After his offense produced just 11 points per game over the last eight weeks of the 2021 season, Tom Allen knew he needed a spark.
Several months earlier he had seen Jaylin Lucas at a camp, and it was love at first sight for the IU coaching staff.
“He’s a guy that we actually found when we were doing our camps off campus down in the South, and got to see him live, in person, and immediately I was like ‘Wow, this is the kind of guy we’ve been looking for,’” Allen said on Tuesday via Zoom.
What Allen saw that day probably looked a lot like this video Lucas has pinned to the top of his Twitter profile:
— jaylin lucas (@jaylinlucas1) June 7, 2021
At 5-foot-9, Lucas wasn’t wowing anyone with his size, but the then Tulane commit certainly made an impression with his physical abilities.
As impressive as he looks on film, Allen says seeing what Lucas could do that day in person is what really stood out. The superlatives from a more than 30-year football coach make you pause.
“Just the twitch, the burst, the acceleration to go from zero to full speed as fast as anybody that I’ve been around coaching wise, and then just a guy that has the complete package of a guy that has good ball skills, can catch, is a good running back, and just speed,” Allen said.
And everything IU thought they were getting in the speed department, Lucas has delivered since arriving on campus.
“He’s not only quick, he’s fast,” Allen said.
“He’s our fastest player.”
That’s particularly noteworthy since Lucas won’t turn 18 until IU is four games into it’s 2022 season. But don’t expect his age to stop him from seeing the field as a true freshman.
“He’s a really young kid. He’s still 17 years-old,” IU offensive coordinator Walt Bell said on Tuesday. “But he’s really far along how he prepares from a maturity standpoint in his approach to the game.
“On the field he’s incredibly explosive. He’s a guy that can go win in a 5-by-5 box, the first guy isn’t going to get him on the ground very much. He’s had some really good explosive plays in the first five or six days of fall camp.”
Just how much Lucas plays as a freshman remains to be seen, but Indiana’s message to him as a recruit was that they wanted to use him as a running back, slot receiver and in special teams as well.
Basically, just find ways to get Lucas the ball in the open field, and turn him loose.
“Just being the world’s most dangerous man, just being an athlete all over the field,” is how Lucas described IU’s plan for him after he decommitted from Tulane and announced his commitment to the Hoosiers in December.
Originally from Houma, Louisiana, Lucas is already used to adjusting on the fly and making an early impact.
After his family was displaced by Hurricane Ida, Lucas moved to New Orleans and played his senior season at Edna Karr High School.
There the all-purpose back was a first-team all-state selection after he totaled 1,883 all-purpose yards with 958 rushing, 705 receiving, 135 kick return, and 85 via punt returns.
After IU lost Whop Philyor to eligibility after the 2020 season, and D.J. Matthews to injury last year, they really had no one who could make an impact in in the open field in a game-changing way. That made their push to flip Lucas’ commitment all the more important.
Now it looks like the payoff will come right out of the gates.
Lucas joined the program in January, just a few weeks after he committed, and that extra time with Bell and the staff has helped to ensure the dynamic young back will indeed play this fall.
“Speed is speed, even if it’s young speed. I do see him as a guy that we expect to play as a freshman,” Allen said.
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