Written By Lloyd Ribner III (@Ribner3)
As already discussed in our first edition of Recruiting Redux, the 2013 Hoosier recruiting class is the most talented to walk on the campus in at least a decade, and very possibly of all-time. One of the things that may have drawn them to Bloomington was Kevin Wilson’s penchant for playing the best players regardless of seniority.
While the head coach has shown that to be true during his first two years at the helm, 2013 might be a bit of a different story. Not so much in that he won’t play the man who can do the job best, but because there are finally less spots to fight for in the lineup. Indiana returns somewhere between 16 and 20 starters depending on varying definitions of the word, but nevertheless it’s a hefty quantity. This being the case it will be hard for many of the true freshman to make an immediate impact anywhere outside of special teams.
There are however a certain select few that due to lack of positional depth or just plain talent will be able to jump right in. Today we will take a look at a few of the young men who have yet to play a down of college football but could be integral pieces leading to the success of Indiana football in the 2013 season.
DT | Darius Latham | 6’5” 291 | 4-Star | 91 Rating | North Central (Indianapolis, IN)
It’s easy to say that Latham should be the closest thing to a plug-and- play recruit that Indiana has seen in quite sometime. Latham is the highest rated prospect in the class and comes in at a position of need after the Hoosiers lost arguably their two best defensive players to graduation, who both happened to play defensive tackle. The true freshman will have to turn heads during fall camp if he wants to see the field immediately. In addition to the depth already on the roster the staff brought in Jordan Heiderman and Christopher Cormier, both JUCO transfers who do not possess the raw tools that Latham does but have had experience playing something other than high school ball.
Even if Latham doesn’t break camp as a starter, I absolutely expect to see him on the two-deep. He will at very least be a rotational lineman to start the year off, and could very easily see his role on the defense grow if he takes advantage of his opportunities. By years end, I expect Latham to have a stranglehold on one of the starting defensive tackle spots for years to come.
S | Antonio Allen | 5’10” 205 | 4-Star | 90 Rating | Ben Davis (Indianapolis, IN)
There is experience returning in the back end of the secondary in senior leader Greg Heban and veteran Mark Murphy. The problem is that experience might not be the best thing as the Hoosier defense was anemic last year to say the least. To be totally honest, the fact is that from the moment Antonio Allen walked on campus he immediately became the best athlete that Indiana has at safety.
While you shouldn’t expect Allen to jump into the starting lineup unless there is an injury in front of him, that however, will not mean that he will not see the field. Allen will be part of a safety rotation, especially early in the non-conference schedule against lesser opponents such as Indiana State and Bowling Green. In addition, the coaching staff will want to get the freshman game time in hopes that he can replace the outgoing Greg Heban next year.
DT | Jordan Heiderman | 6’3” 280 | 2-Star | 79 Rating | Iowa Western C.C.
As we touched on when breaking down Latham there is plenty of opportunity available for playing time on the interior of the defensive line. Heiderman will also have to face similar obstacles such as the aforementioned supremely talented Latham and fellow JUCO transfer Christopher Cormier.
Many have tabbed Cormier as the junior college transfer who will make the biggest impact, but I have my doubts. While he does have nearly 50 pounds on Heiderman, Cormier production at the JUCO level was nearly nonexistent as he only recorded 3 TFLs. There have to be question marks about a player who seemingly has the physical tools to play on the FBS level yet did not dominate, let alone show productivity at little Arizona Western College. That is why I believe that Heiderman will be the man that gets to be part of the defensive tackle rotation early, and more often of the two.
CB | Rashard Fant | 5’9” 160 | 3-Star | 89 Rating | Our Lady of Mercy Catholic (Fairburn, GA)
This one is a bit of a wildcard, I must admit. While Fant is supremely athletic, he was recruited as an athlete and while he has the physical tools to play the corner position that does not mean that the transition to becoming a Big Ten cornerback will be a smooth one.
This is more of an indictment of the Indiana secondary than anything else. As a unit the Hoosiers picked off just seven passes all season, good enough to rank them 100th of 123 teams nationally. Fant will provide some much needed athleticism into a unit that ranked 98th in the nation in terms of passing efficiency last year. While he is raw, there are plenty of opportunities for the young southern speedster to make his mark as a freshman.
LB | Steven Funderburk | 6’2” 225 | 2-Star | 79 Rating | Iowa Western C.C.
Funderburk is the second member of the 2012 NJCAA National Champion Iowa Western Reivers to make it onto our list, and again on the defensive side of the ball, surprise, surprise. While linebacker isn’t quite the blank canvas that the defensive tackle position is there is still an abundance of opportunity for an experienced player like Funderburk to make his mark. With Zack Shaw making the move to defensive end to help the pass rush, the only guaranteed spot at the linebacker position will be in the middle for David Cooper and his 86 tackles.
While Funderburg is more of an athlete than a true linebacker, he sure knows how to deliver a hit. Look for him to find early time in sub-nickel packages due to his combination of size and athleticism.
Are you pumped up about the 2013 requiting class? Which player are you most interested to see hit the field come the Fall? Be sure to let us know below!