The 2001 football season hasn't even started, but that doesn't keep college coaches from turning their attention to 2002.
That's because May 1 was the first day college coaches could visit high schools to talk with their coaches about junior prospects. While colleges are allowed to mail high school players information about their programs before May 1, that's the day when some direct contact can start being made, and it's when the recruiting really gets kicked off. There are several high-profile preps from the state of Indiana that the IU coaching staff appears to have an eye on.
JAMES BANKS Quarterback, 6-4, 205 Indianapolis, IN (Ben Davis H.S.)
It's not too hard to figure out why just about any program would have a lot of interest in Ben Davis quarterback James Banks.
The 6-4, 205-pound Banks is widely considered one the nation's top quarterback prospects. He guided Ben Davis to the 1999 Class 5A state championship, and he led them to a final ranking of No. 2 in the state a year ago according to the Jeff Sagarin ratings when Ben Davis finished 12-2.
He's coming off a junior season during which he was named all-conference, all-metro and honorable mention All-State. He was also selected to the Bloomington Herald Times' Super 33 All-State team.
Prep Football Report publisher and ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Lemming has Banks ranked among the nation's premiere talents.
"He's the best player in Indiana," Lemming said. "I saw film on him as a sophomore, and he's just a terrific talent. He has a great arm, he can run, and he's smart as well. He's a natural.
He might be the best quarterback to come out of Indiana since Jeff George."
JEREMY VANALSTYNE Linebacker, 6-4, 235 Greenwood, Ind. (Center Grove)
Change has been very good to Center Grove's Jeremy VanAlstyne. The 6-4, 235-pounder was a defensive end as a sophomore, but prior to the start of his junior season, the team was in need of a linebacker.
VanAlstyne decided he'd give it a try. "We needed a linebacker, and I was like I guess I can do it," VanAlstyne said. "I tried it out during two-a-days and camp, and I kind of got stuck there."
He ended up sticking there because he impressed the Center Grove staff to the point they didn't want to move him back. VanAlstyne said there were some new things to learn at his new position, but he was able to pick them up relatively quickly.
"I had to learn some new things over the summer and work on seven-on- seven, and pass defense - I never really knew what that was before - but besides that, I thought I adjusted pretty well," VanAlstyne said. VanAlstyne finished the season with more than 130 tackles and eight sacks. He earned All-State, All-Conference, and All-County honors, and he was named to the Bloomington Herald Times' Super 33 All-State team.
The only thing that was missing was a state championship. Center Grove went 13-2 on the season, but lost to Penn 21-0 in the Indiana Class 5A Championship game at the RCA Dome.
The loss wasn't due to anything VanAlstyne did. In fact, he recorded a game-high 12 tackles and had two sacks. But the loss has motivated him and his teammates to make a return trip to Indianapolis for his senior season.
"We're really excited about this year," VanAlstyne said. "We're ready for the morning workouts. I can't wait for my next football game.
"This past year kind of showed everyone all the hard work, when you put it in, what you can get out of it. I think that's going to carry over to our senior year. It shows us if we put in the time and the work, we can accomplish whatever we want."
Indiana is one of a host of schools that is interested in VanAlstyne. Wherever he ends up, he'll likely remain at linebacker.
"I'll probably be a linebacker in college, and now I like that position better than defensive end," VanAlstyne said. "You can see the ball a lot better. You can cover the whole field. At defensive end, you've really just got one side. But at linebacker you can flow each way and always be hitting people."
ANDREW BURK Defensive Tackle, 6-5, 266 Newburgh, Indiana (Castle) Castle High School Assistant Coach
Mark Williamson believes he has a special talent in nose tackle Andrew Burk. Burk is 6-6 and played at 265 pounds a year ago, helping Castle High School to an 11-2 record and a sectional championship.
Burk led his high school team in tackles as both a sophomore and junior, which is rare for a defensive tackle of any kind to do.
"In the scheme we play, that should never happen," Williamson said.
Burk was the first defensive lineman to ever start as a sophomore at Castle High School, and after back-to-back big seasons, he'll likely be one of the state's premiere defensive linemen this fall. Williamson believes Burk has an opportunity to accomplish another first once his high school season comes to an end.
"He's the first defensive lineman we've ever had here that we feel can play defensive line in college," Williamson said. "He runs a sub-5.0 40, he has big long arms, he's got great leverage, great technique and he plays hard on every play. He never takes a break."
Numerous college football programs have been showing interest as well. Williamson said Burk has been receiving letters from just about every major program from around the Midwest, including Indiana, Purdue, Michigan and Tennessee.
The attention figures to heat up even more once college coaches can start calling. Until then, Burk will remain focused on trying to improve his game in a variety of areas. Williamson said Burk was down to 245 pounds after playing basketball this spring for Castle, but expects he'll be back up to the 270-pound range once football season starts in the fall.
"He can improve in all the areas, but I don't know that he could play any harder than he already does," Williamson said. "But he needs more body strength and a little more size to play at that level. But he'll get that -he's only 16 years old.
"He's pretty good. To talk about his weaknesses is kind of hard to do."
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