Don't think for a second that Indiana head coach Gerry DiNardo had another subpar recruiting season.
While no one will ever compare the Hoosiers' recruiting year with that of Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State, DiNardo has upgraded the talent level at Indiana. In addition to looking for strength and talent on both lines, he will also have as many as 27 freshmen players on scholarship.
That will give Indiana 85 scholarship players for the 2004 season. In 2002 — DiNardo's first season in Bloomington — he had only 50 scholarship players.
The best of his recruits may be offensive tackle Jim Jadron, who played for powerful Joliet Catholic High School in Joliet, Ill. Jadron, at 6-5 and 280 pounds, also received offers from Colorado, Illinois and Kansas, as well as several schools in the Mid-American Conference.
For DiNardo, it's as much about building depth as anything else.
It's hard enough for Indiana to compete in the Big Ten with the middle-of-the-pack schools — let alone the top-ranked schools — if it doesn't have its full complement of scholarship players. Now that they do, there's no reason the Hoosiers won't be able to take at least a couple of steps up the ladder.
OT Jim Jadron, Joliet, Ill. — The Hoosiers need to improve on the line of scrimmage and Jadron appears to be the real thing. He is 6-5 and 280 pounds and has the potential to get even bigger. Look for Jadron to do a fine job as a run blocker right from the start, but it may take him a while to get the hang of pass blocking in the Big Ten.
DB Marcus Thigpen, Detroit — The Hoosiers have a chance to step up in the defensive backfield with the athletic Thigpen. At 5-10 and 180 pounds, Thigpen has fine coverage skills and is also a good tackler. Look for Thigpen to make a run at a starting position right away.
WR James Hardy, Fort Wayne, Ind. — The Hoosiers have lacked big playmakers for several seasons. Hardy brings plenty of "big" to the table because he checks in at 6-7 and 190 pounds. Hardy has the ability to make plays over the top of smaller defensive backs. He could prove to be a real find for QB Matt LoVecchio, who desperately needs dependable receivers.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "At all of my visits, the coaching staffs had positive things to say about the directions their programs were headed, but with coach (Gerry) DiNardo I felt like he wasn't just saying it but that he really believed it. I'm really excited about going to IU and I just thought it was a program where I could get a chance to play early in my career, and that's something that was very important to me." — New Indiana offensive tackle Jim Jadron, in the Indianapolis Star, on why he decided to sign with the Hoosiers.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
GLANCE AT 2004: QB Matt LoVecchio and RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis give head coach Gerry DiNardo a decent offensive base. If the defense can pick up where it left off against Purdue — just 222 passing yards allowed — the Hoosiers should be better. MLB Kyle Killion is an excellent tackler who should be dramatically better in his junior season.
PRO POTENTIAL: FS Joe Gonzalez — He is a big hitter who understands coverages. His ability to play at the next level will largely depend on his ability to play special teams.
RB Brian Lewis — He was troubled by injuries last year, but Lewis is short and powerful. He might be a good change-of-pace back who can break a few big plays along the way. Lewis can also catch the ball. A late-round pick or potential free agent.
INJURY IMPACT: The Hoosiers are healthy heading into spring practice.
Big Ten Recruiting: Indiana
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