Indiana’s performance on the field this season is exceeding its recent recruiting rankings.

The Hoosiers had the 10th-best class in the Big Ten in 2018, per 247Sports. It was No. 8 in ’19 and No. 12 in 2020, yet Indiana has the 12th-best team in the country according to the College Football Playoff rankings. It’s a credit to Tom Allen and his staff’s ability to develop their players.

So perhaps it should not be concerning that the small 13-man 2021 class is ranked only 58th-best in the country by 247Sports and only No. 12 again in the Big Ten.

The group includes potentially a few play-makers at the offensive skill positions, an area of need that could allow those players to see the field early.

With the Early Signing Period beginning Wednesday, let’s take a closer look at IU’s 2021 class:

By the numbers

B1G rank: 12
National rank: 58
5-stars: 0
4-stars: 2
3-stars: 11

Top player: Jaquez Smith, WR, 4-star

Wide receiver Jaquez Smith, an Atlanta native, could have stayed down in SEC Country for his college ball, but instead is venturing north to Indiana, where he’ll have the opportunity to be a Day 1 contributor — maybe a Day 1 starter — for the Hoosiers.

IU loses its top two wide receivers, assuming both Whop Philyor and Ty Fryfogle decide to move on to the NFL rather than accept an extra year of eligibility. And Smith, solidly built at 6-1 and 190 pounds, might have the ability to step in as a downfield threat in Nick Sheridan’s offense.

Smith chose IU in August over offers from Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State and many others, per 247Sports.

Class strength

Smith might be the best member of the ’21 wide receiver class, but he isn’t the only one.

Perhaps illustrating the position was a priority for Allen and Co., the Hoosiers also took a commitment from 3-star Jordyn Williams out of Cedar Hill, Texas.

But IU also got a big-time transfer in Florida State’s D.J. Matthews, who announced in November that he would be transferring to Indiana. Last season, Matthews had 36 receptions for 355 yards and 3 TDs for FSU, and he’s also one of the country’s best punt returners. Out of high school, the former 4-star had offers from Alabama, Clemson and a bunch of others.

Class weakness

Indiana has had to fill in its defensive line through the graduate transfer market and might have to supplement there again.

The Hoosiers have defensive end Cooper Jones, a 6-6, 245-pounder from Valparaiso, in for the 2021 class, but could probably use another body or two on the interior of the line.

Grading the QB class

Indiana snagged one of the country’s best when Donaven McCulley chose the Hoosiers in June, doing so over Purdue, Michigan State, Iowa, Cincinnati and about everyone else in the Midwest.

The 6-5, 195-pounder from Lawrence North in Indianapolis is a 4-star prospect by 247Sports, ranked as the No. 9 dual-threat quarterback in the country, second-best overall in the state of Indiana.

He’ll likely have time too to sit and learn from a similarly strong-armed quarterback in sophomore Michael Penix Jr., although Penix injury history might accelerate the path to the field for McCulley.

Did they close the borders?

Led by McCulley, Allen had a solid season recruiting inside the state, picking up 5 of Indiana’s top 18 prospects.

Jones, the defensive end from Valparaiso, is ranked No. 7, while tight end Aaron Steinfeldt, from in town at Bloomington North, is No. 11. The Hoosiers also got two quality instate offensive linemen in Brownsburg’s Joshua Sales, who they snatched from fellow finalist Purdue, and Vinny Flacable from Bishop Dwenger in Fort Wayne.

Final thought

The Hoosiers got a huge get with McCulley, making Allen feel like his quarterback position is in good hands for years to come.

If you’re going to build a program beyond a one-year surge, stacking quality quarterbacks is a good way to do so.

Beyond that, the Hoosiers think they’ve replenished their offensive skill positions, critical as many key players are likely to depart.