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Even when Shafer Johnson heard that Bill Lynch was being fired, he never considered leaving the Indiana football program.
“As long as they don’t give up on me, I won’t give up on them,” he said days after the announcement.
But on Sunday, the senior defensive tackle from Southfield Christian in Michigan said that new head coach Kevin Wilson told him that he had, in fact, given up on him.
“Coach Wilson told me I’m not a good fit for their scheme,” Johnson said. “I’m pretty much no good going there.”
Johnson said Wilson and other members of the coaching staff delivered the news on Sunday after an official visit to IU. He was asked if Wilson gave him the option to come to Indiana and accept the scholarship he had been offered by the previous administration, but simply made it clear to him that there wouldn’t be much playing time for him if he did. Johnson said he was not given such an option.
“No. I’m out,” he said. “I’m shocked, hurt, disappointed. I stuck with them for the coaching change. I feel like I kept my commitment to them, and I get bit in the butt. I was definitely hurt when I first heard that.”
Johnson was actually one of three players rumored to have had their scholarship offers pulled over the weekend. The others were Donte Phillips, a defensive tackle from Wisconsin, and Jalen Schlachter, an offensive tackle from Michigan. Attempts to contact both Phillips and Schlachter were unsuccessful, but Johnson said Phillips had his scholarship pulled right after he did.
“I know me and Donte are gone for sure,” Johnson said. “I know he was pretty mad.”
Recruiting commitments often break up amidst coaching changes, but it would appear to be a more egregious breach on the part of Indiana because athletic director Fred Glass said during the press conference to announce Lynch’s dismissal that all scholarship offers would be honored.
Glass said Wednesday evening, however, that IU would still be honoring verbal commitments. He said it was a mistake on the part of the university if any recruit was given the impression that his verbal commitment would not be honored.
“ I don’t challenge any kid or family who thinks they heard that Indiana wasn’t going to honor their scholarship,” Glass said. “… I don’t challenge them hearing that, and if they did, it was a mistake. We have agreed that we’re not going to reneg on scholarship offers.”
Glass said he was contacted by the mother of a recruit on Wednesday who claimed that her son’s scholarship was not being honored. That alerted him to the situation. He said he could not comment on specific players, but that the athletic department would reach out to players who believed their scholarship was being pulled to inform them that it had not.
Glass said he had spoken with Wilson and encouraged him to share honest evaluations with recruits. He said there may have been miscommunication, but that Wilson was not deliberately disobeying his orders or breaking his promises.
“Kevin’s not a maverick on this,” Glass said. “We had conversation about these evaluations and to the extent something else was communicated, it was an earnest misunderstanding. … This was not a case where he went on and I had to rein him back in. It was just a mistake.”
Of course, whether any of the recruits who believed their scholarships were pulled would now be willing to recommit to IU is uncertain. Johnson did not return a call seeking comment after Glass’s response.
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