The stadium has been upgraded multiple times. The weight room is massive. Brand new locker rooms were opened last fall.
All that is nice, but IU football head coach Tom Allen knows that there is one non-negotiable when it comes to building a football program.
You gotta have talent.
“The bottom line is, we’re only as good as the guys that we’re coaching,” Allen said at The scheme is only as good as the players running the scheme. I love defense, and I feel like we have a great system, but our system is a whole lot better when we have talented guys running it.”
Recruiting rankings are by no means the be all, end all when it comes to talent evaluation.
Dan Feeney was ranked just the No. 82 offensive tackle in the class of 2012 and the No. 28 player in the state of Illinois. He went on to achieve first team All-American twice, and Feeney is now entering his fourth season in the NFL.
There are literally hundreds of stories like Feeney’s
But there’s also no shortage of research concerning how team-level recruiting class rankings have historically correlated with on-the-field success.
Indiana’s 2018 and 2019 recruiting hauls were two of the highest ranked classes in program history. Those groups are returning for the 2020 campaign as veterans.
And at the very top of the talent heap is a group of players that have helped distinguish IU’s recent recruiting success. These are recruits that IU hasn’t typically landed — at least not with this degree of regularity.
Five of the top ten highest rated Indiana football recruits since 2000 (according to the 247Sports Composite) will be on the program’s 2021 roster.
No. 2 of all-time Sampson James gave the program a scare when he entered the transfer portal this winter before pulling his name back out soon thereafter. James showed plenty of promise in 2019 as a true freshman when he rushed 22 times for 118 yards in a memorable Old Oaken Bucket game win over Purdue.
No. 6 Beau Robbins saw action as a true freshman in 2019 but he played in less than five games and will thus return as a redshirt freshman in 2020. Robbins showed enough in year one to suggest that he should be a major contributor on the defensive line in the years to come.
No. 7 all-time Cam Williams joined James and Robbins as highly coveted class of 2019 in-state recruits that came to Bloomington. Similar to Robbins, Williams saw action but will return as a redshirt freshman with a promising future ahead.
No. 9 is the latest player to commit to IU — quarterback Donaven McCulley. The Indianapolis product is the No. 12 dual-threat quarterback in the country. With Michael Penix and Jack Tuttle both just entering their redshirt sophomore seasons it may be difficult for McCulley to break through early, but his ranking suggests that he will ultimately be a high impact player for IU.
No. 10 is incoming freshman receiver Rashawn Williams. The Detroit product picked IU over Big Ten foes including Michigan State and Michigan, and most believe that Williams will make an impact right out of the gate.
THE OTHER FIVE
Now before you start raising cash for a future trip to Pasadena, it would be prudent to examine what became of the other five top-ten rated Indiana recruits since 2000.
There are some cautionary tales there to say the least.
Again, although overall team rankings can be instructive, a review of the “other five” serves as a quick reminder that on an individual level things can get a little disjointed.
The highest rated Indiana recruit since 2000 according to the 247Sports Composite is class of 2000 defensive end Stephen Williams. The Illinois product played regularly during his two seasons at IU, but he transferred to Northern Illinois and then Northwest Missouri State. The No. 109 recruit in the class of 2000, Williams did ultimately see the field in the NFL when he played briefly for Kansas City in 2006.
No. 3 Darius Latham had a productive three-year career at IU. A major coup for IU in the class of 2013, Latham was the No. 222 overall recruit. In 35 games including 20 starts, Latham compiled 81 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and 18.5 tackles for loss. Latham was honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2015 and declared for the NFL draft after his junior season. After spending time with the Oakland Raiders, Latham is no longer in the league.
No. 4 Taj Williams was another big recruiting win for IU in the class of 2013, but he never saw the field in Bloomington. Declared academically ineligible, Williams did not play in 2013 and left IU for a community college. The No. 239 rated recruit ultimately landed at Texas Christian. Williams was invited to a couple NFL training camps but never made a roster.
No. 5 Dominique Booth fell into IU’s lap in the class of 2014. The No. 236 ranked Indianapolis based wide receiver had prominent offers from all over the country but came to IU after decommitting from Tennessee. Booth’s struggles with concussions ultimately ended his football career after just two seasons at IU, and his particular experience aligns with the injury mismanagement narrative surrounding the departure of head coach Kevin Wilson. Booth had eight catches for 70 yards during his time in Bloomington. He graduated from IU in 2017.
No. 8 Antonio Allen led IU in tackles in 2014, achieving honorable mention All-Big Ten along the way during that promising sophomore campaign. Before his junior season Allen was convicted of multiple drug dealing charges and transferred to Indiana State. Formerly the No. 295 ranked recruit in the class of 2013, Allen has had additional legal troubles since leaving IU.
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