In Kevin Wilson’s estimation, this year’s recruiting class is, in effect, his first recruiting class at Indiana.
When he replaced Bill Lynch in December 2010, he had to scramble to put together a coaching staff and keep the recruits that had already committed to the Hoosiers. Last year it was about recruiting the then-juniors who make up this year’s signing class.
“I really believe, this is our first recruiting cycle … where we really got to know coaches, sell the product,” Wilson said Wednesday.
“Our players were a big part of recruiting, because they’re the guys that walk the walk and sell the program.”
Indiana added 22 players Wednesday, with 13 being defensive players — a priority after the Hoosiers again were the worst defense statistically in the Big Ten last season.
Wilson agreed that the defensive line was a priority, after Indiana’s starting defensive tackles last season, Larry Black Jr. and Adam Replogle, graduated.
Leading the charge to fill those holes immediately is Indianapolis North Central’s Darius Latham, a 6-5, 291-pounder who’s ranked 14th nationally at defensive tackle by Rivals.com.
“I think the speed of the big guys is better than what we’ve recruited before,” Wilson said.
Speed is a key element among the members of the recruiting class, which includes four athletes who can play on either side of the ball.
That includes Brownsburg’s Chase Dutra, a safety, wide receiver and returner in high school; Clyde Newton, a linebacker/running back from Punta Gorda, Fla., who rushed for 1,938 yards as a senior; and Laray Smith, a running back from Staten Island, N.Y., who is the current record-holder for the fastest indoor 300-meter time in the nation.
Plenty of players with running back experience, but only one is listed at that position for the Hoosiers: Daryl Chestnut, a 1,208-yard rusher last season at Christopher Columbus High School in Miami.
The speedsters also include receiver Anthony Young, a 10-time state champion in track in Ohio.
“Everybody’s got a fast guy. But the best teams have overall good team speed,” Wilson said.
In addition to Dutra and Latham, the Hoosiers added three other in-state players in Ben Davis defensive back Antonio Allen, Pike defensive end David Kenney and Fort Wayne Homestead receiver Isaac Griffith. All but Griffith were ranked among the state’s top 10 players.
Wilson hasn’t been afraid to play young players immediately. The Hoosiers used 16 true freshmen in 2011 and 12 last season.
But the newcomers, as well as the returning players, have to earn their spot.
“A lot of these guys get a chance [to play immediately], but if they sit around and get out of shape [before August] …” Wilson said.