What Rodney McGraw's commitment means to Indiana
Elkhart defensive end and 2021 No. 7 Indiana prospect Rodney McGraw announced his commitment to Indiana after visiting Bloomington for junior day on Jan. 26. That commitment propels Indiana into one of its most significant in-state recruiting efforts in recent memory.
The No. 7 in-state prospect, Elkhart defensive end Rodney McGraw, became Indiana's first commitment of the 2021 class Tuesday, more than a year before his recruiting class' February signing day.
In the last four recruiting classes, only two current Hoosiers – Jordan Jusevitch (2018) and Tyler Knight (2017) – have committed as early. When considering the strength of Indiana's 2021 class, McGraw's commitment represents much more for Indiana than the promise of a good edge rusher, who recorded 73 tackles (21.5 for loss), nine sacks and three forced fumbles as a junior in 2019.
“After visiting multiple schools and programs it kept coming back to Indiana feeling like the best place for me," McGraw told Rivals.com. "I really like Coach (David) Ballou and Coach (Mark) Hagen and believe they can help me reach my full potential.”
Indiana was in on McGraw early, offering him more than a year ago and developing a relationship with him over that time. He made visits to Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan State and held offers from all of those programs, except Wisconsin.
But what Ballou and Hagen could provide McGraw at Indiana stuck with him, Elkhart Central defensive line coach Cody French told TheHoosier.com.
"Rodney really likes those guys," French said. "He has talked a lot about how he feels they can help him reach his max potential at the next level."
McGraw's commitment to Hagen and Ballou comes less than a month after Indiana missed on four-star defensive end Jason Harris and questions began to swirl around where the Hoosiers were going to find a pass rush in the future. The commitment also came a year after Ballou and Matt Rhea were given raises for the success of Indiana's strength and conditioning program, a program recruits and their parents note is "a step further," as one parent described to TheHoosier.com recently, than other programs.
After Indiana earned McGraw's lean early on and presenting its and the improving football program to McGraw for a year, a good junior day visit on Jan. 26 produced what was a surprise decision to those on the outside but not to those closest to McGraw, like French, who watched him become enamored with the Hoosiers and their staff over time.
"Sunday really sealed the deal," French said. "Hoosiers absolutely nailed it this weekend."
At 6-foot-6, 235 pounds, McGraw plays with a speed and ferocity that defines the top of the in-state recruiting board during the upcoming cycle.
When introduced as Indiana's next tight ends coach Sunday morning, Kevin Wright, who coached at Warren Central and Carmel during the same days in the early-2000s as Tom Allen and left IMG Academy in Florida to return to Indiana, noted that the pool of talent for Indiana's 2021 class is as strong as he's seen it in the 20 years he's been involved with and recruited the state.
Wright also described a shared belief, between he and Allen, in Indiana football prospects and that, with the right coach, a team could win with in-state talent in Indiana and how that's finally coming to fruition in 2021.
Indiana is involved with many of the biggest names in that class, such as No. 3 prospect Donaven McCulley, No. 4 Kyran Montgomery, No. 5 Daylan Carnell, No. 6 Cooper Jones and No. 9 Josh Sales. Offensive tackle Luke Collinsworth could find himself in that top-10 this year as well, and Bloomington tight end Aaron Steinfeldt is also climbing the charts.
The Hoosiers are leaders for all of those prospects as their recruitments continue to expand outside the boundaries of the state, just as McGraw's was. McGraw's commitment could provide the momentum needed to push Indiana over the top of some of those recruitments, and, unlike many early commitments, flipped from school to school for many reasons on a yearly basis, McGraw's commitment is expected to stay with Indiana for as long as the Hoosiers desire.
The junior defensive end, who likes to keep to himself and limit exposure throughout his recruitment process, sticks to decisions he makes, French said. This decision was not made on impulse.
"I expect him to be a Hoosier," French said.