Last year, Kevin Wilson showed that he wasn't afraid to play freshmen. Dismayed over the lack of talent available to him at the start of his tenure, he made an effort to phase out Bill Lynch's players with some of his own. While the on-field production may not have helped any recruiting pitch he made, the willingness to play younger members of the team certainly helped. All in all, hope for a brighter future helped Wilson reel in the 9th ranked class in the Big Ten according to Scout, and 11th to Rivals.
There may not be any superstars in the class, but Wilson and his staff did a good job of addressing some of the more pressing needs. To address the razor-thin depth of the QB position, the staff landed JUCO QB Cameron Coffman (brother of Chase) to immediately push incumbent Tre Roberson for time this spring, while also potentially landing the future of the position in Nate Sudfeld. Still, after losing both Gunner (to Notre Dame) and Dusty (transfer) Kiel, as well as fellow backup QB Ed Wright-Baker (transfer), the staff will likely need to address the position again in the 2013 cycle.
Sudfeld, a QB from Modesto, California, may just be the cream of the crop. A bit of a late bloomer, Sudfeld had been committed to Arizona since the summer of 2011. After Stoops and staff were fired, he opened up his commitment. At that point, while still being pursued by Rich Rod and the new Arizona staff, Sudfeld landed offers from Indiana and UCLA, to go along with interest from Iowa, Arkansas, and USC. He officially visited UCLA before journeying to the Hoosier state and offering up his commitment, two weeks later.
The Hoosiers also needed major help in the front seven of the defense that allowed 244 yards per game last year. They brought in a pair of in-state defensive ends in 3*s Shawn Heffern and Adam Kranda, as well as 2 out of staters in JUCO transfer Justin Rayside and CA OLB/DE Nick Mangieri. Although I don't think his instincts cut Mangieri out to be a linebacker, his athleticism could make him someone to watch with his hand in the dirt. The staff also added some beef in the middle in the form of TX DT Raphael Green and OH DT Alex Todd. There's not much film out there on Todd, but I think Green could turn into something special if he responds well to coaching and kicks his intensity up a notch at IU, as well.
At the linebacker position, the Hoosiers landed what was perhaps their best defensive recruit in MLB Jordan Wallace, as well as 2 JUCO transfer, in Jacarri Alexander and David Cooper, that stand to be able to contribute early on in their careers. At 6'2, 240, Alexander is someone to watch out for on the defense this year, as he's already enrolled and carved out a starting role in the spring, along with Cooper. At DB, Indiana added three JUCO DBs, one of whom (Antonio Marshall) Scout didn't even bother listing in their database, as well as OH DB Dawson Fletcher. Fletcher flashes decent speed and isn't afraid to come up and hit; he has a fairly high ceiling down the road. JUCO S Ryan Thomson has already climbed his way to the top of the depth chart in Spring, as well.
Last year saw the opportunity for several true freshmen playmakers contribute on the offense, such as Glenville product Shane Wynn, who held offers from Ohio State and Penn State, among others. This year, the Hoosiers add two kids whom I believe could stand to continue that trend, in IL RB Tevin Coleman and IN WR Kevin Davis. Coleman is a bit stiff in the hips and struggles to quickly change direction, but his speed parallels that of some of the Big Ten's quickest backs. Davis, a teammate of LB Jordan Wallace, brings an element of speed to a receiving corps that lacked it last year. Local WR Caleb Cornett brings good length and athleticism, and FL WR Ricky Jones was a bit of an under-the-radar guy to the recruiting services, despite his offers from Iowa State, Stanford, and Wake Forest, as well as Indiana.
Recently Indiana coaching staffs have done a decent job of identifying and coaching up under-recruited guys along the offensive line, and turning them into NFL-caliber players, the biggest of the group being 2010 2nd round pick Rodger Saffold (St. Louis Rams). The staff will hope to bring along some of that magic again this year, as the class features Wes Rogers (more on him in a moment), and a myriad of 2 star/3 star borderline guys. Guards Jacob Bailey and Dan Feeney are two guys with only 1 Big Ten offer (not including Indiana) between them, as the hometown Illini offered Feeney. Both will have to add some weight and make the transition from OT to the interior line, so the verdict is still out. TE Jason Spriggs is a big kid that, like AJ Williams, could transition to the tackle position down the road. The Hoosiers also brought in TX OT Demetric Camiel, who chose Indiana over Houston, Arizona State, Kansas, and Mississippi State (among others), and OH TE Tanner Kearns, a kid who is almost certain to stay at the end position. Wes Rogers, a center from Indianapolis, generally is a player that challenges Sudfield and Wallace for the top spot in the class. While his offer list might not blow you away, he's regarded across the services as one of the better center prospects in the nation.
In conclusion, this is, to put it frankly, the type of class you would expect from Indiana in an off-season. They grabbed a couple guys with pretty good upside, but none are sure bets. A good majority of these players look to have ceilings that are well below NFL-caliber, or All-Big Ten caliber, for that matter, quality. Landing a few of these players after a one win season shows well on Wilson's ability as a recruiter, but he'll definitely need a better on-field product this fall if he hopes to push Indiana to the above-average Big Ten team that it was once capable of being.
I'll leave you with a few stats...
COMMITMENTS WITH A MICHIGAN OFFER--> 0
SCOUT.COM BIG TEN CLASS RANKING--> 9th
RIVALS.COM BIG TEN CLASS RANKING--> 11th
NUMBER OF COMMITMENTS ACHIEVING FOURTH STAR ON AT LEAST ONE SITE--> 1
NUMBER OF COMMITMENTS ACHIEVING FIFTH STAR ON AT LEAST ONE SITE--> 0
...and superlatives to sum up Indiana's recruiting efforts
MOST UNDERRATED RECRUIT--> RB Tevin Coleman. Nate Sudfeld was actually a close second in this one, despite his four star on ESPN. I, however, am going to go with Coleman. As I said above, he's a little stiff, but he has great speed and pretty good acceleration. I think he could end up being one of the better backs in the Big Ten by the time he leaves campus.
BEST OFFENSIVE RECRUIT--> QB Nate Sudfeld. Sudfeld has a unique opportunity to step into the lineup early, and potentially play through his four years on campus, after following Arizona OC Seth Littrell to Bloomington. One can't underestimate the power of being your coordinator's guy, when it comes time to set the starting lineup.
BEST DEFENSIVE RECRUIT--> LB Jordan Wallace. Wallace, too, will be relied upon early and often. An NFL future isn't unreasonable to expect.
BEST NAME--> Pick it up, Wilson. This is a weak class. I'm going to have to go with Dan Feeney.
THE FINAL VERDICT-UNDER OR OVERRATED CLASS? I'm going to be 'that guy' and go with the easy answer: if fits. I think you could make a feasible argument for this being the worst class in the Big Ten, but some of the players I outlined might steer you away from a hasty conclusion.