Bloomington, Ind. – The 14-month wait is nearly over for Dane Conwell.
In late June of 2006, Conwell became the first player to commit to Indiana for the 2007 recruiting class. A 6'1", 205-pound linebacker/running back from Pittsburgh's Upper St. Clair H.S., Conwell got an early offer from the Hoosiers, accepted soon afterwards - and has been waiting ever since.
Now, along with the other true freshmen on the Hoosiers' 2007 roster, Conwell is just days away from getting his college career started.
"It seems like a long time ago that I committed, and I've been waiting so long for this day to get here," Conwell said.
But the first member of the Hoosiers' 2007 class wasn't sitting idly by for the past 14 months. Instead, he led Upper St. Clair to a perfect 16-0 record and state championship last fall, capped by a five-touchdown effort in a 47-13 drubbing of Bethlehem Trinity in the title game.
Since his prep career came to a close, Conwell's attention has been focused on preparing for college. He arrived in Bloomington in mid-June to take a couple of summer classes, and has been making friends with his college roommates and teammates Zach Walker, Chris Adkins, Jarrell Drane and Andrew McDonald.
He's also been able to dive into the program's strength and conditioning program for the past seven weeks, which should help him when camp opens Monday.
"You can't simulate the strength and conditioning program, so that will help a lot," Conwell said. "You're playing with grown men at this level, people who are more physically advanced than you right now, so you have to try to get to that level."
Conwell knows that the size and strength isn't the only difference he'll notice when camp opens next week.
"I can't wait to see how the game looks, how the speed looks at this level," Conwell said. "I'm excited about that and I'm looking forward to it. After a while, you get tired of working out all the time and you just want to get out there and play football."
He'll get that chance on Monday, when he'll join Coach George Ricumstrict's stable of linebackers. He's one of four linebackers in the '07 class along with Darius Johnson, Tyler Replogle and Ian Reeves. While he had a huge season a year ago as a tailback, IU recruited him to play linebacker and he thinks that's probably where he fits best.
"When I was being recruited, most schools looked at me on defense," Conwell said. "I accepted that. I committed before the season, and I had a really good offensive year, but I don't see myself fitting very well with their type of tailback. (Marcus) Thigpen runs a 4.2 (in the 40).
"But on defense, I think I can bring something pretty unique to that side of the ball. So hopefully I can make that position work for me."
He said it's not completely clear whether he'll be an inside or outside linebacker, although he thinks he'll start out on the outside. That's a spot where a true freshman could potentially get a chance to crack the two-deep behind starters Geno Johnson and Will Patterson.
Conwell wouldn't mind being that player, although he realizes there's a lot to learn before that becomes a realistic possibility.
"We'll see how camp goes," Conwell said. "They have some good linebackers, and I hope I can get in there and show what I can do and hopefully something good will happen."
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