Big Ten Countdown - Leaders Division - Sixth Place
By Tony Gerdeman
6. Indiana Hoosiers
A new up-tempo offense piloted by an inexperienced quarterback. Inexperienced tailbacks. A mix of talented receivers. A veteran offensive line. A handful of starters returning from a defense that gave up nearly 35 points per game last season.
Six on offense, six on defense and both kicking specialists.
Sept. 3 Ball State (at Indianapolis) (W)
Sept. 10 Virginia (L)
Sept. 17 South Carolina State (W)
Sept. 24 at North Texas (W)
Oct. 1 Penn State (L)
Oct. 8 Illinois (L)
Oct. 15 at Wisconsin (L)
Oct. 22 at Iowa (L)
Oct. 29 Northwestern (L)
Nov. 5 at Ohio State (L)
Nov. 19 at Michigan State (L)
Nov. 26 Purdue (L)
"Hoosier Football, finally sucking less than Hoosier Basketball!"
A bowl game. The Hoosiers finished 5-7 last season and lost three games at home decided by a touchdown or less. They lose experience at quarterback, but with four winnable non-conference games, a postseason isn't unthinkable.
Six wins. While the postseason isn't "unthinkable", it is still quite unlikely. Even if Indiana does go 4-0 to start the season, there aren't more than two wins on the conference schedule. Those two wins would require opponents to play some poor football.
One win. South Carolina State is the only sure win on the schedule. Even the game at North Texas features a talented running back that could keep the Hoosiers' fast-paced offense on the sidelines. Every other game on the schedule is dangerous for Indiana, including Ball State in Indy.
Five Questions Looking For Answers
1. Is there a starting quarterback on this team?
2. Is the committee of running backs talented enough to gain yards?
3. Can the defensive line put pressure on anybody?
4. Will the move to a more aggressive defense lead to fewer offensive scores, or more?
5. Are there four quality defensive backs on this team?
Best Chance For a Big Loss
At Wisconsin. Last year Indiana went to Madison and gave up 83 points. You don't even want to imagine the encore.
Most Important Game
Virginia. Granted, this game isn't played for a bucket, but it could determine whether or not the Hoosiers start 4-0. If they manage to go undefeated through their non-conference schedule, that may just be enough momentum for them to win one of their first two Big Ten games.
Best Road Game To Pack Up The Family Truckster And Travel To
Ball State in Indianapolis. There's no sense in forking out a ton of money just to watch a loss, so why not just fork out a little bit of money to watch a loss.
Game They Shouldn't Lose, But Could
Ball State. The Cardinals went 4-8 last season but return a slew of starters. They will pose problem for the Hoosiers, but this is also a chance for Kevin Wilson's team to make a big statement in-state.
Something To Look For
Kevin Wilson's new offense. They're calling the offense "pro style", as it was when Wilson was offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, but there may also be an element of the read option given the fact that Rich Rodriguez's old quarterbacks coach Rod Smith is now Wilson's QB coach. Regardless of what eventual "style" is played, it will all be played at an extremely fast pace. Like a caffeinated no huddle.
Receiver Damarlo Belcher. He's a big target (6-5 214), and is 28 receptions away from the Hoosiers' career record. He could stand to average better than the 10.7 yards per catch he managed last year, however, and in Wilson's offense, he should. He's an athletic mismatch against most defensive backs, and will be very busy this season.
Middle linebacker Jeff Thomas. As a junior college transfer last season, Thomas finished second on the team in tackles with 82. He also led the team in tackles for loss with 6.5. He is expected to be a leader of this defense and make a ton of plays. There will be more blitzing this year, and a guy like Thomas could really clean up in such a scheme.
Player People Are Expecting Too Much From
Running back Darius Willis. So much has been hoped for from Willis, but he's just never managed to live up to the hope or hype. He's battled injuries for most of his career, and has done nothing in practice as he's recovering from knee surgery. Kevin Wilson can't even give an opinion on him because he hasn't seen him perform. At this point, he looks like he may be completely bypassed in the running game.
Player People Will Be Pleasantly Surprised By
Cornerback Greg Heban. Heban was the surprise of the defense last year. An unknown walk-on, he finished last season with four starts at cornerback and has apparently re-secured his spot again this year. Also keep an eye on the other cornerback, former safety Lawrence Barnett. He moved from safety in the spring and has impressed the coaches in his limited time.
Running back D'Angelo Roberts. Roberts is a Bloomington native, which may be why he seems so at home in the Hoosier backfield. He's getting plenty of reps and currently looks like one of three candidates to start at running back.
Best Reason They Won't Be Undefeated
Because law mandates that the games be played. We don't want anarchy, do we?
Best Reason They Will Be Undefeated
Because they will defend the Rock! We joke about the old Hoosier mantra of defending their home turf, but in the last two seasons they've only been beaten by multiple scores twice. For Indiana, that's almost as good as a win.
Something They Do Well
Get their offensive line talent on the field early. Let's face it, Indiana doesn't secure the best talent, but when they find talent that they like, they use it. This is especially true on the offensive line. Four of the five projected starters up front - all upperclassmen - have started as redshirt freshmen, and that doesn't even include true freshman Ralston Evans who was slated as a possible starter at guard this season before being lost for the year with an injury.
Something They Don't Do So Well
Defend offenses. There hasn't been an Indiana defense that held opponents under 28 points per game since 2001, and that defense only managed to hold offenses to 27.1 points per game. It's the single-most glaring weakness of the Hoosier football program over the last few decades. They have had plenty of very good offenses, but it's been the defenses that have held them back. Kevin Wilson is intent upon changing this.
The running backs. Along with the freshman D'Angelo Roberts, there is also redshirt freshman Matt Perez, junior college transfer Stephen Houston, sophomore Nick Turner and the injury-prone Willis. Roberts, Perez and Houston have been getting the most reps in practice. Houston is a promising sophomore who has shown the power that is necessary in the Big Ten.
What's Gotten Worse?
Experience at quarterback. Ben Chappell threw for over 7,000 yards in his four years at Indiana. His replacements on the current roster have thrown for 170.
Anything Else We Should Know About?
The quarterback situation is still way up in the air, though Edward Wright-Baker has been seen working with the first team. He has had his moments, but Wilson still isn't thrilled with him. Dusty Kiel has gotten the reps with the twos, but isn't faring as well. Early in practice, true freshman Tre Roberson was the most impressive, but Wilson isn't sold yet. He's not sold on anybody, in fact. They are all athletic, but none are throwing the ball the way that is needed.
True freshmen are going to be playing quite a bit this season. Tre Roberson has been impressive in practice, but Wilson is afraid to make him the number one. He will play, but it will be limited. D'Angelo Roberts could be the starting tailback. There are three freshmen who will catch passes at receiver, and three offensive linemen already in the two deep. The defense is the same way. Youth galore. Wilson is looking for talent and other than quarterback he isn't concerned with their age. In the last four years, eight Hoosiers have played as true freshmen. That number could be doubled this year alone.
Make a Wish
A Purdue-like development of the defensive line. We're not asking for much, just some big bodies and a dominating pass rusher three out of every four years.
Freshman quarterback Tre Roberson will make at least one start for the Hoosiers this year.
Scandal Most Likely To Rock the Program
Cougar-gate. Not to be confused with the "Cougar-gate" that prompted Bret Bielema to finally get married. This one will have something to do with John Mellencamp wanting to make the Hoosier mascot an actual live cougar who wears a leather jacket and smokes four packs of cigarettes per day.
If The Head Coach Was a Superhero, What Would His Super Power Be?
Radio tool super hammer. In the dark of night, or light of day, Kevin Wilson would appear on radio show after radio show putting laugh track-dependent radio hosts in their place. And all at 150 mph.
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