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Indiana's football recruiting class a 'hit'

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For more on Indiana athletics, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio.

Hoosiers sign 22 players, including Griffith

Thursday, February 7, 2013 - 5:43 am

BLOOMINGTON -- Kevin Wilson had to smile. He'd just landed the best football recruiting class of his Indiana coaching tenure, and if it won't rival Ohio State's No. 2-in-the-nation group, so what.

One of the best players in the Hoosiers' Class of 2013 is Indianapolis Ben Davis safety Antonio Allen, who is good enough to have originally committed to Mississippi, savvy enough to recognize where his best fit was.

“He was the first one to sign,” Wilson said about the first faxed national letter of intent to reach his office Wednesday morning. “Boom! I like that.”

There's a lot to like in the 5-10, 205-pound Allen, who is rated as the state's No. 5 prospect and No. 19 safety nationally. He was the first Hoosier recruit to ever play in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which is reserved for the nation's top high school players. He won the bowl's pushup contest by doing 76 in one minute. As a senior he totaled 74 tackles, two for loss, plus forced three fumbles and intercepted two passes.

Oh. One other thing. Allen hits so hard he broke six face masks while tackling.

“He's pretty good,” Wilson said. “He likes to hit.”

Hard hitting is a common attribute in this 22-player class ranked No. 42 nationally, and No. 6 in the Big Ten, by Rivals.com, a national Internet recruiting service. In fact, it's the Hoosiers highest rankings since Rivals.com began storing them in 2002.

Thirteen players were on defense, which wasn't a surprise given IU ranked as the Big Ten's worst last year in most defensive categories.

Four of those defensive players were four-star prospects: defensive end David Kenney, defensive tackle Darius Latham, defensive back Rashard Fant and Allen. Three are from Indianapolis -- Kenney is from Pike and Latham is from North Central along with Allen -- which offers Wilson risk-reward potential.

“I told them, I don't want you to sign, I need you to do well. You have to do well in school. You need to become a good player. It's nice that you're coming, but you need to be good. We're not promising a spot.

“It's great that they came, but the real deal is how they produce.”

The 6-5, 291-pound Latham has tremendous potential. He's quick and athletic and thrives in basketball. He's the leading scorer and rebounder for North Central, annually one of the state's best programs. He's ranked as the nation's No. 14 defensive end.

One late addition to the class was 6-2, 315-pound Chris Cormier from Arizona Western Community College. As a Texas high school player he was good enough to be recruited by Texas A&M, LSU and Miami.

Defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler called him a “freak show from the swap.” His nickname is “first rounder” because, Ekeler added, he has the potential to become one in the NFL.

IU added three other players Wednesday besides Cormier -- defensive tackle Maurice Swain from Georgia, and running backs Laray Smith from New York and Daryl Chestnut of Florida.

IU went south to get more speed and athleticism. Nine players are from Georgia and Florida.

Ironically, though, its two fastest recruits aren't from the South. Laray Smith, who is from Brooklyn, has the nation's fastest 300-meter time and the second-fastest times in the 200 and 400.

Then there's receiver Anthony Young from St. Edward High School in Ohio. He's won 10 state track championships and was the Ohio 200-meter champ last season

That speed is impressive, Wilson said, but a lot of teams have fast cornerbacks and running backs.

“Good teams have good overall team speed,” he said. “The speed of our big guys is better than guys we've recruited before. There's just good, solid, better team speed, which we're going to need across the board.”

Homestead receiver Isaac Griffith was the first class member to commit last June, but he wasn't the first Griffith to meet Wilson. Griffith's father, Shannon, now the Manchester University head coach, had recruited against Wilson back in the 1990s.

“I was at a high school in Florida recruiting and the coaches were talking about (the elder Griffith),” Wilson said. “He was there one year as an assistant coach. I said, 'His kid is coming our way.'”

The younger Griffith set Homestead career records for catches (119), yards (2,453) and touchdowns (37). He also set school single-game records for most touchdowns (six), most points (36) and most TD catches (five).

“He's got all the things you want as far as a coach's kid – toughness, intelligence, competitiveness, fight,” Wilson said. “You name it.

“He's a little better athlete than most people give him credit for. We waited to see him in camp. We watched him run routes.

“We'll play multiple receivers. He'll be one of those guys who has a shot early. He'll have a chance to be in the mix if he shows up like he was at camp, if he competes and stays healthy.”

This is Wilson's third Hoosier recruiting class, but the first, he said, that's full-cycle, meaning he and his staff started recruiting these players when they were young.

"I think we've got some solid foundation that we've built that I think we're standing on and I think we're building and moving forward,” he said.

The best, he added, is still to come.

“We're already on the horn with new guys. We're moving in a good way. We'll keep going in a good way. This program deserves to be consistently good.”