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HOOSIER SCOOP SAGE TAKE OF THE DAY, Dec. 14, 2012
The phrase “Top 40” didn’t always have a positive connotation for me, growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, regarding AM radio. Not that there weren’t great songs making the chart, but generally the most popular tunes weren’t particularly my cup of tea. I was, and am, a bit of a music snob. An FM guy. I wanted album cuts, thank you very much.
But I would call IU football fans’ attention to a different sort of Top 40 this week:
ESPN’s RecruitingNation Top 40 Football Classes for 2013 now features your Indiana Hoosiers, coming in at No. 40, with a bullet, baby!
This is basically the college gridiron equivalent of my favorite (and naturally obscure) British folk-rock band of the 1960s, Fairport Convention, having a hit single. (The odds were long, but it actually happened in 1969 when, as a bit of a lark, the Fairports sang a Bob Dylan tune in fractured French and got to the Top of the Pops with “Si Tu Dois Partir.”)
Farrrrrr out, dudes!
In IU football’s case, getting verbal commitments from a pair of coveted linebackers on the same day this week — Steven Funderburk from JUCO national champion Iowa Western CC and Georgia high school standout Kristopher Smith — probably allowed the Hoosiers to crack the chart.
That brought Indiana’s number of 2013 verbals to 18, still a fairly modest total compared to other Top 40 teams. Teams with more recruits tend to get a higher overall rating. Illinois ranks right ahead of IU at No. 39, for example, but has 26 commitments. Indiana therefore has more quality in its quantity, so to speak, than do the Illini, at least according to ESPN.
The other teams occupying the slots from 30-40 on the chart are, in order, Big Ten brethren Wisconsin (also 18 verbals), Michigan State (15), Nebraska (16) and Rutgers (22) followed by the SEC’s Missouri (18) and PAC 12 contenders Arizona (26), Stanford (10) and Cal (16), then the Illini and Hoosiers. This is a better caliber of recruiting company than IU has kept in years.
But the two new linebackers also was significant in that they raised the number of IU verbals for that key position in this class to give (Clyde Newton, Marcus Oliver and T.J. Simmons being the other three). And that got me thinking about how this whole class is shaping up, in terms of positions, and how it complements last year’s recruiting class.
The 2012 class and 2013 class are really the first two I’d fully attribute to Kevin Wilson’s staff, since in 2011 they were mostly just trying to hold onto verbals amassed by Bill Lynch’s staff and playing catch-up on the rest. And I’m really liking what I’m seeing in Wilson’s first two classes, in terms of emphasis.
I have long contended that Indiana needed better talent on both lines, and on defense generally. And that is exactly where Wilson’s staff has aimed.
IU’s 2012 class brought in a full offensive line, essentially, in center Wes Rogers, guards Dan Feeney and Jacob Bailey and tackles Jason Spriggs and Dimitric Camiel. Spriggs and Feeney both started as true freshmen this past fall and both were named to the ESPN blog’s Big Ten All-Freshman Team last week. Rogers, Bailey and Camiel all redshirted, but will be heard from soon.
And the defensive line was similarly addressed by the 2012 class with tackles Raphael Green and Alex Todd and defensive ends Nick Mangieri, Shawn Heffern and (JUCO) Justin Rayside.
The 2012 class was well-rounded, generally, too. With a little creativity, every position on both offense and defense could be filled with a recruit. And clearly, after a 1-11 season in 2011, prospects were needed pretty much across the board.
But in the wake of this fall’s 4-7 campaign, defense was the over-riding need, and the staff has delivered. A dozen players, fully two-thirds of the 18 verbals, are ticketed for defense, including that linebacking quintet.
Methinks Wilson and his staffers know what they’re doing, folks.
And some of those defensive recruits are rated as four-star guys. The kind of guys that might have us quoting Top 40 DJ Casey Kasem: “The hits just keep on comin’!”
Kasem’s signature sign-off line is probably good advice for Hoosier football fans right now:
“Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”
Can ya dig it?
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