No Signing Day Shocker From Willis

A year ago, the Hoosiers lost the biggest name in their 2007 recruiting class at the 24th hour when Warren Central H.S. safety Jerimy Finch de-committed on the eve National Signing Day. This year's big name, Darius Willis, says that won't happen this year...

Bloomington, Ind. – Darius Willis isn't about to break the Hoosier coaching staff's heart Wednesday.

A year ago, the Hoosiers lost the biggest name in their 2007 recruiting class at the 24th hour when Warren Central H.S. safety Jerimy Finch de-committed on the eve National Signing Day. Florida Coach Urban Meyer swooped in at the last minute and wooed the state's top-ranked player to Gainesville to play for the defending national champions.

Fast forward to 2008, and Indiana's marquee player is once again an Indianapolis product who's been courted on a national level. But Franklin Central H.S. running back Darius Willis said he'll be signing his National Letter of Intent at the high school at around 3 p.m. Wednesday, and there won't be any last-minute surprises.

"Oh, no – I'm going (to Indiana)," Willis said Monday night. "I'm not going to back out or anything like that. That's my decision and I'm going to stick with it."

The All-State running back admits that he heard from a few programs after he verbally committed to IU in mid-December, but the calls died down after he made it clear that he wasn't going to waver.

"Some college didn't know (I'd committed), so they thought I was still undecided and they came in late to try to talk to me," Willis said. "But once I told them IU was where I was going to go, they stopped talking."

While the IU coaching staff is excited about the plethora of talented wideouts it has coming in the class as well as the versatility that many other members of the class possess, Willis is the featured attraction of Bill Lynch's first recruiting class. He combines a 6'0", 200-pound frame with legitimate 4.4 speed in the 40, making him a prospect who's capable of running around or over would-be tacklers.

He used those skills to rush for 1,728 yards and 28 touchdowns on 289 carries as a senior, helping his team to a 9-3 mark. Among those touchdowns were 14 scoring runs of at least 20 yards, including eight that were at least 50 yards.

Those sort of numbers would suggest Willis will have a chance to play right away next fall, and he admits that's his goal. But his recruiting coach, Billy Lynch, also was up front that playing time isn't guaranteed.

"He told I'm not guaranteed a start spot – you have to work no matter what," Willis said.

That approach resonated with Willis, who heard from a slew of schools during the recruiting process before narrowing his list of finalists to IU, Purdue, Kentucky and Boston College. He committed just days after his Dec. 8 IU official, saying his decision was obvious after his stopover in Bloomington.

"It's kind of indescribable, but it was just a great feeling that I had when I took my visit there," Willis said. "It felt different from everywhere else. That's when I knew I was ready to commit."

The younger Lynch, meanwhile, was integral in Willis' commitment as well.

"(Lynch) was a great guy throughout the process," Willis said. "He never said the wrong things – he always said the right things. He didn't fool around. He came straight out and told me everything. He put a lot of trust in me, and I developed trust with him the entire time."

The end result was a colossal commitment for the IU staff, as it out-dueled some big-name programs for a big-time talent. Willis said he plans to come to Bloomington for both summer sessions to not only get acclimated to college life, but also begin working out with his teammates.

Willis will have a handful of returnees as well as fellow newcomers Cortez Smith, Alex Hunt and potentially Shane Covington to compete with for the starting tailback job, but he's not shying away from the challenge.

"I do want to play next year," Willis said. "I know I'm ready to work." Top Stories