Will Willis Explore New Opportunities?

Darius Willis' recruitment could be ready to become more complicated...if he's willing to let it. Some big-name programs are now inquiring about the tailback who's amassed 1,107 yards and 18 touchdowns in seven games. Who are they, and will he be listening?

Bloomington, Ind. – Darius Willis' recruitment could be ready to become more complicated…if he's willing to let it.

The 6-0, 200-pound running back from Franklin Central (Ind.) H.S. has been focused on a set of seven schools as potential destinations, but has been getting some new interest in recent weeks. His high school coach, Lance Scheib, said Auburn, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Alabama, Florida State and Texas A&M are now looking to get involved.

Scheib said the interest in Willis has been elevated now that his standout tailback has been invited to play in the highly-selective ESPNU All-America game Jan. 5 in Orlando. Scheib will be sending those schools Willis' highlight DVD, but he doesn't foresee any of them becoming serious players for Willis.

"He's got those six or seven schools that he's narrowed it down to, and that's not going to change," Scheib said. "I don't see him giving (the others) serious thought. He really wants to stay around here."

The seven schools that Willis has been focused on are Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame, Michigan, Illinois, Tennessee and Kentucky. He's still waiting on an offer from both Michigan and Notre Dame, but Scheib said he expects that to happen after they view Willis' highlight tape from his senior season.

While Willis isn't expected to make a decision until late December or early January, he is beginning to look at his potential destinations. He made his first official visit to Purdue last weekend, and Scheib said he'll take one more official before his senior season comes to a close. He said the most likely spot for that second official is Kentucky, whose coaches will be at Franklin Central today (Friday) to see Scheib.

After his senior season wraps up, Willis will take his other three allotted visits, one of which has been determined.

"He's going to visit IU," Scheib said. "That's going to happen."

It makes sense that Willis would wait to visit IU until after the season comes to a close so that the coaching situation can be resolved. Head Coach Bill Lynch is in the midst of a one-year contract, and his future – along with that of his assistant coaches – is likely to be determined based on how much success IU has this fall.

"By that time, IU has shaken out," Scheib said. "Even with Purdue, if they have a great year Coach (Joe) Tiller might look to do something else. I think that will allow things to shake out and see where things are, because I know he really likes IU. He does."

Scheib said it's the IU staff that's stood out the most.

"He has a great relationship with Coach Lynch, both Bill and Billy, and Coach (Gerald) Brown," Scheib said. "I think there's a good rapport there. He's been real lucky because the places he's visited, he's gotten to know the staff pretty well."

The same goes for Scheib, who admits that he's pulling for them to be back in Bloomington next fall and for a long time to come.

"I think I probably have more concern about the coaching situation than he does," Scheib said. "I think Coach Lynch is awesome, I love their staff, but I want to see what happens. Am I going to influence him to not go to IU is the staff's not there? Not at all. But that's a big part of what's going to happen next."

In the meantime, Willis will focus on wrapping up a huge senior season. He's helped his team to a 6-1 start by rushing for 1,107 yards on 170 carries. He's scored 18 touchdowns, 11 of which have come from at least 20 yards out. He's also had a trio of 200-yard efforts, including this past weekend when he ran for 205 yards on 24 carries in a 35-13 win over Bloomington (Ind.) North H.S.

Scheib credits Willis' off-season work in the weight room for his quick start, along with the fact that he's now in his second full season as a starting tailback.

"He has become more comfortable in the backfield being the featured back," Willis said. "He was very raw (last year). He's worked really hard in the off-season, and it's nice to see it paying off for him."

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