With the temperature reaching a 60-degree high on the first day of February, it was difficult to ponder the sensual pleasure of starting anew. Though the blossoms haven't bloomed and the reaches of tree limbs remain bare, the anticipation of spring looms behind each bitter breeze.
Hope springs eternal.
This is true with any recruiting class, but behind coach Terry Hoeppner it feels like the beginning of something new. Something real.
Of course, games are not won on paper. And from the way IU played last year, games aren't won on the road either.
It is in this spirit of the sport that I will show seven ways each recruit can eliminate one loss in the future. Because how many losses did the Hoosiers have last season? That's right sports fans: seven.
No. 1 -- One Bloomington South quarterback named Ben Chappell: With his success at Miami of Ohio and more recently, with Super Bowl XL star Ben Roethlisberger, it is hard to deny that the coach has a way with quarterbacks, especially ones named Ben. Hep certainly used Blake Powers effectively, as the freshman threw for more touchdowns in one season than any other Hoosier quarterback. Maybe this hometown hero has some magic in him, too.
No. 2 -- The two Burks brothers: From both sides of the football come Adrian and Aaron Burks , out of Phoenix, who will pay immediate dividends to the Hoosiers squad. It was a surprise that they signed with IU, but in Hep's words, "In the 11th hour, it was the icing on the cake." Aaron is a running back and wide receiver, while Adrian plays safety and will be able to return punts -- replacing a legend in his way in ...
No. 3 -- No. 3 Lance Bennett: OK, I can't think of something for "3," so I'll make it a tribute to the only male athlete who wears No. 3 and can actually walk at this point. A message from No. 3 Lance Bennett to D.J. White: "Get in the game!"
No. 4 -- Four new linebackers: Matt Mayberry, William Patterson, Mandela Roberts and Vernon Smith. The newcomers will look to fill in the spots left by Kyle Killion, John Pannozzo and Josh Moore. Despite the average size of the four linebackers -- 6-feet, 216 pounds -- they all have speed, which has been Coach Hep's emphasis during the offseason.
No. 5 -- Five of the eight defensive signees: All have a 40-yard dash time faster than 4.6 seconds. Hoeppner's scheme is to keep his defense fast now and make them bigger later. The players with both attributes will start early, but the ones who need maturing will be ripe for the playing field in a year or two.
No. 6 -- Six recruits from Indiana: Coach Hep's main focus with recruiting is winning the best in-state players first, then searching outside of the Indiana state lines. This year, he nabbed six players from the Crossroads of America, including three players from Indianapolis and others from Elkhart, Cicero and, of course, Bloomington. The first confirmation from the recruit list of 20 came from Hamilton Heights' offensive lineman Cody Faulkner who stands at 6-foot-5, 306 pounds.
No. 7 -- The Seven Blocks of Limestone: When Vince Lombardi played football at Fordham University, he was part of a unit dubbed "The Seven Blocks of Granite." Well, Coach Hep presents his own corps of rock, and what Indiana rock would be more suitable for the task than limestone? Each block, an offensive lineman, is as follows: Faulkner, James Brewer, Alex Perry, Rodger Saffold, Pete Saxon, Jarrod Smith, Mike Stark -- averaging 6-foot-6-inches, 300 pounds each. The quarterback will have more protection than the Secret Service and more time on his hands than Gilligan.
According to the experts, this recruiting class redefines the word "mediocre."
"I'm an expert, too," Coach Hep said at the press conference on Wednesday. "And this recruiting class is exactly what we needed."