BLOOMINGTON – Indiana finished off its 2020 football recruiting class by continuing its trend of recruiting the Southeast.
The Hoosiers added size on the offensive line by signing 6-foot-6, 332-pound Kahlil Benson of Southaven, Miss., and an edge rusher in signing 6-5, 230-pound Jalen Mayala of Dacula, Ga., in the February signing period. With the two signees, IU wrapped up its 2020 class with 20 players, nine of which have already enrolled.
Indiana football coach Tom Allen is excited about the potential of Benson, the seventh offensive lineman signed in the 2020 class. A three-star recruit, Benson is the 45th-ranked guard in the Class of 2020, per 247.com’s composite, and chose IU ahead of offers from Mississippi State, Tennessee, LSU and Kentucky. Allen and a number of IU coaches dropped in at Benson’s house last weekend for a visit.
“From the physical perspective, obviously a big one,” Allen said. “You want them big, recruit them big. And he’s long and has really good size.”
Mayala is another player who provides athleticism in IU’s front seven. A three-star recruit, Mayala had offers from Purdue, Arizona, Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina.
“We were really trying to find in this class, long, athletic (players). He played linebacker, as well as rush end in Archer High School in Atlanta down in Georgia,” Allen said. “Just continues to give us more length on the defensive line, ability to create pass rush, which we’re trying to get.”
Allen, a former linebackers coach at Ole Miss, has a number of assistant coaches with Southeast ties, which has helped in landing players from Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.
“We’re still spending a lot of time down there,” Allen said. “We’ll continue moving forward. But I think the south in general, just in regards to the connections on our staff, I think that’s a big part of it. I think that helps in a big way. And I think that you’d be able to go through — and we have a good foundation here in the Midwest. That will never change. Indiana will always be my first priority.”
Allen said redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is making progress in the weight room and has been cleared for spring practices. Penix underwent surgery to repair a joint in his collarbone in early November, which ended his 2019 season.
Allen said Penix is up from 202 to 218 pounds, a weight gain he hopes will help augment his durability. Penix appeared in just six games last season due to various injuries.
“We set out a plan for him, and his weight has increased quite a bit since the end of the season,” Allen said. “And really encouraged by that and have a specific plan for him.”
Spring practice dates and the spring game date have not been finalized yet. But Allen said tight end Peyton Hendershot will sit out spring drills due to undisclosed injuries, while linebacker Thomas Allen (shoulder surgery), defensive lineman C.J. Person (shoulder surgery), defensive lineman Jeramy Passmore (shoulder surgery) and defensive back Josh Sanguinetti (surgery) will be limited.
CRONK, RAMSEY DEPARTURES
Allen wasn’t caught off guard by last month’s departures of left tackle Coy Cronk and quarterback Peyton Ramsey, who were team captains last season. Cronk left for Iowa as a graduate transfer after suffering a season-ending ankle injury last September, while Ramsey has put his name in the NCAA transfer portal and will leave as a graduate transfer to a school to be determined.
“Those guys did it the right way, talked to me face to face,” Allen said. “And just appreciate Coy and Peyton for all their hard work and what they gave to this program and wish them nothing but the best moving forward.”
With Ramsey leaving, rising redshirt sophomore quarterback Jack Tuttle moves into the backup role behind Penix.
“That’s a challenge to Jack, and he’s done a tremendous job working,” Allen said. “He has a great mindset. He’s excited to be in that position. And he’s getting bigger and stronger. And he’ll have a chance this spring to get a ton of reps and continue to grow and develop.”
SPECIAL TEAMS COACH
Allen said his first thought was to move safeties coach Kasey Teegardin to special teams coach after William Inge left to become defensive coordinator at Fresno State under Kalen DeBoer. Teegardin has prior experience as a special teams coordinator at Valparaiso from 2012-13. Allen said Teegardin will continue to coach defensive backs playing the husky position in IU’s 4-2-5 defense.
“He’ll do a great job,” Allen said. “We have a great system in place with that unit and culture that’s been established. But just want to continue to grow it and want to see someone come in there and put their own personality on how kind of we motivate and lead them, the structural part I’m going to be very involved with.”
DL COACH TO TEXAS
It appears IU will have one more position to fill on its coaching staff before the start of the 2020 season. According to multiple reports, IU defensive line coach Mark Hagen is leaving the program to take a similar position at Texas. It will be a return to the Lone Star state for Hagen, who coached defensive lineman at Texas A&M under Kevin Sumlin from 2013-15. IU wound not confirm or deny those reports Wednesday.
A former Carmel standout, Hagen played at IU from 1987-91 and led the Hoosiers in tackles for three straight years from 1989-91.