When IU Coach Kevin Wilson first took the head coaching job in Bloomington, he wasn’t just recruiting players to Bloomington. He was begging them to come.
IU wasn’t a destination location for recruits before the 2011 season, as shown by recruiting rankings where IU was a regular in the cellar. Wilson admits that in the beginning, he mostly took what he could and hoped players like Cody Latimer and Shane Wynn would agree to join.
Things have changed since then for Wilson, and he’s brought numbers to prove it.
Three years ago, IU was regularly finishing around 13th in the Big Ten conference recruiting rankings by ?rivals.com. The Hoosiers’ average was 13.36 out of 14 Big Ten teams.
In the last three years, IU has finished between fifth and eighth in the conference. That’s no guarantee the players will be better, but it’s a stronger streamline of talent Wilson said he needs to compete.
This year, IU will once again finish in the middle of the conference pack on the recruiting trail, which to Wilson is a good sign. He announced Wednesday that 22 high school players graduating this spring have signed national letters of intent and will join IU in June.
“We’ve had three years of recruiting some better talent,” Wilson said. “It’s longer bodies. It’s bigger bodies. It’s guys that were wanted by other schools.”
Those aren’t always the types of players IU was getting in the past. Wilson’s staff has picked up the competitive recruiting, beating other teams on the recruiting trail and ?bolstering its depth chart.
All 22 verbal commitments signed Wednesday morning, along with UAB transfers Jordan Howard and Marqui Hawkins, who Wilson pointed out won’t count in any recruiting rankings.
Wilson still has one scholarship remaining but said he’s looking for the right player to fill the final spot.
IU signed 10 offensive players, seven defensive players and five ?athletes still looking to fill positions.
Wilson appeared to focus on the trenches, adding four offensive and three defensive linemen.
The Hoosiers also added three wide receivers, one running back, one tight end and one quarterback on offense to go with two defensive backs and two linebackers on ?defense.
The class is represented by players from 10 different states, including five from Florida, four from Indiana and three from Ohio.
“It’s, on paper, a good class,” Wilson said. “Now that paper needs to transition into some Ws. We look forward to developing what appears to be some better talented guys ... A better starting point.”
The players making up the signing class that calls itself the #CrimsonArmy15 have expressed excitement about the class. Once one player committed, he began recruiting others, and the dominoes began to fall.
Wilson also spoke highly of his current players who all worked as program salesmen, but above all else, he said it was the time spent with the recruits that’s making a ?difference.
IU’s coaching staff has made it a priority to show high school players it cares. Whether that be through shooting messages back and forth or traveling for in-home visits, Wilson has made it a goal to build strong relationships with targets early in the process.
And after being pleased with another signing class, Wilson believes it’s working in recruiting.
Now, the key is getting wins on the field.
“We go in there, and we show the kid love,” Wilson said. “It’s relationship building, and sometimes it takes some time to build relationships ... It’s a very, very ?positive sell.”