IU Building On "Seven Blocks Of Limestone"

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – IU Coach Terry Hoeppner addressed his health situation as well as his 2006 recruiting class Wednesday at Memorial Stadium.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – It was a feel good day for IU Coach Terry Hoeppner.

On one front, he says he feels good from a health standpoint. The Hoosier coach underwent emergency surgery to remove a brain tumor over the Christmas holiday, and he was limited in what he could as the football staff put the finishing touches on its 2006 recruiting class.

"I was scheduled to be on the road every day in January at everyone's homes, closing deals, hugging, kissing, finalizing things and I couldn't do it," said Hoeppner.

But he was as energetic as ever Wednesday afternoon at the Memorial Stadium complex, and said he's back to work and it's nearly back to business as usual.

"I feel great - if you need a couple of weeks off and you don't have anything better to do, I recommend it," Hoeppner joked. "It's really been a pretty good deal.

"I've heard from a lot of Miami fans over the years who said, we knew you needed your head examined."

The second thing that had Hoeppner upbeat was the 20 signed letters of intent the IU football staff received Wednesday. Indiana's 2006 class features six of Scout.com's top 15 in-state recruits and seven big, athletic offensive linemen that he's already given a label to.

"We have the seven blocks of limestone," said Hoeppner. "The seven offensive linemen that we signed today, the future of IU football – we're building on those blocks of limestone – 6-6, 285 and athletic."

That group includes 6-8, 295-pound James Brewer, 6-5, 306-pound Cody Faulkner, 6-7, 251-pound Alex Perry, 6-5, 275-pound Rodger Saffold, 6-6, 310-pound Pete Saxon, 6-4, 278-pound Jarrod Smith and 6-7, 285-pound Mike Stark. It's a group of players that the Indiana staff targeted early and wound up luring to Bloomington with the idea of being contributors early on during their careers.

"We targeted them, we got them on campus, we got them in camp, we offered them, we recruited them, they saw the opportunity, because they'll have an opportunity," said Hoeppner. "Some may play right away…they'll have an opportunity to play soon."

While Indiana's 2006 recruiting class answers a handful of needs that the program had – most notably the offensive line and at linebacker – it's not a grouping that is expected to ranked among the best in the Big Ten when various recruiting services come out with their post-signing day rankings. Other than Hamilton Heights (Ind.) offensive lineman Cody Faulkner and Darien, Ill., outside linebacker Matt Mayberry, there aren't a bunch of recruits that were national recruiting names during the last six months.

That may be the case, but that doesn't bother Hoeppner in the least.

"I love these recruiting services who evaluate," said Hoeppner. "I have no clue where they are rating our class. And guess what? I don't care. Why? Because four or five years from now, no one goes back and see how accurate those people were. No one does."

Hoeppner pointed out the his 2000 Miami (Ohio) class was ranked as one of the worst in the MAC that season. But by the time that group was seniors, they had put together an NCAA-best 14-game winning streak and were ranked No. 10 in the nation. Two of those players went on to start in the NFL as rookies, including Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

While Hoeppner wasn't making any promises about what this year's group would do, it is a collection of players that he said he and his staff can develop into talented college players.

"For all you IU fans out there that have nothing better to do than listen to those experts, well, I'm an expert too," said Hoeppner. "And this expert says this is exactly what we needed.

"We're going to develop them. We recruited guys that we want that we know we can develop. And that's a key, and that's something that recruiting services…that they don't understand. They don't know exactly what we wanted."

Hoeppner got the players he wanted, and now he's excited about getting back to work and beginning the preparation for the 2006 season. He said he'll be at the Mellencamp Pavilion Thursday morning at 6 a.m. for a conditioning workout session with a slew of his returning players, and he's throwing himself back into his job.

"I got after them a little bit Tuesday morning, which felt good," said Hoeppner.

While there had been a bit of a cloud hanging over the program since the news came out about Hoeppner's surgery, the Hoosier coach was upbeat and talking about the bright days that he sees ahead for his program.

"It's also a good time to reflect on the state of our union right now," said Hoepnner. "Right now, the weather is 60 degrees and sunny, and that's exactly how I feel about me and IU football."

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