Editor's Note: This is the first story in a series on Indiana football, based on an exclusive interview with Tom Allen this week. Part 1 focuses on Indiana's top-ranked recruiting class in 2022, and he immediate impact they will have.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The momentum surrounding Indiana football took a major step back in 2021 after the Hoosiers went 2-10 in a season with unprecedented preseason expectations.
But Indiana head coach Tom Allen is looking to reverse that trajectory back to where it was when he took the Hoosiers to three bowl games from 2016 to 2020. And a steering force to that change, Allen hopes, is the 2022 recruiting class — the No. 26 class in the nation and the highest-ranked class in Indiana football history.
This 21-man group consists of four four-star recruits and 17 three-star prospects, including seven players from the state of Florida.
Allen said he has high expectations for this class. He needs them to give Indiana depth in 2022, and some will even get a chance to see the field as true freshmen. Ten players arrived in Bloomington in January to train and practice with the team, and Allen is anxious to welcome the rest of the class this summer.
"Time will tell how they develop, and that's really the most important part," Allen said. "But from a perspective of what they're supposed to be able to do in the future, that's exciting."
The class is headlined by the multi-talented Dasan McCullough, the No. 75 player in the country and the highest-ranked recruit in Indiana history.
Allen considers McCullough, the son of former Indiana running backs coach Deland McCullough, a true hybrid on defense. He predominantly played safety in his first three years of high school at Blue Valley North in the Kansas City area, but he became a 3-4 outside linebacker, similar to Indiana's Bull position, in his senior year at Bloomington South.
Allen said the 6-foot- 5 McCullough has been playing linebacker during practice so far, a position he didn't play much in high school outside of the All-American Bowl in Florida. Allen sees McCullough focusing on linebacker, but he could be used in Indiana's Bull position, which fits the versatile McCullough's ability to rush the passer and drop back in coverage.
"[McCullough] is just busting his tail, so I love that about him," Allen said. "He's a worker, and he loves football."
A player that has immediately stood out to Allen is Jaylin Lucas, a three-star running back from New Orleans, La. Standing at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, Lucas is the No. 944 player in the class of 2022 and chose Indiana over Florida Atlantic and Louisville.
Allen considers Lucas to have elite quickness and acceleration. Since arriving in Bloomington as an early-enrollee, Lucas has impressed Allen with his hard work and willingness to do what he is asked.
Another player who has made a strong first impression is Carter Smith from Powell, Ohio. Smith, a 6-foot-5, 280-pound offensive tackle, is a three-star recruit, the No. 713 player in his class and the No. 57 offensive tackle.
Allen has always been attracted to multi-sport athletes, and Smith brings in a high school volleyball background. While this might be an uncommon secondary sport for an offensive lineman, Allen said it shows the kind of tall and athletic player Smith is.
On the other side of the line, Allen has been pleasantly surprised with Dominick James, a four-star interior defensive lineman out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Standing at 6-foot-2, 295 pounds, James No. 292 player in the class of 2022 and the No. 37 defensive lineman. Allen is excited about James' experience against elite competition and believes he'll be a good player for Indiana down the road.
Venson Sneed is another Florida-based defensive lineman that Allen has been impressed with. At 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, Sneed projects as an edge rusher with size to give him an opportunity to play as a freshman. Sneed is from Winter Park, Fla. and is the No. 516 player in his class.
Adding to the defensive talent Allen has brought in is Kaiden Turner, a three-star linebacker from Fayetteville, Ark., who chose Indiana over his hometown Razorbacks. Allen said Turner is different than McCullough, but he could see the two being a good duo in the middle of the Indiana defense in the future.
James Monds III will benefit from practicing with All-Big Ten cornerbacks like Tiawan Mullen and Jaylin Williams, and he's a player Allen is excited about. Monds is a three-star cornerback recruit from Vero Beach, Fla. and is the No. 646 player in his class.
Indiana lost its top three pass catchers from 2021, and to help replace that production is Omar Cooper, a 6-foot-1, 185 pound receiver from Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis. Cooper, a four-star recruit in the No. 315 player in his class, chose Indiana over West Virginia and Arkansas. Allen believes he could have a chance to help the Indiana offense right away.
And while he hasn't arrived in Bloomington yet, Allen is excited about the elite-level speed that Jamari Sharpe brings to Indiana. From Miami, Fla., Sharpe ran a 10.41-second 100-meter dash to win the GMAC Championship as a senior at Miami Northwestern High School.
Sharpe is a 6-foot-1, 180-pound cornerback who chose Indiana over Georgia Tech and LSU. He's listed as a three-star recruit in the No. 79 cornerback in his class.
"I couldn't be more excited about this group of guys," Allen said. "Several of those guys are going to get a chance to play as true freshmen."