IU men's soccer has added six new faces to its roster for the 2018 season, and all of the signees hail from the Midwest. It's good enough to be ranked as the No. 8 recruiting class in the nation according to Top Drawer Soccer.
With one of the best rosters in college soccer last season, the Hoosiers have signed three defenders, one midfielder, one forward and one goalkeeper for next year's squad.
Defenders Jack Maher, Isaac Sarosy and Daniel Munie; midfielder Ben Yeagley; forward Ryan Wittenbrink; and goalkeeper Bryant Pratt have all picked IU as their choice to play collegiate soccer.
Adding more depth and a chance to crack the first team, each signee brings something different to the table for IU, a team which reached the College Cup Final last season. Going player-by-player, meet the Hoosier signing class of 2018.
Jack Maher — 4-star defender from Caseyville, Illinois
The highest-ranked player for IU in this class, Maher has a chance to earn a spot in the first team with the departure of Grant Lillard to the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer. An All-American honoree by United Soccer Coaches, he brings size and quickness at 6-foot-3, and is highly regarded by IU Coach Todd Yeagley to have the chance to slide right into Lillard's spot next season.
If he does make the first team, Maher will start alongside current junior defender Timmy Mehl at the center back position. Mehl, who stands at 6-foot-1, seemed to be unstoppable last season next to Lillard, who stood at 6-foot-4. Adding a player with similar size will only help Maher's case, who is ranked as the No. 4 defender in the country.
"He's had extensive youth national team experience," IU Coach Todd Yeagley said in an IU Athletics video. "It's no doubt that Jack was one of our first key recruits in this class, knowing that we were going to lose Grant Lillard to graduation. We think there's no doubt Jack has the qualities to slide in and help us continue to be one of the best back lines in the country."
Isaac Sarosy — 3-star defender from Fair Oaks, Indiana
Sarosy brings versatility to the back line. A center back, Sarosy has the ability to drift out wide and can pass the ball downfield with great pace. His long passing is one of his strengths, and his ability to pass the ball downfield quickly will bode well for IU's current wingers of freshman Griffin Dorsey and juniors Cory Thomas and Austin Panchot.
He could have a shot at being a rotation player next season for IU's defense. Getting to learn from Mehl and other veterans, Sarosy will only get better from year-to-year.
"He spent the last three years traveling a few hours each way to play for the Indiana Development Academy under the leadership of Phil Presser, one of our past great players and assistant coaches," Yeagley said. "Isaac is a tough, versatile defender, who we feel has the athletic qualities and winning qualities to excel here at Indiana."
Daniel Munie — 2-star defender from Maryland Heights, Missouri
Teammates with Maher in St. Louis, Munie is a player who was brought in for the future rather than immediate help. Under Yeagley and staff, Munie has the chance to develop with Sarosy and Maher, and he could see significant minutes with the departure of Mehl after next season.
"Daniel's got, what we call, all the attributes that we're looking for in defenders," Yeagley said. "He's got great athletic tools, he's tough, he can play in multiple spots. We think Daniel, once he continues to develop, he was a bit of a late developer, I think is going to do really well in our environment, and we're excited about the future with Daniel."
Ben Yeagley — 2-star midfielder from Bloomington, Indiana
The third generation of the Yeagley family to be in the IU program, Ben brings versatility to the Hoosiers' midfield. Yeagley has good vision, especially downfield, and can pick teammates out with one through-ball. His tackling is an eyebrow-raiser, being able to play box-to-box, which is a characteristic his father, Todd, likes to see from his midfielders.
His ability to ping the ball down field over defenders is similar to Mehl's. His finishing is good as well, being able to score in opposite corners of the net.
"Ben holds all the records at South and did a great job also for the Alliance Club, led by assistant coach Kevin Robson," Todd Yeagley said. "Ben's a versatile midfielder who, we feel again in our environment, will blossom. Hopefully he will have an opportunity to help us in the midfield in the years ahead."
His game could be compared to junior midfielder Frankie Moore, with the way he is able to tackle and find a teammate in sequence.
"We think Ben can play in multiple spots, more centrally as he continues to get bigger and stronger in the years ahead," Yeagley said.
Ryan Wittenbrink — 3-star forward from Libertyville, Illinois
Wittenbrink is the one other signee who has a chance to crack the first team. With Mason Toye off to Minnesota FC in the MLS and Rashad Hyacenth graduating, Wittenbrink will compete with freshman attackers Justin Rennicks and Thomas Warr for the starting striker position.
The two strikers on last season's team struggled with consistency all year. Warr started the season with the starting spot, but he lost it to the emergence of Toye. Rennicks was sidelined with an injury for most of the season and needed time to get back to 100 percent.
"He did a great job of scoring a few goals in the All-American game this past December," Yeagley said. "We think Ryan has all the attributes and attacking versatility to give us a real offensive punch in the years ahead."
Wittenbrink is prolific and talented with both feet. He's accurate with his head and clinical in front of net.
"We think he can play any of the front four," Yeagley said. "He's good with both feet, he has a goal-scorer's mentality, but he'll work and put in the defensive effort that we require. He's a team player, so he'll be able to fill a role, whatever we ask and do it with great discipline and honesty."
Bryant Pratt — 3-star goalkeeper from Columbus, Ohio
Pratt is joining a position group, which already has four members, headlined by freshman standout Trey Muse. Muse led the NCAA last season in shutouts (18), goals-against average (.260), save percentage (0.903), and goalie minutes played (24:16:18).
No other goalkeeper, understandably, was able to get significant first-team minutes. It should be that way again this season with Muse returning for his sophomore campaign.
Nevertheless, Pratt has quick reflexes and quick hands, and he positions himself well against opposing attackers. He has a good soccer IQ, and comes off his line in order to win balls that are crossed into the box without creating any drama. He has an athletic diving style, which gives him the ability to make harder saves that require him to stretch out.
"He was the Golden Glove Best Goalkeeper in the national championship this past summer," Yeagley said. "We're really excited for Bryant to join a really strong goalkeeping core. We see a bright future ahead for Bryant."
Yeagley was able to add depth and acquire players for immediate help at striker and centerback. Maher and Wittenbrink will both have a significant shot at getting immediate minutes on the pitch, and adding three more defenders only bolsters the defense, which was already one of the best last season.
"Great character in this group, great students," Yeagley said. "For one, when we talk about adding to our culture, these six will do a great job of blending in immediately. Two, we see future leaders in the team, so from a culture standpoint and as teammates, really high-end qualities."
IU only lost two starters from last season and returns key players on the wings, midfield, the fullback position, center back and goalkeeper. Filling in for Lillard will be a tall task, but Yeagley said he really likes what he's seen from Maher.
As for goal-scoring, IU was able to fill that void last season not only from Toye, but others as well. Junior defender Andrew Gutman finished second on the team in goals scored and will continue that threat at the left back position next year as well. Getting one of Rennicks, Warr or Wittenbrink to be consistent in front of net will be a huge help, but the two current strikers on the team couldn't do that last season.
Rennicks will only get better, and working with Warr and Wittenbrink to learn from Thomas will allow them to develop at a steady pace. Thomas was a player who worked on his finishing ability last offseason and showed signs of improvement as the season went along.
The midfield seems set for next year, especially with the return of junior Jeremiah Gutjahr, who missed most of the season with an injury. Gutjahr will give more depth at the right back position as well, which was played by sophomore Jordan Kleyn and junior Rece Buckmaster.
Having the eighth-best recruiting class is no joke, and IU will look to improve on reaching the College Cup Final next season with its new assets.
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