It's no longer a coincidence.
Indiana's approach to recruiting can now be labeled a strategy, and it appears to be paying off.
Of the 25 players Indiana signed in February, 21 made verbal commitments before the 2009 season kicked off. Head coach Bill Lynch and his staff received six commitments last June and a whopping 11 commits last July. Tight end Paul Phillips was the only Hoosiers recruit to say yes after the calendar flipped to 2010. And Indiana's total doesn't even include players like Jibreel Black, a decorated defensive end who committed to IU in June before re-opening his recruitment and eventually landing at Michigan.
The Hoosiers once again have started extremely fast for 2011 recruiting, landing their 17th verbal commitment Tuesday from offensive lineman Jalen Schlachter, who had offers from Wisconsin and Missouri, among others. Indiana has surged past Ohio State (15 verbals) for the most in the conference. The Hoosiers have more commits than Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Penn State combined. They have 16 more verbals than the Nittany Lions (1).
Does a bunch of early verbals equate to a great recruiting class? No. But Indiana seems to be doing a job of not only targeting solid prospects, but ones who will say yes early in the process. The Hoosiers also have covered themselves if a few commits decide to sign elsewhere.
Colleague Bill Kurelic writes:
Other than Schlachter, Lynch's other big commitments include one of the top athletes in the state of Michigan in defensive back Raymon Taylor (Highland Park, Mich./Highland Park) who picked Indiana over Wisconsin and Illinois, linebacker Max Pirman (Orrville, Ohio/Orrville) who turned down offers from Nebraska and Kansas, as well as in-state prospects quarterback Tre Roberson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central), defensive back Ken Mullen (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers), tight end Jake Reed (Columbus, Ind./North) and defensive back Nick Stoner (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove).
Lynch and the Indiana staff have a very solid base of commitments. They can now hone in on prospects to fill their remaining open spots and have plenty of time remaining to do so.
The (Bloomington) Herald-Times' Chris Korman further explains Indiana's approach (subscription required):
Five years into the post-Gerry DiNardo era -- and those years, of course, were not stable due to the illness and death of Terry Hoeppner -- this staff has established strong roots in the area around Detroit. It has mined Ohio heavily, and especially the smaller schools; several of IU’s coaches played college ball in the state and most of them coached there. That they have an intimate knowledge of parts of the state that aren't tread upon regularly by other major programs has become quite apparent.
The final verdict on Indiana's recruiting class won't be known until February. But you have to like the aggressive approach and early scouting from a program that doesn't have the luxury to sit back and wait for prospects to come knocking on its door.