Jarrell Drane had one question for his host, J.T. Owens, about IU Coach Terry Hoeppner.
"Who is this guy?" Drane asked.
That's because during Drane's official visit in early December, the 6-3, 180-pound safety from Plantation (Fla.) H.S. was eating with IU's other official visitors and the IU coaching staff, and Hoeppner treated the prospective recruits to a brief dance. That impromptu move had the unsuspecting Drane wondering exactly who this man was with the two left feet.
"I asked Owens if he was a fan or something," Drane said. "And he said, ‘no, that's our head coach.'"
But Hoeppner's enthusiasm wasn't the only thing Drane learned about the second-year IU coach. He also found out there's an admiration and appreciation that goes both ways in the Hoosier locker room.
"He's a down to earth head coach, and the guys also really respect him a lot," Drane said. "I heard that from a lot of the players. He's really honest, and he's concerned about his players. He wants to win, but he wants the best for every last one of his players."
Those were big selling points for Drane, who became the 15th member of IU's 2007 recruiting class when he committed Wednesday night. He said he settled on the Hoosiers over nearby South Florida.
A year ago, it appeared the recruiting battle for Drane would be a fierce one. He had just wrapped up a big junior year, totaling 85 tackles and an interception. He was expected to be one of the more heavily recruited players in the Ft. Lauderdale area, and the anchor of Plantation's defense this season.
But a preseason setback derailed some of those plans. In Plantation's preseason game, Drane broke his forearm while blocking a kick and was sidelined until the final two games of the 2006 campaign. In his absence Plantation struggled and the recruiting interest slowed.
"When it happened, I didn't think any school would want me," Drane said. "I thought it was over. But Coach Hep and Coach (Matt) Canada saw what I could do and came and talked to me. Some other schools did back off, and that was a factor, too. Some of the schools said they wouldn't back off if anything happened to me during the season, but they did. Coach Hep and Coach Canada, they stuck with their word."
Indiana's reward for that loyalty was a commitment from the physical, athletic safety who is a high school teammate of another member of IU's '07 class, running back Zach Walker. With the loss of safeties Troy Grosfield, Will Meyers and Eric McClurg to graduation, Drane sees an opportunity to make a big and immediate contribution in Bloomington.
"I'm a big safety at 6-3, and by the time I get there I'll be 200 pounds, and that's something they haven't had there, with the athletic ability I have," Drane said. "I think I can make a big difference for them on defense."
Drane also likes the defensive schemes the Hoosiers run. During his official visit he learned he'll have an opportunity to be equally involved in defending the run and the pass, an idea that resonated with him.
"The defense gives you a chance to make plays," Drane said. "(IU safeties coach Mike) Yeager said they'd use me a lot inside the box to stop the run, and also back 12 yards stopping the pass. I like that – I don't like just sitting back and waiting for things to come to me."
With his college choice now behind him, Drane will have the chance to play alongside Walker, who he said has been a lifelong friend. Walker wanted Drane to join him in Bloomington, but didn't press the matter too much.
"He knew where I was with everything," Drane said. "He told me what he knew about IU, and I listened to him. He said it would be great if we went there together. But he wasn't try to force it on me."
What eventually convinced Drane that IU was his best fit was a conversation with a friend of his father's, who is also a high school coach in Texas. Drane laid out his options, and the advice was to pack his bags for the Big Ten.
"I always had a feeling for Indiana, but I wanted to see if he'd back it up," Drane said. "A lot of people around here, it was hard to talk to an untainted source. (Plantation H.S.) Coach Davis is Zach's dad, and he wanted me to go to Indiana. I talked to some people from Florida and they wanted me to stay and go to South Florida.
"When I talked to my dad's friend, told him the situation, he knows both schools, he knows my situation and the type of player I am, and he said I'd fit best and get the best education at Indiana. He said I should do it. That's when I knew."
Sunshine State Safety Headed to Hoosiers
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