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Takeaways from Early National Signing Day: Dual-threat quarterback highlights in-state focus

Early National Signing Day saw 14 new Hoosiers signed with Indiana on Dec. 16. This group includes players from six different states and one New Zealand native, punter James Evans. 

Tom Allen leads the Hoosiers onto the field last year against Penn State. (Jared Rigdon/HN)

There were no surprises for Tom Allen and his staff on Wednesday, as all 14 players stayed true to their commitment from earlier in the year. Because of the low number of seniors on Indiana’s roster, Allen said he expected a small recruiting class this year and is excited to welcome these players to Bloomington. 

“Really excited about the quality of the players,” Allen said. “They fit with us off the field…and the way they play the game, with effort, skill, and talent.”

Here are three takeaways from the 2021 recruiting class on Early National Signing Day. 

Hoosiers add impressive quarterback

Indiana signed dual-threat quarterback Donaven McCulley on Wednesday. McCulley currently attends Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis and is the No. 1 quarterback in his class from Indiana according to 247Sports.

“The thing that really stuck out with him,” Allen said. “…This is a guy you want leading your program.”

McCulley is rated as a four-star recruit and the 243rd ranked player in the nation. Allen said McCulley’s quick release has caught his eye. Allen also likes how McCulley is a three-sport athlete at Lawrence North, playing football, basketball and track.

“In basketball he’s making game-winning shots. I like those kind of things,” Allen said. “You want that competitive toughness and greatness.”

Indiana was the first program to offer McCulley, and he stuck with the Hoosiers ever since. McCulley adds great depth to the Indiana’s quarterback group, consisting of Michael Penix Jr., Jack Tuttle, Dexter Williams II and McCulley.

Potential replacements for Philyor, Fryfogle

The NCAA is granting every college football player another year of eligibility due to COVID-19. This rule allows players to opt out of the season without losing a year of play. Because of this, senior wide receivers Whop Philyor and Ty Fryfogle could come back to Bloomington for a fifth season, but with NFL aspirations, that is no guarantee.

Fryfogle’s NFL Draft stock grew significantly this season after accumulating a long list of accomplishments. He became the first player in Big Ten history to record two 200-yard receiving games in a row, was named the Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year in the Big Ten and earned first-team all-Big Ten honors from the media and second-team from the coaches.

Whop Philyor, the leader of the WR crew, gets ready to go before taking on No. 8 Penn State. (Kurt Spitler/HN)

Philyor led the Hoosiers in receptions with 36 and totaled 414 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Both Indiana receivers have a chance to hear their name called at the 2021 NFL Draft, which leaves a big hole at receiver for the Hoosiers.

But Allen reloaded on Wednesday, signing a couple of big-time receivers. DJ Matthews announced he will transfer from Florida State and join the Hoosiers at the start of the spring 2021 semester. 

Matthews has played three seasons for the Seminoles and was a consistent option in 2018 and 2019. Matthews sat out this season, but totaled 84 receptions 809 yards and five touchdowns in his first three season. Coming out of high school, Matthews was a four-star recruit and ranked as the No. 51 player in the country. 

Allen said Wednesday that he is also excited about what Matthews brings to the return game. At Florida State, Matthews returned 56 punts and kicks for 582 yards and a touchdown. His elite speed and experience will help Indiana transition should it lose Philyor and Fryfogle.

Rashawn Williams, Indiana’s top-rated player in the 2020 recruiting class, announced earlier this week that he put his name in the transfer portal, leaving another hole at wide receiver. But Indiana will try to replace Williams with another Williams. 

Jordyn Williams signed with Indiana on Wednesday, picking the Hoosiers over Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Florida State and Georgia, among others. Williams is a three-star recruit out of Trinity Christian School in Cedar Hill, Texas and was rated as the 103rd best receiver in the country.

“He’s a gifted athlete, for sure, and another weapon to bring to our offense,” Allen said.

Allen said he is impressed with the national schedule that Trinity Christian played and thinks seeing top competition from around the country helps Williams transition to college. Williams is another player who will join the Hoosiers this upcoming spring semester. 

“I think any time you come early gives them a jumpstart on learning the playbook and puts them in stronger position to play in fall,” Allen said. “(Williams) played in Georgia and Texas. Brings a confidence and playmaking ability in space.”

Allen recruits well in-state

Allen has brought his Florida relationship to Bloomington, which has helped the Hoosiers’ turnaround. First-team All-Big Ten players Micah McFadden and Tiawan Mullen went to high school in Florida, along with 22 Hoosiers on the 2020 roster.

But Allen still knows how important it is to recruit the state of Indiana. Allen signed five of the top 11 players from Indiana in this recruiting class. This group includes McCulley, along with three-star recruits DE Cooper Jones, TE Aaron Steinfeldt, OT Joshua Sales and OG Vinny Fiacable. 

Steinfeldt went to Bloomington North High School and is another guy who impressed Allen as a three-sport athlete. Allen said he prefers to recruit players who are three-sport athletes because it shows him that they can execute in a variety of situations.

“You can’t create that competitive spirit in a kid laying on his back doing bench press in the springtime,” Allen said.

Among this group of in-state signees, Sales and Fiacable will join the Hoosiers in the spring. Something that has impressed Allen about this class is how connected they are before officially joining the team. Allen said Sales was the No. 1 guy he went after at offensive tackle.

“We had the core of those guys in this room and I poured my heart out about what we were building here. I knew how close we were and had a bunch of Indiana kids here,” Allen said.

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My name is Jack Ankony and I am a sophomore from Mount Prospect, Illinois. I am a huge Chicago sports fan who loves to write and talk about sports.

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