Indiana football recruiting: 5 takeaways after Day 1 of the Early Signing Period
With 13 freshmen signees and a big-time transfer, the Hoosiers’ 2021 class is among the smallest in the Big Ten.
But Tom Allen hopes it has impactful players, particularly at wide receiver, where the Hoosiers need help soon, and in the secondary. The class ranks No. 12 in the Big Ten and 61st in the country.
Let’s take a look at 5 big takeaways from Day 1 of the Early Signing Period.
ESPN BET is now live in Indiana
Use promo code SATURDAY to get your $250 bonus
IU adds playmakers to replace their playmakers
The Hoosiers added a trio of wide receivers to their roster Wednesday in Florida State transfer D.J. Matthews, a former 4-star prospect; 4-star Jaquez Smith; and 3-star Jordyn Williams.
A reload at the position is needed, with the Hoosiers set to lose Michael Penix Jr.’s two favorite targets, plus one of their most-highly regarded signees from a year ago. Ty Fryfogle, the Big Ten Wide Receiver of the Year, and All-Big Ten honorable mention Whop Philyor are set to move on the NFL following their senior seasons; and Rashawn Williams, a 4-star in the 2020 class, is in the transfer portal.
Even before Rashawn Williams’ decision to leave, Allen had made the position a priority. Jordyn Williams, a 6-1, 182-pounder from Cedar Hill, Texas, committed to the Hoosiers in May, while the 6-1, 190-pound Smith, of Atlanta, chose IU three months later.
Penix will have fresh targets in 2021, after Fryfogle and Philyor have combined for 70 receptions, 1,101 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Sophomore Miles Marshall is the leading returning pass-catcher, with 17 receptions for 257 yards and a score. David Ellis has 10 catches for 118 and a touchdown.
Any one of the newcomers — or all three — could play from Day 1 next season.
Set at quarterback
Allen feels like he has his quarterback for the next couple seasons in Penix, and now the heir apparent will soon be on campus, as well.
Not bad to feel like you’re set at the most critical position on the field for the next half dozen years.
Indianapolis Lawrence North quarterback Donaven McCulley, who had offers from Purdue, Iowa, Cincinnati and about everyone else in the Midwest, is a big, strong-armed dual-threat quarterback, in a similar mold to Penix. The 6-5, 195-pounder is the ninth-best dual-threat quarterback in the country, per 247Sports, and the No. 2 overall prospect in the state of Indiana. He was a huge get for Allen when he committed in June.
It’s likely that McCulley won’t be needed right away for the Hoosiers, assuming Penix returns to health next season after his second ACL injury. But he’ll be waiting for his time.
Defensive recruits stay committed
It’s always a bit concerning when a team loses an assistant coach three days before signing day.
Particularly it can be so when that coach is a defensive coordinator, and one who has had as much success as Kane Wommack. But Indiana was able to hang on to its defensive commitments this week after Wommack had agreed to become the head coach at South Alabama.
The biggest hold came with defensive back Larry Smith III, a 3-star by 247Sports who is IU’s fourth-highest rated recruit. The Hoosiers also pulled in a couple others in the defensive secondary, 3-stars Maurice Freeman and Jordan Grier, plus they picked up 3-star defensive end Cooper Jones, an in-state haul from Valparaiso.
Allen puts a premium on playmakers in the back half of his defense — that’s been evident no more so than this season, in which IU has led the Big Ten in interceptions and has one of the most physical groups in the league, if not the country — and the trio of DB signees fits the mold.
Is there a sleeper (or two)?
Perhaps Jordyn Williams could be classified as a sleeper in the class, if only because he’s the third-highest rated wide receiver in the group, behind more celebrated Smith and Matthews, the two 4-stars.
But it’s not as if Williams doesn’t have solid credentials himself. The Hoosiers won a recruiting battle with Louisville for his services, getting the decisive tug in the tug-of-war in May.
Maybe Trenton Howland could be a sleeper. Listed as an athlete by 247Sports, Howland was recruited to play running back by the Hoosiers, the same position he starred in at Joliet West High School in Illinois. Having chosen IU over Minnesota, Purdue, Nebraska and Iowa State, Howland’s a big back at 6-2, 218 pounds.
Punter signees don’t frequently get a lot of pub.
But it’s worth noting that the Hoosiers have dipped into the Australian market again to grab their next punter, pulling James Evans out of the same academy as current punter Hayden Whitehead.
And Whitehead, a graduate student at IU, has been fantastic this season and likely is a big reason why the Hoosiers scored one of their biggest wins of the season at Wisconsin, a low-scoring game in which field position mattered.
For Indiana, which wants to play stout defense, create turnovers and take advantage of offensive opportunities, the ability to pin opponents deep takes on extra importance. Allen feels like he got another good one in Evans, whom 247Sports ranks as the No. 9 punter in the class.