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State recruiting

Purdue secures help in secondary

Donley
Hope
Lynch
Parrish

With the starting secondary gone, Purdue coach Danny Hope had an easy sell to some recruits. Come to Purdue and have a chance to be a four-year starter.

The pitch worked.

Five of Purdue’s 24-member class that signed Wednesday were defensive backs: Ricardo Allen (Daytona Beach, Fla.), Normando Harris (Miami), E.J. Johnson (Cocoa, Fla.), Antoine Lewis (Broadview, Ill.) and junior college transfer Michael Eargle (Elizabeth, Pa.). They’ll have an opportunity to start immediately with the departures of cornerbacks David Pender and Brandon King and safeties Torri Williams and Dwight Mclean.

“It’s a difference-maker,” Hope said of the opportunity for recruits to play as freshmen. “It certainly gets their attention. It’s why we were able to hold on to some of these quality defensive backs. … All those guys were really interested in Purdue because of the need we had in the secondary, No. 1. It got their attention, it kept their attention and it kept some of those guys committed to us when the competition got really tough.”

Allen, a 5-foot-9, 175-pounder, was the top cornerback on Purdue’s list and might be the best of the bunch, Hope said.

“He was ranked one of the most physical corners in the United States, one of the stop corners in Florida, and he has star potential,” Hope said. “If we didn’t have great need at the cornerback position in the near future, we may not have been able to hang on to him because he had offers from Michigan, South Carolina, Florida State at the end. He had over 40 offers. He’s an outstanding prospect.”

Greg Ladky, Midwest recruiting analyst for Rivals.com: “Bruce Gaston, I think, is one of the best, if not the best, defensive tackles, in the Midwest. It was really huge. (Defensive end) Rashad Frazier is kind of a raw prospect. He played just one year of football. He became a really heavily recruited prospect late in the game. … Their quarterback, Sean Robinson, is a big dual-threat type of guy. He’s a good athlete, and he has really high ceiling.

“They got some good receivers in O.J. Ross out of Dayton Beach, Fla., and his teammate, (Chevin Davis).”

Indiana

Indiana’s large class of 25 includes individuals recognized as players of the year in Illinois and Indiana. IU also addressed needs at linebacker and in the secondary.

Running back Matt Perez headlines the class. The Main South (Park Ridge, Ill.) product earned the Illinois Player of the Year honors from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. Listed at 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, Perez was named to the Parade Magazine All-America Team. He rushed for 2,246 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior. He had 316 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the Class 8A title game.

“The numbers he put up carrying the football is amazing,” IU coach Bill Lynch said. “He just has a great knack for the game. He’s tough, he has great instincts. He’s tough to tackle. He’ll run you over (and) he can run away from you.”

Quarterback Kofi Hughes (Cathedral High, Indianapolis) was named the 2009 Gatorade Indiana Football Player of the Year.

Four players, running back Antonio Banks, linebacker Jack Denton, cornerback Lenyatta Kiles and linebacker Jeff Thomas, are enrolled and will participate in spring practice.

Indiana added six linebackers, four cornerbacks and two safeties to fill voids left by graduation. IU had 16 three-star recruits, according to Rivals.com and Scout.com. The Hoosiers were No. 91 nationally according to Rivals.com.

Ladky: “IU did OK. In terms of what they landed, they didn’t have a four-star, impact-type guy in this class. They did get a lot of the three-star types. Tim O’Conner is a wide receiver I really like out of Ohio. Ishmael Thomas is a really rangy outside linebacker.

“They did a good job in Ohio. They signed, I think eight kids out of the state of Ohio. A lot of them down in the Cincinnati area. … They also got a really good player out of Youngstown, Ohio, by the name of Ryan Phillis. He’s a good hard-nosed football player.”

Ball State

Ball State coach Stan Parrish also feels good about his 21-member class. Ten of his additions are from Ohio, and three are from Indiana.

“Our staff did a great job of identifying prospects and then signing those student-athletes who we know will be a good fit for our program and Ball State,” Parrish said.

Ladky: “They have one of the better classes in the MAC, I think. They got three kids who are graded three stars (Rivals.com). When we grade a kid three stars, we think they are going to be a starter at a major Division I college program somewhere down the road. So, Ball State is reaching the kids who maybe thought of as a level up.

“(Defensive back) Quintin Cooper is a little on the small side, but he makes big plays. He is a good coverage kid, very aggressive. He’s going to be a good player for them.

“They brought in a quarterback named Keith Wenning. A big kid, he’s 6-4, 220 pounds. He can really throw the ball and played in the spread offense. I think they are strong at defensive back. They got Jeff Garrett out of Ben Davis High School, who is not a bad player at all. Odis Prunty from St. Edward’s that is a good Catholic school program in the Cleveland area. He’s a good player. Aaron Morris out of Glennville had a huge senior year, and he was a player who if he was just a tad bigger would have probably been a lower-Big Ten type kid.”

Saint Francis

Saint Francis announced the signing of 26 recruits, including four from Fort Wayne.

“We hit (recruiting) harder,” coach Kevin Donley said. “One thing, it’s the first time we’ve recruited in November since 2002 or 2001. I’d rather be playing up until late December, but on the other side it gave us a five-week jump in recruiting, and I think we did very, very well.”

Donley said he was pleased with all four local players who signed: Colin Harruff, a wide receiver from Homestead; Adam Merriman, punter from Bishop Dwenger; Devon Rush, linebacker from Snider; and A.J. Terry, linebacker from Homestead.

“We’re graduating our first three linebackers and a couple others are in jeopardy with possible career-ending injuries, so we had to get linebackers,” Donley said.

“We graduated the top three inside and two starters outside, so I think we replenished the shelf. Even though it’s youthful, it’s pretty talented.”

Journal Gazette staff writers Stacy Clardie, LaMond Pope and Steve Warden and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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