The Indianapolis-area has been growing richer in football recruits.
The class of 2013 features five Rivals.com four-star defensive players and Indiana University has created excitement about its future by landing verbal commitments from three of them -- North Central defensive lineman Darius Latham, Ben Davis defensive back Antonio Allen and Pike defensive end David Kenney. Avon defensive end Elijah Daniel, who recently decommitted from Clemson, and Warren Central linebacker Tim Kimbrough (Georgia) are the others.
"This could be the class that gets (IU coach) Kevin Wilson off the bottom of the pile (in the Big Ten)," long-time recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. "This could be Indiana's best class in 10 years."
And there's more talent on the way.
Between 2005-09, the Indianapolis-area produced a total of five four-star recruits. But it's following up this season's crop with three four-star recruits in the 2014 class, all of them receivers. (Rivals.com has not rated three-star recruits in the 2014 class yet.)
Speedway's Justin Brent has already committed to Notre Dame, Carmel's Austin Roberts can choose from schools that include Stanford, Ohio State, Florida, Miami, Indiana and Purdue; and Dominique Booth from Pike has 13 Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) offers, including Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State, Iowa, Mississippi State and Missouri. Lawrence Central receiver Kenny Jones has an IU offer, and Hamilton Southeastern's Cameron Polk and Terry McLaurin of Cathedral are also expected to generate interest.
"With how much football has improved, especially in Central Indiana, we're always going to have some really good players," Pike coach Derek Moyers said. "Our rules allow us to develop our kids a lot faster."
Moyers links the improvement to the Indiana High School Athletic Association relaxing its summer participation rules several years ago and allowing coaches to work with their players more often. The impact could be seen beginning in 2010 when Indianapolis had four four-star and seven three-star recruits, according to Rivals.com. It had a total of 15 three- and four-star recruits in 2011 and 19 in 2012.
IU has been the primary beneficiary this year and could still add Daniel, who has the Hoosiers on his short list with Florida, Mississippi and Mississippi State, by the signing day on Feb. 6. The current class is ranked just ninth or 10th in the Big Ten by recruiting services so Hoosier fans shouldn't be making conference championship game plans just yet. But after years in which top Indianapolis-area recruits had often gone elsewhere, Allen (Mississippi), Latham (Wisconsin) and Kenney (Iowa) decommitted from other programs to go to Indiana.
"(IU) didn't play very well Saturday (in a 56-35 loss to Purdue) and (Wilson) was back out recruiting Monday," Moyers said. "He's hitting the pavement and working his tail off."
While Wilson is out recruiting, Purdue fired coach Danny Hope following the Bucket game and is in a holding pattern until a new coach is hired. Lemming said he was shocked Purdue let Hope go because he was coming off his best recruiting class.
"It's mind-boggling to me because I feel Purdue was on the upswing," Lemming said.
When the Boilermakers make a hire, however, expect the new coach to have more talent to pursue in Indianapolis than his predecessors.
"With the way the (high school) conference realignment is shaping, the football is going to get even better," said Moyers of Pike and Lawrence Central joining the power-packed Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference, and the possibility of adding the top Hoosier Crossroads Conference programs, too. "If that comes together, you're going to be hard pressed to find a better football conference in the Midwest."