Written By T.J. Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
When the UAB football program surprisingly shut down after the 2014 season, several quality football players were left without a place to play. Kevin Wilson quickly identified two guys that he wanted as part of his program. After a quick and intense recruiting battle, Marqui Hawkins and Jordan Howard both decided to become Hoosiers. Hawkins, a wide receiver with three years of eligibility remaining, originally committed to play for the University of Florida. After transferring from Florida, he sat out a year at UAB and is now immediately eligible to play for IU. Hawkins was a highly recruited WR in high school and he is expected to be a contributor at a position that had some struggles in 2014 and will be replacing the graduated Shane Wynn, Nick Stoner and Zeke Roundtree.
Jordan Howard was the nation's 7th leading rusher last season as he led the Blazers offense with 1,587 yards and 13 touchdowns. Howard was the focal point of the offense and he ran for over 130 yards a game in 2014. He was also named a member of the All-Conference USA Freshman Team after the he ran for nearly 1,000 yards in the 2013 season. Howard is allowed to play immediately and he has two years of eligibility remaining. The addition of Howard is a big one for IU's offense, as he should help soften the blow of the departed Tevin Coleman.
The two new additions have enrolled in classes and they spoke to the IU media for the first time on Saturday. Hawkins is excited to be a part of an offense that operates at a fast tempo.
"Fast tempo, getting lined up to the ball, not moving. Just the receivers, I like the way that they play. That’s why I came here," said Hawkins.
Hawkins is a bigger receiver than most of IU's current wideouts and he thinks his size could be a nice addition to the Hoosier program. "I can see myself playing in this offense and surviving with the other receivers and with my big body, a lot of DBs won't be my size so I get more physical with them and just come in and play early with them."
Indiana lost a lot of physicality in the running game when Tevin Coleman declared for the NFL Draft and Jordan Howard thinks he can help fill that void. "I feel like my physicality is my running style. My running style, I think never give up and never let the first man tackle you so I just try to break every tackle.," Howard told reporters.
Kevin Wilson was on-hand to speak about the new additions to the program and he thinks the Hoosiers got two very good pieces. "Two great kids. I will say this, I don’t have undo expectations. I think they're mature kids that we need. They're coming in with some talent. They seem to be great kids so let's be real, you’ve got to earn these rights, earn the respect of teammates and peers. We're just excited for the spring and they do fill voids. It will be interesting to see how they take advantage of that.," the IU Head Coach said.
Wilson is particularly intrigued by the size that Hawkins brings, "I thought we had gotten a little small (at WR) so that’s why one of our things in recruiting was, when we recruited we tried to add a little bit more size. But him being older, him having size was very attractive and we liked what we saw in his high school tape."
Jordan Howard, according to Wilson, brings maturity and a good mentality, “We’re getting a great kid, a lot like Tevin in his maturity, academic background and his family background. Very mature kid and to me a very proven player that to me is filling a void. We’re losing a proven player," Wilson said.
The UAB program shutting down was unfortunate for many of the program's fans, players and coaches but two former Blazers have found a new home at Indiana and the Hoosier football program appears to be in position to benefit greatly from their addition.