Indiana coach Kevin Wilson attacked football recruiting like he does opposing defenses -- with vigor and tenacity.
Did it pay off with national acclaim? Not quite, but that wasn't the purpose.
Upgrading the talent to ensure last year's 1-11 debacle wasn't repeated was.
“It always starts with needs,” Wilson said. “You try to address them, and I don't know that we got them all answered, but we went after it in a good way. Selfishly, maybe another corner, maybe another defensive tackle, maybe another linebacker, but you are not going to get them all. I thought our coaches competed. It was a tough fight. I thought our coaches fought for kids.”
The Hoosiers signed 25 players on Wednesday, the first day of the week-long national signing period, and 13 were on defense -- six defensive linemen, four defensive backs and three linebackers -- to reflect a key priority given last year's defense ranked among the Big Ten's worst. Six of them were junior college players as Wilson looked to quickly upgrade the unit's maturity and strength.
“We got more junior college players than normal,” he said, “but we're excited about those guys.”
The junior college players were defensive end Justin Rayside, linebackers David Cooper and Jacarri Alexander, and defensive backs Antonio Marshall, Ryan Thompson and Tregg Waters.
The 6-1, 238-pound Alexander, who also got offers from Kansas State and Pittsburgh, might be the best of the junior college players. He totaled 72 tackles, five sacks, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble for Iowa Central Community College.
IU landed a pair of quarterbacks in Cameron Coffman from Arizona Western and Nathan Sudfeld from Modesto, Calif. Cameron threw for 2,244 yards, 21 touchdowns and six interceptions for the junior college national runner-up team.
Sudfeld, who originally committed to Arizona, threw for 2,390 yards and 29 touchdowns against nine interceptions.
Sudfeld took a mission trip to Uganda as a 14-year-old. Other brothers Matthew and Zach played college football. Matthew was a receiver at Brown. Zach was a tight end at Nevada.
Coffman's father, Paul, was a standout tight end at Kansas State who later played for the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs.
Offensive line also was a priority. The Hoosiers signed five linemen. The highest rated are Indianapolis Lawrence Central's Wes Rogers (Rivals.com ranks him as the nation's eighth-best center and eighth-best overall play in the state) and Illinois guard Dan Feeney (Rivals.com has him as the nation's 49th-best guard prospect). A late addition was Dimitric Camiel, a 6-6, 290-pounder tackle from Houston, Texas, who came on strong as a senior.
While most recruiting experts rank this class, which includes eight players from the state of Indiana, near the bottom of the Big Ten, Wilson said he likes the potential.
“We've got some length, some range and some great bodies to work with,” Wilson said, “but as always, it is what we can do with these guys once they get here. I think the talent we recruited physically is pretty good.
“There are a lot of things about these kids that I think collectively make it a pretty decent class.”
Wilson said he shot down the negative recruiting approach
“We didn't get into negative things,” he said. “We didn't talk about other programs. We talked about what we were trying to build.
“We were very honest that we didn't think our season was close to anything we need and want. That we've got a lot of work to do. We didn't make any false promises about a player coming here to start.”
As far as the current squad, the Hoosiers are still involved in off-season conditioning. Spring practice starts March 3. There will be three practices before spring break.
“The kids are working hard,” Wilson said. “They look very good in the weight room. There is a great buzz. We've got a lot of work to do, but I love what I'm seeing from our young men.”