Bloomington – Indiana might be closer to being done with its 2009 recruiting class than many think.
The Hoosiers secured five commitments last week, bringing their total to 14 for the 2009 class. While the NCAA allows teams to sign 25 players in a class and oversign three others, Indiana won't come anywhere close to approaching those numbers.
IU has updated the Hoosiers' 2008 football roster on its web site, and it appears the Hoosiers are maxed out with 85 scholarship players entering the fall. They have only 12 scholarship seniors slated to graduate at season's end, meaning their 14 signees already pushes them over the 85-man limit.
That's not of great concern at this point, because some level of attrition is expected due to transfers or academics. In addition, rumors continue to swirl about wide receiver Andrew Means, a redshirt junior who was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the spring. It's questionable whether he'll be back this fall and a near certainty he wouldn't be back for 2009, regardless of his decision for 2008.
It's also never a guarantee that little-used fourth-year juniors will return for a fifth year. Last season Sean Edmundson, Matt Moses and Kyle Thomas were among those who closed the books on their IU careers despite having another year of eligibility.
With that said, it's unlikely that IU will have a class bigger than about 18, meaning there are only a handful of spots remaining in 2009.
So what are the positions that IU might still target? Here's a position by position look at what they're bringing in, and what their thoughts might be:
Quarterback (2 verbal commits) – With Edward Wright-Baker and Dustin Kiel already committed and four scholarship quarterbacks due back in the fall (Kellen Lewis, Ben Chappell, Teddy Schell, Adam Follett), it's unlikely IU will add another player to the list. Carmel's Morgan Newton would be too good to pass up, but it's unlikely he's going to pick IU. Dolapo Macarthy continues to hold IU in high regard, but it's hard to fathom the Hoosiers would have seven scholarship quarterbacks on the roster next fall.
Running Back (0 verbal commits) – The Hoosiers could bring in one running back in the class, but it's not a high priority. IU inked four last year (Darius Willis, Cortez Smith, Shane Covington, Alex Hunt) so it's not a must to bring anyone in this year.
Wide Receiver (2 verbal commits) – Indiana's spread attack makes depth at wide receiver a high priority, which is why IU has taken two verbal commits this year despite signing five last year (they subsequently lost Marquelo Suel to academics). This is another position where IU cold take another commit if the player is an elite receiver in their minds, but they won't take a flyer on anyone.
Tight End (1 verbal commit) – With the commitment of Cincinnati's Ted Bolser, IU wrapped up its tight end recruiting efforts.
Offensive Line (2 verbal commits) – From conversations with a variety of recruiting targets, the IU staff has let it be known they wanted to sign two linemen in this class – which they've now done with the pledges of Charles Chapman and Pat McShane. If a top-flight target such as Kyle Koehne decided he wanted to go to IU they'd take him, but they're done otherwise.
Defensive Tackle (1 verbal commit) – The IU staff wanted one defensive tackle in the class – Adam Replogle – and they got their man. Jordan Stepp tested well enough at IU's camp that they would have been happy to take him as well, but the original thought was to bring in Replogle as the only defensive tackle in the class.
Defensive End (0 verbal commits) – This is probably the top priority remaining for the class - IU would still love to add a special pass rusher to its '09 crop. Davon Custis and Julius Forte are a pair of top-50 defensive ends who have IU offers and appear to have significant interest in IU. Euclid Cummings also has an IU offer, but he told me two weeks ago he has heard very little from IU as of late.
Linebacker (2 verbal commits) – Indiana has a couple of good ones in Jeremy Gainer and Demetrius Carr, but they'd still love to add a playmaker like Bishop Luers' Ty Hammock. It's not imperative that IU add another linebacker in the class – after all, IU does have three redshirt freshmen linebackers on the roster right now – but Hammock fits the mold of player they'll be looking for the rest of the way – best available.
Safety (1 verbal commit) – While Indiana has one safety in Nick Zachery for the class, for all intents and purposes they have two safeties in this group since Florida transfer Jerimy Finch will be eligible in the fall of 2009. With that in mind, safety isn't a pressing need.
Cornerback (2 verbal commits) – Lawrence Barnett and Kenny Watkins are a couple of good ones, but IU wouldn't shy away from a third if can find a special one. Don't be surprised to see IU focus on Florida after the season is over for an athlete who could be a difference maker in the secondary.
Specialists (1 verbal commit) – Mitch Ewald will be the only scholarship specialist IU will bring in this class.
Indiana has a special teams weapon coming in 2009.
Maybe Lawrence Barnett or Duwyce Wilson will blossom into a return game threat, but the biggest special teams weapon coming in could very well be kicker Mitch Ewald. It's not only about the possibility of being the heir apparent to Austin Starr in 2009, but the fact Ewald has the skills to neutralize other teams' special teams threats.
According to his high school coach, the Waubonsie Valley (Ill.) H.S. kicker had 75 percent of his kickoffs last season sail through the end zone. While the college kickoff comes from five yards back of the high school, that would still put Ewald's kicks five yards deep if he was kicking from the 30.
"As his leg gets stronger it's probably going to be going through the end zone," Waubonsie Valley Coach Paul Murphy said.
Murphy added that Ewald's kickoffs averaged 3.9 seconds of hang time, giving them the luxury or "pooching" some kickoffs inside the five and giving their coverage teams enough time to make the tackle inside the 20. That strategy worked on five out of six occasions.
It came as no surprise to Murphy that Ewald has developed into one of the elite high school kickers in the country. He said his dedication to his craft and his vision for the future were evident the first time he met him.
"My first day four years ago when I got the job at Waubonsie, the first person I met was Mitch Ewald as a freshman," Murphy said. "Him and his dad were practicing his kicks, and he says ‘coach, I'm an incoming freshman kicker, and I want to kick in college someday.'"
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