The recruiting calendar has already flipped to the class of 2015; however, Kevin Wilson and his staff have not exactly lit the world on fire when it comes to recruiting. It's still early though, and with about three months until the start of the season (sorry I know that's outrageously depressing, and I'll try not to bring that up again...) I figured we could take a look back at last year's haul.
The 2013 recruiting class was considered by most, myself included, an overwhelming success for the program. It was arguably the most talented group ever brought to Bloomington in a single year to play pigskin. Even more fruitful was that the defense side of the football received a much-needed injection of talent led by 4-star enrollees such as Darius Latham, Antonio Allen and David Kenney.
Unfortunately, the staff was unable to parlay that recruiting success into victories on the field. This lead to another holiday season spent at home with family, as opposed to being in a sunny local while practicing an extra 15 times, which they desperately could have used. Worst of all, the recruiting momentum slowed to a snails pace. While the class did finish strong, it was certainly not the next step that the fans and staff were hoping for. In addition to bringing you fresh recruiting news over the next few weeks I will be breaking down the Hoosiers' 2014 class unit by unit.
Last week we kicked things off with the backfield, including the quarterback position. This week we shift the focus to outside the hashes as we take a look at the receivers that coach Kevin Wilson and his staff brought to Bloomington. Like we did with Zander Diamont in our backfield breakdown, we will be lumping prep school tight end Jordan Fuchs in with the pass catchers in this breakdown, as that is how he will be primarily used during his college career.
Indiana was able to collect a nice mix of blue chip talent and sleepers with potential. When looking at this class as a whole, the receivers are arguably the strongest and deepest group of the newly minted 2014 Hoosiers.
Dominique Booth | Pike HS (Indianapolis, IN)
4-Stars | 38th Ranked Wide Receiver | 6'1" 205
The Hoosiers are going through a huge transition this season with their pass catchers. Gone are the seasoned group of Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes and Ted Bolser. While that could seem like a very scary outlook, it also gives a reason for talented local youngsters like Dominique Booth to believe that opportunity is available for him to step in immediately and contribute as a freshman.
Dominique Booth was originally committed to Tennessee, however decided to spurn the SEC for the "hometown Hoosiers". He was the fourth ranked player overall in the state of Indiana and is the most highly regarded commit of the Hoosiers' 2014 class.
On the field Booth has the size of the prototypical slot receiver. He possesses a very good frame and strength for the position, however his playing speed needs to be increased for him to truly be effective at the next level. On the other hand, he can throttle down well and use his body to gain leverage inside and plays off opposing defenders well. He has a very good feel for the swing screen and shorter routes, which are prevalent in the Hoosiers passing game. While typically in the recruiting game size and speed rule the day, one of Booth's greatest assets is his intelligence. He has a knack for finding soft spots under zone coverage, and seems to have a high football IQ.
One of the keys to being a good slot receiver is toughness, and Booth doesn't lack that whatsoever. He is willing to come inside and is not scared of a little traffic, and is strong after the catch. He has good balance and attacks defenders. He has natural ball skills and is able to use his terrific body control going after balls outside of his frame.
Again the biggest question is Booth's playing speed. He plays strong, and shows quick feet, however he lacks burst and a second gear. He very well may struggle at the beginning of his college career trying to create separation, or running away from defenders after the catch. If he can improve his speed, it will boost his development, but how soon can that happen for him?
I think due to the Hoosiers current state of flux at the wide receiver position, the door for Booth to get into the rotation immediately is very possible. Helping his case was the ability for him to enroll early and play through spring camp, getting a big head start in his college career. I don't see him walking in and becoming a playmaker from day one, however, I do see a player that will develop each and every week and by the end of his freshman year and into his sophomore year could begin to develop into a true weapon for the Hoosiers.
Simmie Cobbs | River Forest (Oak Park, IL)
3-Stars | 181st Ranked Wide Receiver | 6'4" 205
Cobbs is an interesting prospect, in that he has almost tight end size, but has a wide receiver skill set. He was originally committed to play for Purdue, but then he wised up and set his GPS to Bloomington. He is a big, thickly built prospect with good height and very long arms. He is a very physical player who lines up contact. For his size, again very tight end-ish, he has above average speed.
Cobbs does lack explosiveness and separation skills. He relies on his large frame and pure strength to overpower defenders, which might not go over as well on the next level. As a receiver, he does come off the line with a good surge and gets into routes quickly and can shield defenders. His route tree must grow exponentially for him to be a factor in the collegiate game.
What he lacks in speed he makes up for with his body. Cobbs possesses big hands and a massive wingspan. He is very good at high pointing the ball and shows very good body control and focus when up in the air.
I believe that Cobbs is essentially a run and catch guy who has the potential to grow as a red zone threat. He is great in a crowd and is a wonderful jump ball target for a quarterback to have as a seam player. If left alone in one-on-one coverage he can become a lot of work for the opposing defensive player, as he is very rangy, and can break initial tackle attempts.
The fact of the matter is that Cobb is a tweener and a bit of a project. He is a super sized wide receiver who could stay there, but wouldn't be surprised to see if in the long run he finds his place at Indiana after putting on some bulk and becoming a tight end type.
Coray Keel | South Gwinnett (Snellville, GA)
3-Stars | 213th Ranked Wide Receiver | 6'3" 190
Keel was an under-the-radar type of talent coming out of SEC country. He was ranked as the 137th best player in the Peach State according to the 247 Composite. Interestingly enough, Big Ten schools were a big fan of Keel's. The Hoosiers had to beat out three other conference teams for the rights to the young pass catcher's services. Newly minted offensive coordinator Kevin Johns was his primary recruiter, and loves what he could bring to the table long term for the Hoosiers.
Keel has good size and plays with more strength than his slender frame would suggest. While he lacks top-level speed, he is fast enough that combined with his disciplined routs he has very good separation skills. Even better is that he is explosive coming off the line, especially with his height. He also has the ability to change direction very well with the use of his hips.
As a pass catcher, Keel uses his hands well to coral the football, and has the ability to change speed to adjust to less than perfect throws. He is able to use his straight-line speed to get deep and win downfield battles while high pointing the ball.
Most certainly Keel is part of the future at wide receiver for the Hoosiers, but that will not be his freshman season. I believe Keel could be a valuable contributor on special teams with a very nice blend of size and speed. He is an aggressive and physical blocker, which should translate well into that portion of the game. I believe the coaching staff loves his potential, and will work hard on developing him over the next few years.
J-Shun Harris | Fishers (Fishers, IN)
2-Stars | 343rd Ranked Wide Receiver | 5'8" 165
J-Shun Harris is the epitome of a sleeper. He is a two-star product who stands just 5'8", as long as he is in the right pair of cleats. Harris was looking for an opportunity and wanted to be a Hoosier. That is why when Kevin Johns extended him an offer to play Big Ten football at Indiana he decommitted from Ball State and never looked back.
While he may only gain another inch or so in height, his weight should certainly increase as his body is still maturing. Even at his current size, Harris plays with adequate strength and has the aggressiveness to not allow him to be thrown around.
His raw speed and athleticism is what drew Coach Johns' attention. As a junior Harris finished fifth in the state of Indiana in the 100-meters posting a time of 10.96 seconds. This translates onto the field and allows him the ability to beat opposing defensive backs. He has an explosive first step and has the knack of making defenders miss.
Harris is a threat to score from anywhere on the field, both as a wide receiver and in the return game. Harris is another player who will likely slide into the slot, but will not get the type of opportunity Booth will early in his career. Harris' speed should allow him the opportunity to compete as a return man during fall camp.
Jordan Fuchs | Milford Academy (New Berlin, NY)
3-Stars | 2nd Ranked Prep School Tight End | 6'6" 235
Talk about an interesting recruiting timeline! First and foremost Jordan Fuchs only played two years of high school football, while drawing recruiting interest from both Division I basketball and football programs. Coming out of high school Fuchs was committed to Connecticut as part of the 2013 recruiting class. He ended up attending Milford Academy after his senior year of high school. When head coach Paul Pasqualoni was let go by UConn, Fuchs decided to take a look at some of his other options. Two weeks later in November Fuchs had committed to Rutgers. However, a month after that he took an official visit to Indiana and committed to the Hoosiers.
Now that we have broken down how he got to Indiana, let's talk about what Fuchs brings with him. He has excellent height, but still has a lean frame that needs to be filled out further to improve the strength in which he plays with. His speed is nothing to write home about, however at his height it is adequate.
His aforementioned basketball background affords him the ability to box out to go along with a good vertical and height, which will allow him to win jump balls and be a quality red-zone weapon. He is basically the Hoosiers' answer to the NFL's infatuation with basketball players making the jump to tight end. He is good with balls around his shoulders and up, but lower ones get in on his body quickly. As a blocker he doesn't display much movement at the point of attack, and needs to be able to stay with them longer.
While many would think that a player with an extra prep year should be more polished, remember that even with that extra year, he has played less football than most did in high school alone. He is still raw and needs to develop mightily as a route runner. Adding to that is the fact that Fuchs played as a huge wide receiver on the high school level, and then got in-line experience on the prep level.
Fuchs is clearly a developmental prospect when projecting his impact on the Hoosier program. He is far from an immediate contributor, as he needs to physically develop his body while doing the same with his skills as a tight end. He has flashes of upside, and down the road, in two or three years could be ready to contribute as a receiving target.