced him to put his decision on hold.
"I told Coach (Gerald) Brown that I was going to commit soon to IU, but then I got a phone call from Rice and they said they wanted me to come up on a visit," said Roberts. "So I don't know right now, I'll probably wait until signing day. I always liked Rice because the academics. I think Indiana and Rice have comparable academics and Rice is closer. I'm trying to get an education more than play football."
While that's probably not the news Indiana was looking for, it still appears to have a very good chance at luring the Texas linebacker to Bloomington.
"I would love to play in the Big Ten," said Roberts. "Playing against Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, that would be a good thing. I don't think anyone from Lufkin has ever played in the Big Ten. I think that's what I want to do."
While that might be the direction Roberts is leaning, he's still weighing his other options, most specifically the recent interest from Rice. Roberts has scholarship offers from Indiana, UTEP and Stephen F. Austin, and he's expecting to get one from Rice as well. He's slated to take officials to a handful of in-state schools for the remainder of the month, going to UTEP (Jan. 13), Stephen F. Austin (Jan. 20), and then finally Rice (Jan. 27).
His trip to Indiana was his first, and it obviously left a lasting impression. He was courtside for Indiana's 81-79 win over Ohio State, which gave him a taste for Indiana's fan base.
"There were more people at that basketball game than at the football games at Lufkin," said Roberts. "The big crowd was just awesome. I hope those people start coming out to the football games. I got to meet the whole coaching staff. I wanted to meet Coach (Terry) Hoeppner in person finally, but I know he couldn't make it there. We got to talk on the phone and he was very straight to the point. He told me he wants me in an Indiana uniform and I need to be a part of the rebuilding process."
The trip also dispelled the notion that the Midwestern climate would be something he wouldn't want to deal with.
"Everyone told me it's going to be too cold and I wouldn't be able to handle it, but now I know that won't bother me very much," said Roberts.
Roberts wrapped up a stellar prep career at Lufkin this past fall, earning honorable mention All-State honors after totaling 128 tackles for a squad that went 14-1 and advanced to the semifinals of the Class 5A state playoffs. Lufkin spent a good portion of the season ranked in USA Today's Top 20 nationally as well.
"Indiana told me that they want me at middle linebacker," said Roberts. "I thought they'd want me at safety, but I can play linebacker. I did it all of high school."
Roberts' Decision on Hold?
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