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Allen sees new recruiting trend emerging amid pandemic

With campus visits and recruiting as we know it on pause, the IU coach believes more 2021 prospects may choose to stay close to home

Indiana v Purdue Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Indiana’s 2021 recruiting class is already heavy on in-state commitments, and with so much unknown about the upcoming college football season, more of those local pledges could be on the way.

Count IU’s Tom Allen among the college coaches who believe this year’s recruiting cycle will feature more regional flavors. With campuses across the country shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, and summer evaluations up in the air, too, the recruiting process has been upended for both the schools and the players themselves.

And from Allen’s view, prospects may be more inclined to stick with the schools they may already know.

“I see more guys committing closer to home,” Allen said. “It really doesn’t matter what part of the country you’re dealing with. It’s been a very consistent theme. I think all the unknowns about future visits or lack thereof — even just the idea of being close to home when something like this were to happen or rear its ugly head again in the future (has been a factor). Guys have just gone that route. Wouldn’t be across the board to say that, but definitely a trend, for sure, that we’re seeing right now.”

Of the five players currently committed to IU in 2021, four hail from Indiana — defensive ends Cooper Jones (Valparaiso) and Rodney McGraw (Elkhart), offensive lineman Vinny Fiacable (Fort Wayne) and tight end Aaron Steinfeldt (Bloomington). Florida defensive back Larry Smith is IU’s lone commitment from outside state boundaries. The state of Florida, though, has been a priority recruiting area for IU in recent years, and it remains to be seen if existing connections there will help Allen and his staff keep a foothold in the state this cycle.

“I think you get one response out of one guy saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to go with what’s comfortable and familiar and commit,’ or (another might say), ‘I’m just going to hold my decision off until I can go see certain places,’” Allen said. “You kind of just have to communicate with the recruits and their families to see what they choose to do.”

Those recruits who choose to wait could be dealing with a greater deal of uncertainty. It seems unlikely that schools will be able to host prospects for summer camps, both erasing opportunities for recruits to visit campus and taking away evaluation opportunities for coaches. There’s also no guarantee that the college football season will be played as currently scheduled — or even played at all.

Universities, meanwhile, are working on academic contingencies for the possibility of conducting the fall semester virtually, potentially wiping out or significantly reducing the number of visits that can be made.

“There are just a lot of unknowns in a lot of areas and recruiting is no different,” Allen said. “No one knows how June and July are going to play themselves out in recruiting. We have an idea and we have some projections, but no one knows for sure.”