Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
The Indiana Hoosiers are just a fortnight away from their season opener, but Friday afternoon was a very successful and joyous occasion for eight Hoosiers football players who earned a full ride for the 2015-16 school year.
Ben Bach, Rickey Brookins, Michael Cooper, Anthony Corsaro, Damon Graham, Griffin Oakes, Mitchell Paige, and Erich Toth all earned scholarships for their hard work and dedicated as it was announced after practice Friday morning when athletic director Fred Glass called the eight players up in front of the team.
Ben Bach, DB
Bach is in his third season in the Hoosier football program. He made his way to the Cream and Crimson from Warrenville South High School where he played defensive back and was a teammate of IU punter Nick Campos. Bach redshirted his first season as a walk-on and won scout team player of the week versus Ohio State.
Last season Bach did not see any game action, but again won scout team player of the week versus Ohio State.
The Hoosiers' staff has high hopes for Bach, as he manned one of the starting corner spots in the spring game and has occupied that spot so far throughout camp. Whether or not he keeps that spot remains to be seen, but IU could use a corner with Bach's size. At 6-1 and 200 lbs. Bach can be more physical in the run game and with bigger receivers. Expect him to get plenty of playing time in 2015.
Ricky Brookins, RB
The running back from Terre Haute starred for the North side school, taking the Class 5A rushing title as senior with 2,012 yards on the ground. He averaged 8.1 yards per carry and scored 27 rushing touchdowns. He also added four receiving touchdowns, picked off two passes and recorded 15 tackles. When his career came to a close at Terre Haute North, he held six school records. He also excelled off the gridiron, as he was a member of the National Honor Society.
Brookins walked onto the Hoosiers football program last fall, taking a redshirt his first season with the team. He was, however, named scout team player of the week against Penn State. Now entering his second year with the program, Brookins looks to push for playing time on both special teams and as a backup running back.
Michael Cooper, TE
Michael Cooper grew up in the pigskin-crazed state of Texas. He attended The Woodlands High School and starred as a football and baseball player before choosing to play for Mark Stoops at the University of Arizona. When Mark Stoops was dismissed (and Rich Rodriguez was hired), Cooper decided to transfer and became a Hoosier. He sat out the 2013 season and was named the Scout Team Player of the Week on two occasions. Last season, Cooper played in all 12 games (started in 6) and caught a pair of passes for 25 yards. He joined Anthony Corsaro as a key blocker in IU’s rushing attack. In addition to his play on the field, Cooper earned himself an Academic All-Big Ten selection.
Anthony Corsaro, TE
Anthony Corsaro had a successful high school career as a tight end for Indianapolis power Cathedral High School. Corsaro won two state titles with the Irish and caught eight TDs in his senior season. In addition, Corsaro was the class president in his junior and senior years. He came to IU as a walk-on and earned “Walk-On Player of the Year” honors as a freshman in 2012. He appeared in all 12 games as a sophomore and was given a scholarship during preseason camp. He emerged as a valuable blocker before the 2014 season and was a key figure in helping the Hoosiers run for a program record 3,163 yards.
Damon Graham, WR
he 5'10", 180-pound Graham played his prep ball at Arsenal Tech High School in Indianapolis. As a senior he carried the ball 129 times for 1302 yards and eight touchdowns and made eight catches for 87 yards. After an outstanding career with the Titans, Graham walked onto the Hoosiers football program in the summer of 2012. He contributed not only during the team's preparation for an upcoming opponent, where he was named scout team player of the week twice, but he also helped out on special teams, seeing action in six games during the 2012 season.
The following offseason he was shifted around to a couple of positions before he landed at wide receiver. During the 2013 season he played in five games on special teams and returned three kickoffs for 72 yards. He was once again named scout team player of the week twice that fall.
During 2014 fall camp Graham was awarded with a scholarship, something Coach Kevin Wilson enjoys doing for deserving walk ons. As a junior he appeared in 10 games, returning nine kickoffs for 189 yards. This spring Graham played well during the team's Cream and Crimson game making 5 catches for 48 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Griffin Oakes, K
After redshirting his first year at Indiana, the Greenwood native was thrust into action in the Hoosiers' 31-27 upset victory over the SEC West Champion Missouri Tigers. Coach Wilson was pleased with his effort, awarding Oakes with the IU special team player of the week honors and giving him the start the following week against Big Ten East opponent Maryland. In a game of mostly lackluster performances for the Hoosiers, Oakes was one of the few bright spots against the Terrapins. The talented kicker went 3 for 4 on field goals, including a record setting 58-yarder right before halftime. As a result, he was named the Big Ten Special Team's Player of the week.
Overall on the season he connected on 13 of 18 field goal attempts and converted 3 of 4 outside kicks. He was also perfect when kicking PAT's, going 23 for 23. In addition to being named IU's special team player of the week in the game against Missouri, he also received the honor in the Maryland, North Texas, and Purdue games. His outstanding play for the year earned him BTN.com All-Freshman team honorable mention honors.
Mitchell Paige, WR
Paige had an outstanding prep career at Guerin Catholic High School, where he excelled as a receiver, rusher, and returner. He recorded 2,006 receiving yards, 965 rushing yards, 1,794 return yards and 37 total touchdowns for the Golden Eagles. After graduating, the Carmel native made the trip south, joining Coach Wilson's program as a walk-on in 2012.
After redshirting his first season in Bloomington, Paige played sparingly in 2013 and '14, primarily serving as the team's second string punt returner. Despite his lack of playing time, he was awarded a scholarship for this past semester due to his hard work and contributions in practice. During the team's Cream and Crimson game in April, Paige caught five passes for a team high 96 yards.
Erich Toth, P
Toth has been the starting punter for the Hoosiers since week five of the 2012 season after Mitchell Voss suffered a broken leg. That year Toth booted 48 balls for an average of 39.5 yards. Seven of those punts were downed inside the 20-yard line. He won IU special teams player of the week for his performance against Michigan State and was an Academic All-Big Ten selection.
Toth’s first full season punting was his redshirt sophomore season in 2013. He improved his punting average to 40.6 yards per kick on 52 punts, 18 of which were pinned inside of the 20-yard line. His efforts earned him player of the week against Wisconsin as well as a scholarship in pre-season camp. He was again an Academic All-Big Ten selection.
Last season Toth set the school record for most punts in a season, not the most glamorous record to have, with 77 punts. Again, Toth increased his average to 40.7 yards per punt, including 18 downed inside the 20-yard line. He won special teams player of the week four times (Indiana State, Missouri, Maryland, and North Texas). He earned a second scholarship and was selected Academic All-Big Ten for a third time.
Toth is poised to have a big 2015, hopefully with fewer punts. He may have some competition with Joseph Gedeon, but Toth should have the inside track. The key to a successful season will be if Toth can start putting more distance on his kicks and getting more balls downed inside of the 15-yard line.
Every preseason when coaches around the country reward their walk-ons with scholarships it brings a smile to my face. It truly is one of the best moments of the season