It has been a growing trend in college football, and one that IU head coach Tom Allen enthusiastically supports.
It is how quarterback Michael Penix nearly stepped in and claimed the starting quarterback job in week one as a true freshman, and briefly took the job over weeks later.
Indiana has welcomed four true freshmen as January early enrollees in the class of 2021, along with three transfers. For the freshmen, that means foregoing their final semester of high school and diving right into power-five college football.
The option doesn’t work for everyone. The player has to have the right academic profile, and they have to be ready to leave home. But Allen has consistently stated that a six-month college head start can make all the difference in getting acclimated early and ahead of their classmates in an effort to see the field on game day.
IU freshmen Jordyn Williams (WR), James Evans (P), Joshua Sales (OT), and Vinny Fiacable (G) are all enrolled and on campus. Joining them are transfers D.J. Matthews (WR), Ryder Anderson (DE), and Zach Carpenter (C/G). All seven are training with the team and will participate in spring practice.
“We are excited to have them all as we think those are guys that have a chance to help us right away,” Allen said of the freshmen in December. “We can develop them, get them in the weight room, and they can be part of spring football. That will give them a jumpstart on the season.”
For a complete position-by-position summary of who is coming and going for IU in 2021, GO HERE.
Williams is an ESPN four-star prospect. He played his first three years at Westover High School in Albany, Ga., before moving to Trinity Christian in Cedar Hill, Texas, to play for Deion Sanders, who served as offensive coordinator. Williams caught 50 passes for 1,466 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. With Whop Philyor, Jordan Jakes and Rashawn Williams all gone, Williams has a chance to play as a freshman.
Evans arrived at IU having never played football or even visited the United States. He was scheduled to make a trip to the U.S. in July and visit IU in December but did not due to COVID-19. He is the second-straight Indiana punter to arrive in Bloomington via Prokick and he should step in and replace Haydon Whitehead right away. Evans played rugby and squash in high school.
Sales was named to the 2020 Indiana All-USA Super Team. The Brownsburg High School product did not allow a sack as a senior and registered 72 knockdowns in eight games. He was ranked the No. 11 prospect in Indiana by Rivals and the No. 58 offensive tackle nationally by 247Sports.
Fiacable arrived with a deep familiarity with Bloomington. He was a teammate of IU offensive lineman Luke Wiginton, his father Steve was an IU offensive lineman (1988-91), his brother, Steve, was an IU offensive lineman (2009-10), and his brother, Mike, was an IU quarterback (2015-18). Fiacable made a big rise up the rankings in his high school career with Fort Wayne Dwenger and ended up ranked the No. 10 prospect in Indiana and the No. 38 offensive guard nationally by ESPN.
DJ Matthews (transfer)
Matthews spent the 2017-19 seasons at Florida State University. He ranks 10th at FSU with 582 career punt return yards and 56 returns, and he holds two of the Top-4 single-game marks. In 35 games (16 starts), Matthews owns 84 receptions for 809 yards and five touchdowns to go along with one punt return TD. He did not play in 2020.
Zach Carpenter (transfer)
The Michigan transfer earned starts at center in the last two contests in 2020 against Rutgers and Penn State. He did not see any game action in 2019, when he was named the team’s Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year. The Cincinnati native was a three-star recruit out of Archbishop Moeller High School and was named the No. 15 offensive guard nationally and the No. 14 player in Ohio by Rivals.
See also: Carpenter found IU to be the most genuine place
Ryder Anderson (transfer)
At Ole Miss, Anderson collected 99 tackles, 38 solo, 6.5 sacks, 15 stops for loss, 17 quarterback hurries, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one pass breakup and one blocked punt in his career. The Katy, Texas, native made 43 of those tackles in 2020. Anderson finished second on the team with seven TFLs, shared third with 2.5 sacks and led the way with six QB hits to go along with the fumble recovery and the PBU. He carded one sack and two tackles for loss, with three stops overall and one hurry against the Hoosiers in the Outback Bowl.
See also: Anderson sees IU as best place to maximize potential
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