Written By T.J. Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
We’ve had a lot of great Signing Day coverage here at the Hoosier Huddle. You can find player profiles on each of the new Hoosiers and a look at how the rest of the B1G did with their 2015 recruiting classes. Now that the letters are all in and we’ve heard the coaches talk about where each player is likely to being their careers, let’s take a look at how both sides of the ball could be impacted this season (and beyond) by this recruiting class. First up, the offense.
-Quarterback - The first thing most of us think about when we think “offense” is quarterback. The Hoosiers 2014 bowl hopes were derailed when Nate Sudfeld (and backup Chris Covington) was injured against Iowa. Zander Diamont performed admirably but he was physically unprepared for the rigors of B1G play. IU had Decatur Central prospect Tommy Stevens in the fold but he flipped to Penn State and the Hoosiers were left without a QB commit. However, they weren’t left scrambling. The coaching staff had been in consistent contact with Austin King, a former NC State commit from Alpharetta, Georgia. King is a pro-style QB that Kevin Wilson believes will be “a quality, quality quarterback for us”. The Hoosiers also brought in Donavan Hale, an athlete from Florida. Surprisingly, they announced that he will begin his college career at QB (they did recognize that he has the potential to play elsewhere). In 2015, Sudfeld returns from injury and Covington is expected to be 100% and the back-up. IU is pretty well stocked at the QB position and they’d like to redshirt Diamont, King and Hale (leaving Danny Cameron as the 3rd-string QB).
-Running Back – We are all going to miss watching Tevin Coleman (and DeAngelo Roberts, a very solid #2 RB). He is an extraordinary talent that gave the Hoosiers a weapon that most opponents were unable to prevent from exploding. However, IU’s coaching staff was able to bring in a guy that, while not a direct replacement for Coleman, should do a very nice job in the Hoosiers backfield. Jordan Howard was 7th in the country in rushing yardage last season at UAB before the Blazers football program was terminated. Kevin Wilson knew they were going to have a hole and he contacted Howard about coming to Bloomington. “It was all luck when we got him,” Wilson said. “He’s a big, different back. But we’re excited about him. I think he was second in the nation in carries and he had two fumbles, so he’s very dependable.” Indiana also received a late commitment from Devonte Williams, a player that offers explosiveness and versatility. Running back depth was a concern heading into this signing period but I think these two players alleviate those concerns and provide quality.
Howard figures to be the #1 running back and I’d expect him to handle 15-20 carries a game. Devine Redding showed promise as a true freshmen and I expect for him to see carries as the #2 guy. Every offensive attack needs a change of pace and I think that’s where Williams will come into play. He looks like a potential “take it to the house” guy every time he touches the ball. Williams could be used as a scat back, could see touches on swing passes and could also be used in special teams returns. Redshirt freshman Tommy Mister should be back in the mix coming off a knee injury that kept him out in 2014. Long story short, the Hoosiers can’t replace Coleman but I think running back could still be a big-time strength for this offense.
-Wide Receivers/Tight Ends – Pass catching was an issue for the Hoosiers last season. There were untimely drops that killed drives or resulted in interceptions, inconsistency in route running and unpredictability in which guys were seeing playing time as Coach Wilson and offensive coordinator Kevin Johns tried to find a combination that would work. Shane Wynne and Nick Stoner have graduated and the receiving corps was an area that Kevin Wilson knew he wanted to address and address it they did. In a word, this receiving class is “big”. There are a lot of guys and there’s a lot of size. Leon Thornton, Nick Westbrook, Marqui Hawkins and late addition Camion Patrick are all 6’1” or taller. Thornton is considered the best freshmen prospect of the group but they are all highly-regarded. Camion Patrick and Marqui Hawkins probably have the best chance to play right away because of their experience (Patrick a JUCO national champion and Hawkins a D1 transfer). Kevin Wilson has very high hopes for the 6’2” Camion Patrick. “He’s going to real good. He better be, because I think he’s special”. Not every receiver the Hoosiers brought in would be considered “big” though. Mike Majette and Isaac James were listed at Athletes but Wilson believes they will both start out on offense (probably as slot receivers) because they are good with the ball in their hands. Isaac James is only 5’11” but he’s very strong and compact and I think he could end up being a really good player for the Hoosiers.
IU also added Austin Dorris, a 6’5” prospect from Ohio that actually played QB for his high school during his senior season. Dorris is expected to play tight end at IU and he compares to current Hoosier Jordan Fuchs and former IU star Ted Bolser. “Very athletic. Very good. An athletic guy that will need to get bigger in the blocking side of things.” Dorris is behind a few guys on IU’s depth chart but I think it’s very possible that he’ll get some game time and I think his size can make him a touchdown machine during his career.
So, how will the wide receiver position play out? That will be one of the more intriguing things to watch for at the beginning of next season. The returning guys (J’Shun Harris, Simmie Cobbs, Dominique Booth, Ricky Jones plus RS-FR Coray Keel) will be pushed and they will need to step up if they want to keep their jobs. I will make a prediction but no one knows how this will play out and I would expect for a few guys that are currently playing WR to be shifted to DB. I think Harris and Isaac James will man the slot positions, Camion Patrick and Simmie Cobbs Jr. will start outside and Dominique Booth, Leon Thornton, Nick Westbrook and Marqui Hawkins will all see significant playing time right behind them. IU rotates enough at WR and runs enough plays for at least 6 receivers to see quite a few snaps every week and I think there is plenty of talent, size and experience for this unit to thrive. Now it’s time for them to turn this promise into productivity.
-Offensive Line – There’s nothing glamorous about the offensive line but it’s incredibly important to the success of a team and it’s probably been the most consistent thing about Kevin Wilson’s teams at IU. That shouldn’t change this year as many talented guy return and a few redshirted players will factor in immediately. None of IU’s 2015 offensive line recruits are likely to play this year (ideally, they’ll all redshirt) but that’s not because they are not talented, it’s because the Hoosiers have a well-stocked offensive line and redshirting these guys as freshmen is the best thing a program can do for its future offensive lines. Brandon Knight, DaVondre Love, Hunter Littlejohn and Simon Stepaniak were all added and each of them projects to be solid pieces for the future. Knight was the Hoosiers top offensive line target and a big in-state “get”. Look for him to one day start at left tackle. DaVondre Love is a massive young man (Wilson said he was “as big as a house”) that projects as a right tackle. Hunter Littlejohn is likely to be a center or guard and Simon Stepaniak was the Hoosiers top target at guard. IU is in good shape on the offensive line, both now and in the future.