Two New Orleans offers signal widening recruiting net for IU in South
Indiana extended offers to two New Orleans defensive ends over the weekend, providing a closer into the motives behind hiring new defensive line coach Kevin Peoples this offseason.
Indiana is trying to boost its presence in the American South as much as it can on the recruiting trail. That's evident in the way the Hoosier staff recruits the state of Florida – almost as an in-state strategy with different coaches recruiting different areas of the state – and in recent signings of offensive tackles Khalil Benson (Mississippi) and Matt Bedford (Tennessee) away from SEC programs.
Assistants like former defensive line coach Mark Hagen, cornerbacks coach Brandon Shelby and defensive coordinator Kane Wommack have ties to the South outside of Florida, but nearly every coach on the 2020 staff has ties to Florida despite not bringing in any recruits from the state in the 2020 class. Indiana has offered 81 2021 prospects out of Florida, while no other state has more than 25 Indiana offers.
With Tom Allen and his strong ties to the South, after time at Ole Miss, South Florida and Arkansas State, Indiana has intentionally ramped up its presence with the leadership of Allen. And, outside of Florida and the successful test case that has given Indiana, Louisiana will likely be one of the new areas the Hoosiers can extend their tentacles into.
Benson's recruitment made it clear that it is extremely difficult for a Big Ten program like Indiana to pull talented prospects from southern states when SEC programs also want those recruits. The Hoosiers sent nearly the entire staff to Mississippi on one visit to battle Mississippi State, and it was still close. The Hoosiers don't necessarily have the strongest connections in that state, even after signing cornerback Chris Keys in the same class.
Adding safeties coach Jason Jones not only provided a solid coach in the secondary but also a strong recruiting presence in the South, with his ties to Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. That hire didn't catch anyone's eye when it was made, but it fit Allen's system set in place in Bloomington.
The same goes for defensive line coach Kevin Peoples.
Replacing Hagen was going to be tough because of the way fans understood him, as a former Indiana guy who left for Texas A&M and returned to Indiana – what that could offer Indiana in recruiting, what that meant Hagen was in terms of caliber of coaching. Add the fact that Michigan State defensive line coach Ron Burton changed his mind after accepting the position in February, and the Peoples hire was destined to be welcomed with skepticism from the outside.
But coming from Tulane and spending 27 years coaching south of Indiana, Peoples offers multiple recruiting poles Indiana can connect to in the South. Louisiana is one of them.
The new defensive line coach, after welcoming in a number of out-of-state defensive line targets for Indiana's March 7 junior day, extended two offers to New Orleans recruits this weekend, the first Louisiana offers of Indiana's 2021 class.
"I was," Sorrell told TheHoosier.com about talking to Peoples during his time at Tulane. "He said i can be a big-time player for (Indiana)."
Before Allen's tenure as head coach began, Indiana had little-to-no presence in Louisiana. The Hoosiers never reached double-digit offers in the state and before 2019, and the last Louisiana native to sign with Indiana was 2011 cornerback Michael Hunter. Quarterback Danny Cameron signed out of Baton Rouge in 2014, but his father, former IU head coach Cam Cameron, was coaching at LSU during the time of his recruitment.
After offering 14 prospects out of Louisiana in the Class of 2019, it offered three in 2020. That will likely change moving forward in 2021, as Louisiana's 2021 class is fairly deep. Peoples is at the heart of that movement.
Turner is the No. 2 defensive end in the state, and Sorrell is the No. 3 defensive end in the state. Turner is No. 17 nationally at the position. Sorrell had visited Tulane when Peoples was coaching there and developed a good relationship with him.
"He's a great coach that has his line prepared," Sorrell said.
Outside of recruiting, Allen said Peoples is one of the best technicians he's seen at the defensive line coaching position, which has already served Damarjhe Lewis well in the spring, but also jumped out to junior day visitors James Stewart, Floyd Dozier and Sincere Littles.
“I like how he coaches his players,” Dozier said of Peoples. “He coaches technique really good.”
The offers over the weekend show an additional concerted effort to continue widening that net in the South and provided further context into why Peoples was hired in Bloomington, outside of his coaching resume.