Kevin Wilson is my kind of coach. Which is a good thing because right now, he is my coach (as an alum and fan, though I may still have some eligibility as a pooch punter).
The new Indiana football head man is responsible for turning around one of the country’s worst BCS programs. I’ve sat through many – far too many – Hoosiers games. I’ve cut years off my life doing so. I’ve even suffered the humiliation that comes with attending road games too.
We’re talking about a school that has been to just one bowl game since 1994, and that was an embarrassing blowout loss to Oklahoma State in the 2007 Insight Bowl. Exciting, no?
So landing the No. 1-ranked quarterback in the class of 2012 is certainly a good place to start as CKW (that’s what the locals call him) attempts to lift the Hoosiers from the deepest abyss of college football.
On Wednesday, Gunner Kiel, widely considered the top high school quarterback in the nation, drove to Bloomington from nearby Columbus, Ind. and gave Wilson his commitment over offers from the big boys of college football, namely Alabama and Oklahoma.
Now, while I’m sure the headline: ‘Top QB recruit commits to Indiana,’ caused a few to spit out whatever beverage they were drinking or choke on their mid-day snack at work, I’m not surprised at all. IU is close to home, his brother is on the team, and he gets to work with the guy who helped turn Sam Bradford into the No. 1 overall pick (CKW came to IU via Oklahoma in case you didn’t know).
It’s not the first time Indiana has received a high-profile commitment from a quarterback. I was a freshman for Antwaan Randle-El’s final collegiate season and helped carry him off the field in his career finale, a win against Kentucky. Randle-El bobblehead clutched in one hand, ‘Twan’s thigh in the other.
Then of course there was Notre Dame transfer Matt LoVecchio. Remember him? He led the Fighting Irish to the Fiesta Bowl as a freshman. His IU career highlight came on my 21st birthday when he had to be held back from kicking my ass at a bar after I reminded him we throw to guys in the red following an ill-timed interception that helped Kentucky (again?) beat the Hoosiers.
Our very own Ryan Phillips has covered Kiel on a number of occasions living in nearby Bloomington. Phillips claims Kiel is slightly overrated. Certainly easy if you’re the No. 1 rated QB. You can’t be underrated. But I don’t put much stock into Phillips’ QB breakdowns. He’s stubbornly loyal to all things Stan Humphries.
Kiel plans to graduate in December and enroll at IU in January to get a leg up on learning the offense. I’m sure older brother, Dusty, will help with the nuances, though it could make for some awkward family dinners, seeing as Dusty will be a junior (and potentially the incumbent starter) as Gunner takes aim at his job.
Now Kiel’s commitment doesn’t guarantee wins. In fact, it doesn’t even guarantee he’ll show up on campus. As an IU football fan, I’ve been far too accustomed with our top verbal commits watching the Hoosiers suck during the season, and the commits get cold feet and jump ship. Heck, I never blame them. Who wants to get their heads beat in every week?
But things seem to be changing in Bloomington.
Indiana has put a lot of resources into football lately, with most of a $55 million athletics renovation project going into upgrading Memorial Stadium and building the largest weight room in the country. Those kinds of things impress recruits. As does a staff loaded with assistant coaches who excel in recruiting.
The athletic department allocated the necessary funds to allow CKW to build one of the most impressive assistant coaching staffs in the Big Ten (counting those that stuck around of course. He had three or four assistants take new jobs shortly after their hiring at IU).
CKW brought in two assistants from Michigan and Nebraska, including the Huskers’ top recruiter Mike Ekeler, whose tactics of temporary tattooing prospects’ names on his arm has already become legendary.
Added to the mix is Northwestern’s best recruiter (WRs coach Kevin Johns, who Rivals.com rated as the best at his position) and Purdue’s best recruiter (DL coach and former IU player Mark Hagen).
Former IU coach Bill Lynch was woefully overmatched in the Big Ten. Most of Lynch’s staff, if not all, can’t get Division I jobs anywhere. A few are teaching PE classes in high school. And as for Lynch? He’s in charge of fundraising for Butler.
Lynch was like your overly nice grandpa. Wilson is your irritable, ass hole uncle.
Listening to CKW’s interviews during and after spring practice, you could tell he was in culture shock. This is a man coming from Oklahoma, where you’ve got the best athletes at nearly every position, and winning and working hard aren’t just words, it’s an actual way of life.
Whether or not that translates over to IU is still a few years away from knowing, but Wednesday’s recruiting coup certainly won’t hurt.