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COLUMN: Tom Allen embraces expectations of latest IU football recruiting class



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IU Head Coach Tom Allen speaks during football media availability Aug. 17, 2018 in Memorial Stadium. Allen recapped IU's 38-10 victory against Ball State University. Bobby Goddin Buy Photos

The numbers speak for themselves, though IU head coach Tom Allen also had some words to add.

IU’s 2018-19 football recruiting class is in many ways the best one in program history.

According to recruiting services Rivals, ESPN and 247Sports, IU’s class is ranked either 37th or 38th in the country. This places Allen’s program ahead of teams like Iowa, Minnesota and Northwestern that comprise the middle tier of the Big Ten Conference’s football hierarchy. 

“I think that does add some extra expectation,” Allen said when discussing the recruiting class with the media Wednesday. “But that’s what you want. So when you start playing a better level of football, then people expect you to play higher the next year and then the next year, and then you start attracting really good players and expect those players to perform.”

But of course, Allen’s two years at IU have not produced results on par with those programs. The 2017 and 2018 seasons ended with IU losing a winner-take-all Old Oaken Bucket game with Purdue, meaning the Hoosiers finished with 5-7 records while the Boilermakers finished at 6-6 in consecutive seasons to make a bowl game.

During that same time span, Iowa went 17-9 with a pair of bowl victories and Minnesota followed a 5-7 season with a 7-6 record in 2018 that included a bowl win. Northwestern, meanwhile, went 19-8 with an appearance in the 2018 Big Ten Football Championship Game.

While all three of those schools play in the Big Ten West Division, they still symbolize what Allen wants to achieve at IU in terms of postseason execution. That goal is made infinitely harder by IU’s place in the Big Ten East Division alongside programs like Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, which seemingly guarantee IU at least three conference losses each year. 

But recruiting classes like the one IU finalized Wednesday have the chance to slowly change that perception.

Let’s be clear, IU is not yet recruiting at the level of a Michigan or Ohio State, and it likely never will. But the 21 signees that are part of IU’s latest recruiting class, along with transfer quarterback Jack Tuttle from the University of Utah, represent a growing pool of talent from which Allen must generate wins.

Based on recruiting analysis from Rivals, ESPN and 247Sports, the Hoosiers are set to bring in five four-star prospects. This group is headlined by in-state players like running back Sampson James from Avon High School in Avon, Indiana and defensive lineman Beau Robbins from Carmel High School in Carmel, Indiana.

It’s a class that excites both Allen and IU fans, not only because of its potential, but also because of who the Hoosiers won recruiting battles against. James was a former Ohio State commit, while others like offensive lineman Matthew Bedford and defensive back Josh Sanguinetti had a pair of offers from Southeastern Conference schools before settling on IU.

It’s clear the quality of recruits brought to Bloomington by Allen during his short time as coach has been an improvement for the program. It also remains true that Allen has underachieved during his two full seasons as coach, failing to guide IU to the postseason when he had enough talent to do so and also slowing down on-field momentum for a program that was trending in an upward direction.

“Everybody talks about top 25,” Allen said. “I like to talk about top-25 offense, top-25 defense, top-25 football team. So next goal is to be a top-25 recruiting class.”

The Hoosiers have assembled enough talent to begin thinking about meeting those lofty expectations, and Allen deserves credit for that. 

But one line from Allen’s press conference should remain in the minds of IU fans: “Once they come here, their stars are all gone, and whatever they did in high school really doesn’t mean anything.”

IU has brought in the players. 

Now it’s time for coaching to take over and produce results that properly reflect the football talent in Bloomington.

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