Pardon me while I drink from the glass of Koolaid that is annually passed out to media when they check out the opening day of Indiana football practice. Yes, by now most of you know that I'm a Hoosier fan and that tends to mean that the Fall is a lost season of sorts while discussing the upcoming basketball season.
I'm hoping that this year might be a re-birth of sorts as the program finally seems to be trying to be taken seriously.
The most noticeable change is obviously the completion of the new North Endzone project which enclosed Memorial Stadium. While it might not seem like much, recruits are already commenting on the new digs that players will enjoy this season. New weightrooms, locker rooms, meeting rooms and film rooms as well as offices for the coaches and academic work areas as well. This won't be just for football players as all athletes will have access to the facility, which immediately gives Indiana University a boost in recruiting.
Already the Hoosiers have 20 verbal commitments for the class of 2010 football team and several of them were desired by other Big Ten teams. Astounding I know, but Indiana has been chosen by a number of football players over Wisconsin, Michigan State, Louisville and a number of other 'name' programs. The Hoosiers will also play three night games this season on national television on the Big Ten Network, which will also be a boon to recruiting. Coach Bill Lynch should be able to get more recruits down to see a game at 7 p.m. then for a 1 p.m. kickoff since many high school players have film sessions on Saturday mornings.
If you're a believer in recruiting websites, Rivals currently has the Hoosiers with five, 3-star players, out of a five star rating system, who have given IU a commitment for next season. Though it might not seem like much, the Hoosiers are usually resigned to trying to glean a few diamonds in the rough that might develop by their senior years. The fact that a number of higher regarded recruits are headed to Bloomington might be reason to have a little hope.
This year's hope lies squarely on the shoulders of quarterback Ben Chappel, who officially has the reigns now after Kellen Lewis was dismissed over the summer. There's some excitement in watching the running back group as veterans Bryan Payton and Demetrius McCray return, but redshirt freshman, Darius Willis, will garner plenty of attention. The six-foot, 220 lb. running back has size and can make people miss, which is something IU hasn't had in some time. Three capable backs will allow each to stay fresh and maybe, just maybe, IU can run the ball and keep pressure off Chappel.
The Hoosiers also have a little hype on the defensive side of the ball as Greg Middleton and Jammie Kirlew are each on the Watch List for the 2009 Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award. There are only 30 preseason candidates named.
Middleton is fourth in school history with 20 career sacks.
Previous recipients of the Hendricks Award include: Terrell Suggs (Arizona State), David Pollack (Georgia), Elvis Dumervil (Louisville), LaMarr Woodley (Michigan), Chris Long (Virginia) and Brian Orakpo (Texas).