In the final days leading up to national letter of intent signing day, there are always a couple of new names that surface as potential last-minute signees. It's no different at Indiana, and the Hoosiers might have located one of those hidden gems as well.
Matt Slater is a 6-6, 245-pound offensive lineman from St. Paul, Minnesota's Cretin Derham Hall High School who's name has recently been linked with the Hoosiers. While it's only recently that IU's interest has become known, Indiana has been well aware of Slater for some time.
"I think (the interest) has been there all along," said Cretin Derham Hall Coach Mike Scanlon.
While Indiana has yet to offer a scholarship, the staff has been keeping a close eye on Slater since last spring. While Scanlon says Slater is a bit raw, he thinks he has the tools to develop into a special talent on the Division I level.
"The thing about Slater is he has the frame," said Scanlon. "He's 6-5, he played at about 250 for us, and he's got linebacker/fullback feet. But he's going to be able to carry 280 or 300 pounds."
The reason Scanlon knows his player has linebacker/fullback feet is because those are the positions he played at a nearby high school before transferring to Cretin Derham Hall after his sophomore season. Upon his arrival, though, the transition to the line was a quick one.
"When he got here, he had offensive lineman written all over him," said Scanlon. "That's where he was going to play in college, so we're thinking, ‘why play fullback when they are going to move you to line anyway?'
"For him, I think he saw the writing on the wall and knew it was in his best interest."
During his two years at Cretin Derham Hall, Slater has been able to work with a handful of other talented offensive linemen as well. This season he earned honorable mention All-State honors while playing alongside Matt Caraful, a 6-5, 280-pounder who is headed to Notre Dame. In 2004, Slater and Carufel were juniors who started alongside guards Rafael Eubanks and Ned Tavale, a pair that wound up signing with Iowa and Minnesota, respectively.
That experience was a rewarding one for Slater, and it gave him the confidence that he might have the opportunity to play at the Big Ten level.
"When he played as a junior and had success with that group, that was important for him," said Scanlon. "He was right there with those guys holding his own. I think at the time he thought, maybe I'm not there right now with those guys, but I can be."
Scanlon believes he can get there as well. He knows he has to put on more weight and polish up his technique, but his athleticism and tools are unquestioned in his mind.
"If he's going to play in the Big Ten, they are going to want him about 300 pounds," said Scanlon. "But in terms of technique, he'll get better, but he has the foundation laid. We have two really good line coaches who have had a lot of success, and we have put a lot of big time linemen out. And I envision him being the next one."
"I think Indiana would be lucky to get him."
Slater and Carufel were two-way starters this past fall, with Slater also shining on the defensive line. While some think he could develop into a very good defensive linemen, Scanlon thinks it's on the offensive line where his future is the brightest.
"He has good feet, and he gets those arms on you and you aren't going anywhere," said Scanlon.
If Indiana winds up offering, it appears to be a very good bet that Slater would commit. Scanlon said Slater and his father made the trip to Bloomington last spring for IU's Junior Day, and immediately fell in love with the program as well as the school.
"Of course he liked the interest, but once he got there, this was it for him," said Scanlon. "I don't think (Indiana) would have to ask twice if they came knocking. He really liked what he saw. The program, the school, everything about it.
"They've been in contact with him throughout the year, and Matt's expressed his interest that he really wants to go there."
Another Recruit To Keep An Eye On?
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