Ahhhh patience. And Indiana football? Some will scoff at the very idea. They are broken by the decades of agony.
But the rest of us? My God have we been patient.
While some will look to use the latest setback du jour as an opportunity to tell you why it will never happen, the rest of us look for even the slightest glimmer of hope to tell you why it could.
That glimmer arrived this week with the confirmation of what had been long expected to be Indiana’s best recruiting class in the era of class rankings. There will be ebbs and flows with the 2019 class through February, but IU head coach Tom Allen and his staff have put together a group that should end up ranked right around 40th in the country.
Now those naysayers will say “yes, but look at the Big Ten rankings.” And as is often the case, that negativity comes with an element of truth. Or in this case, a whole lot of painful truth.
While a top 40 recruiting class seems to indicate that you are building towards becoming a football program that is in the upper-third nationally, it only yields 10th out of 14 in the Big Ten. And it doesn’t eliminate Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State or Penn State from your schedule.
No, there is a certain harsh reality that comes with Indiana football, and we are sure as hell not here to tell you that it’s going to be different this time. Patient? Yes. Hopelessly optimistic? Probably.
But actually expecting different results after suffering through the annual soul crushing ritual that is IU football year after year? Well, you know what that would make us.
So all we can offer for now is the suggestion that patience is in order with this program and the coaching staff. And no, we aren’t going to expend any energy here on the elephant in the room when it comes to coaching changes. We’ve done that already.
Allen indicated yesterday that any changes with the coaching staff haven’t really been considered since the season ended. That makes sense with the focus on recruiting. For now we will have to accept that we are moving forward with the status quo. Either that, or Jack Tuttle knows something we don’t.
But let’s get back to being patient…
Successful recruiting is the foundation of a successful college football program. Each of the past seven national champions have averaged a top-10 recruiting class the four years prior to winning the national championship.
Having good coaches is important, but you need elite athletes to execute the schemes. Allen put it this way yesterday:
“The blitz works better when the blitzer can finish the play. The routes run better when the guy throwing it and the guy catching, you know, is a really good football player.”
Indiana is not recruiting at a national championship level of course, but the logic works just as well as your work your way through the class rankings. The bottom line? IU’s recent success in bringing in talent suggests that the trend arrows are pointing up for this program.
The Hoosiers’ 2018 class was until now the highest ranked class in program history. That class showed immediate benefits on the field, with several players producing big results, including 1,000 yard rusher Stevie Scott.
Now the 2019 class looks even better on paper, and Tuttle, by the way, isn’t included in that top 40 ranking as a transfer. It is undeniable that a higher level of talent is coming in the door at Indiana, and the early indications are that Allen’s staff knows what to do with them when they arrive.
TWO HEADED RECRUITING PIPELINE MONSTER
It’s worth mentioning in this context that Allen might just have been uniquely qualified to succeed with recruiting at Indiana. As an Indiana native and former in-state high school coach, he has the local ties. But Allen also spent several years coaching in Florida and has deep connections there as well.
No one could reasonably expect to build a program focused primarily on Indiana kids. While Indiana secured four of the top six players in the state in this 2019 class, there isn’t enough depth locally to compete in the Big Ten.
That’s where the Florida connection comes in. IU signed eight last year and four more players this year from the Sunshine State. That Indiana – Florida combination is the backbone of these two most recent highly regarded groups.
IT WON’T HAPPEN OVERNIGHT
It’s clear that a higher level of talent is coming — but for now it comes down to patience. Allen touched on that point yesterday.
“I’ve said it all along that it takes time to build it. When you’re building your foundation and you’re developing that foundation and you’re doing it, I believe the right way for us and that’s bringing in guys that need time in the weight room. They need spring football. They need the summer workouts. They need everything that we do year-round.”
And as Allen also said yesterday, you’ve got to keep stacking, and bring in another strong class next year, and the year after that.
Finally, at some point in the not too distant future, the talent and depth that IU can put on the field will be close enough that it will largely come down to coaching.
No, we’re not talking national championships here, and not the College Football Playoff either. Don’t count on a Big Ten championship game in the insanity that is the Big Ten East either. But something that you can be proud of? Say like an Iowa or Kansas State? Yep. Absolutely.
Yes, the trend lines are pointing up — but it is still going to take time.
So whether the mention of IU football this time of year brings out your inner Lloyd Christmas, or perhaps instead Ebeneezer Scrooge, we’re telling you there’s a chance, or rather, a reason, for patience.
- Allen indicated yesterday that the following players would enroll mid-year and thus begin working with the team in January: Tuttle, Sampson James, Larry Tracy, Michael Katic, Matthew Bedford, and Juan Harris.
- LaShaun Minor is still working to return to the team but his status is unclear for 2019.
- Running back Craig Nelson is transferring.
- TD Roof is leaving Indiana and is no longer playing football after a series of injuries.
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