- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Indiana signed a class of 26 players on Wednesday, including six who enrolled early. I caught up with head coach Kevin Wilson to talk about the Hoosiers' class in this Q&A:
What were your priorities going into this class?
Kevin Wilson: We've got a lot of guys back. On paper, I think we’re going to be one of the more veteran teams in the country with starters back. But we were able -- with the seniors we had and the way we used some walk-on scholarships -- to sign a large number. Going back to last year, we really took a lot on defense because the offense was young and we really lost no one. This year, we signed four offensive linemen, with three of them coming in midyear. And even though we got the O-line back [from 2013], it’s a pretty good deal because we didn’t sign an O-lineman last year. We didn’t take a quarterback last year, and so Alexander Diamont came in here midyear. Even though we know we need help on defense, I think in the future, them being here will really help with our offensive continuity.
Receiver is where we take a hit this year with Kofi Hughes, Duwyce Wilson and Cody Latimer [all leaving]. I think we’ll have enough depth there with a [6-foot-4] guy like Simmie Cobbs. Dominique Booth is a big guy, and a little slot guy like J-Shun Harris, I think, is a perfect fit for us. Coray Keel, who's 6-2 and out of Georgia, to me, is underrated. He's pretty good. Tevin Coleman is a good runner, but we lost Stephen Houston and now we throw Tommy Mister in there and Devine Redding, I think those are quality players.
Now, defensively, we took a lot last year, and I think we backed it up with another decent crowd. At linebacker, I think we really helped ourselves there with Tegray Scales, Greg Gooch, Robert McCray -- two of those guys are 250-pounders. Guys like Chris Covington and Zeke Walker are 6-3, 205-pound, long kids who can be safeties or outside linebackers. And I was very impressed with what we got here in the end with Tony Fields, Will Dawkins and Kiante Walton. They’re 200-pound safeties and corners. So again, we addressed our offensive needs of the future, and I think, hopefully, continued to upgrade the depth, competition, length and athleticism of our defense.
You added a lot of skill players. Does the success of your offense help your recruiting efforts?
KW: It's not just what we've done here. At Northwestern, we were the total offense leader. Just look at how we've always done it with our quarterback play and style of offense. We've got four coaches on offense because I’m still very much involved in the game-planning. You know we lost a coordinator [Seth Littrell], but you’re kind of still talking to the guy who runs it. … Tevin got hurt and didn’t play the last couple of games. And I’m still kicking myself in the butt that we don’t have a 1,000-yard back yet, because we've always had those guys, too.
So, I just think our style of offense, kids want to play it. We've kind of proved it year after year, and not just here, that we have a chance to play good offense.
It's kind of funny. Years ago, when offenses were taking off, a lot of teams were talking about pro-style offense, pro-style offense. Now look at the pro game -- it’s now the college game. This style of offense is the way college football is going, and fortunately we’re one of the teams that has a good feel for what we’re doing.
You changed defensive coordinators in January, hiring Brian Knorr a few weeks before signing day. With that change, plus the talk of moving to more of a 3-4, how did that affect recruiting on the defensive side?
KW: I've always said you need to be multiple if you can. To me, the worst recruiter in the world is someone who’s on a schedule, and the worst coach is someone who has a playbook. You’ve got to be able to adjust to your kids. So I think you have to be multiple, and how much of it is four-man, three-man principles, the coverage is not going to change significantly. So I don’t think we're going to come in and significantly be different schematically. We’ll probably make some adjustments and see how it goes and how it takes off. The real deal is just trying to change our mindset, change our culture and continue to grow there.
We were lucky that when we did make the change, Coach Knorr came in when we had a weekend with 15 guys on campus, and 14 of them were defensive recruits. We didn’t have a lot of defensive recruits committed early, and it was a fight and struggle until the end. But from the time he was on board until that Tuesday, he saw every kid we were after and wanted, and then we were able to get on some guys late. So in a two-week period both, he and Larry McDaniel, our new D-line coach along with [cornerbacks coach] Brandon Shelby ran the defensive recruiting. They did a heck of a job. They got on some great kids late. Even though we made some changes, I don’t think it had a negative impact on our defensive recruiting. Hopefully, in some ways it solidified some things and helped us a little bit.
You haven't been hesitant in playing true freshmen right away. But with so many starters back, do you see this class as one that's adding depth and competition, or will there be many who play immediately again?
KW: I think we’ve got to keep increasing our depth and competition, especially defensively. I have not one time promised a recruit that he's going to start here. He's got to earn it. I’m excited to see this team grow in the offseason, and we’ll really be excited with so many guys coming back. And then you complement that with, on paper, one of best classes this school has had. I'm hopeful that we'll have depth, yes, to overcome an injury, but also to increase the competition to build a winning program. I wouldn't be surprised if you see some kids playing. Will it be a small number or a large one? I don’t have a number in mind, but I can see a lot of these guys out there on the field as we crank it up this fall.
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