BLOOMINGTON-Whether you want to call it a mad dash or a mad scramble, the final days of any football recruiting season are downright maddening.
With the Feb. 1 National Letter of Intent signing day less than two weeks away, Indiana's coaching staff is expected to welcome in a final crop of official visitors this weekend and then finalize its 2006 class in the next 12 days. It's a class that stands at 16 right now, and could climb to as many as 20-21 depending on the possibility of "greyshirting" a couple of players and thus counting them against IU's 2007 scholarship allotment instead of the 2006 class.
So where do things stand? Who is still out there contemplating scholarship offers? No one other than the IU coaching staff knows for sure, but here's HoosierNation.com's educated guess as to which positions IU could still bring in a player, who's still pondering offers, and where things stand in general:
Cornerback – This remains the biggest area of need/concern for this year's class. Indiana was suspect at the position a year ago, a fact that likely contributed to IU Coach Terry Hoeppner's decision to make a coaching change at the position at season's end. It's going to take more than some fresh ideas from the position coach, though, as Indiana needs to add a player, or better yet some players, that can make a difference immediately.
Indiana has targeted Diablo Valley College cornerback Castine Bridges as someone who could step in and provide immediate help. At 6-2 and 190 pounds, he has the physical size to match-up with the league's bigger wideouts. He combines that with 4.5 speed in the 40, so he can play man coverage as well. He also had 19 interceptions in 20 games at the junior college level, so he obviously has a knack for coming down with the ball as well. Bridges appears to be picking between Indiana and Missouri, and a decision will likely come sometime next week.
Another player who has been getting a lot of Indiana attention as of late is North Miami Beach, Fla., defensive back Andy Dorcely. A 6-1, 180-pounder, Dorcely had been rumored to be making an official visit this weekend. That visit didn't materialize. One of the questions that was likely facing the IU staff is if Dorcely can play cornerback or if he's a safety at the Division I level. Indiana is loaded at safety, and is in need of bringing in some players with the speed to play corner. Dorcely is listed at 4.56 in the 40.
Another player I've heard mixed stories about is Pittsburgh, Penn., athlete Aundre Wright, a 5-10, 165-pounder from Perry Traditional Academy. A player with 4.37 speed in the 40, Wright shined in high school as a wide receiver, but is considered by many to be a very good prospect at cornerback as well. Indications are that he'll jump at a scholarship offer from hometown Pitt if it comes, and he's scheduled to make an official visit to the Panther program this weekend. There have been some unconfirmed reports that he made an official visit to Indiana last weekend, although that remains speculation at this point. As a senior he caught 20 passes for approximately 600 yards, and as a junior he hauled in 25 balls for 900 yards and 11 scores.
The most recent name to surface as a potential target is 6-2, 180-pound Richard Council from Carrollton, Texas' Newman Smith H.S. Council is making his official visit to IU this weekend (Jan. 20-22) along with previous IU commit Jarrod Smith.
Finally, E.J. Jones, a 5-11, 185-pounder from Edwardsville (Ill.) High School just outside St. Louis, told HoosierNation.com last night that the Indiana coaching staff won't be making an in-home visit with him, and that they don't have a scholarship available for him.
Linebacker – The recent commitment of Mandela Roberts was a big one for the Hoosiers, as indications are that the IU staff was extremely high on the 6-0, 220-pounder from Lukin, Texas. While other players might have lost out on a scholarship because slots have been filling up rapidly in the last two weeks, IU had set aside a tender in the hopes that Roberts would in fact commit to IU. Not only is Roberts' the high school's all-time leading tackler, but he also runs a 4.5 40 and has also posted a 10.62 in the 100-meters, giving him the sort of sideline-to-sideline speed that Hoeppner loves at the position.
That gives Indiana two sure fire linebackers (Roberts and Will Patterson) and a third player (Matt Mayberry) who could play three different positions, but will likely wind up as a linebacker as well. A fourth linebacker might wind up being Diablo Valley College's Namon West. While the 6-1, 195-pounder played primarily at safety at the junior college level, he could wind up at outside linebacker if he winds up in Bloomington. He's known as a big hitter, and his experience in the secondary suggests he can easily drop back and cover a tight end, a third or fourth wideout, or a running back coming out of the backfield.
If Indiana winds up getting both Bridges and West, the addition of West would give the Hoosiers four linebackers in the class, likely more than enough considering the limited number of scholarships that IU has available this year. Missouri's Sam Johnson and Ohio's Ken Lamendola are another pair of linebackers that have been linked with IU in recent weeks and months as well, but news surrounding them has slowed, suggesting it might be a long shot that either winds up in Bloomington.
Offensive Line – It's hard to imagine that with seven commits in the bag already that IU might still be contemplating taking another one, but that appears to be the case with St. Paul, Minn., product Matt Slater. The 6-6, 245-pound lineman has been someone the IU staff has been keeping a close eye on throughout the season, and his high school coach, Mike Scanlon, told HoosierNation.com this week that if IU offers, Slater will likely jump at the opportunity to play with the Hoosiers.
Another thing working Slater's favor is he's a two-way player at the prep level, and could wind up being a defensive end or defensive tackle as well. He'll need to add weight and get stronger no matter what position he winds up at, but he has very good athleticism and a huge upside according to his high school coach. His versatility, coupled with that upside, is likely what has the IU staff seriously thinking about extending a scholarship offer.
Two other offensive linemen that have been linked with IU are Wisconsin's Nick Brousseau and Washington's Chris Bush. It seems Indiana is no longer in pursuit of Brousseau. Bush, meanwhile, has always spoken very highly of Indiana and of his interest in the program since taking an official visit during the regular season. While this is no more than a hunch, the fact he hasn't committed suggests Indiana might have cooled on him as well.
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