Last season, Indiana was a balanced team (49% pass/51% Run), but without the presence of an established running back the Hoosiers will need to rely on their senior quarterback to move the chains.
In terms of tendencies, look for Indiana to align in predominately 11 Personnel, which utilizes one running back and one tight end, a personnel grouping they used on 576 of 923 (62.4%) plays charted last season.
As for down-and-distance tendencies, Indiana ran predominately to the left side on 1st down, passing to the right side on 2nd down, passing to the left on 3rd down, and passing to the right on 4th down attempts. In short yardage situations, Indiana liked to run to the right, likely behind All-American Dan Feeney, and on 3rd and long situations looked to pass to the left side of the field.
Indiana attempted very few passes to the short side of the field, almost two-fold in favor of the wide side, though this shows a tendency to attack the short side of the field in the running game.
The Hoosiers return a number of key players from the 2016 team that played the Buckeyes tough. We take a closer look at the impact players for the Hoosiers as well as those who have played themselves into productive roles heading into the game against the Buckeyes.
The most important piece to the Indiana offense is the return of Simmie Cobbs following ankle surgery that caused him to miss all of the 2016 season. Cobbs has a large frame and very good strength while providing his QB with a large catch radius. He gains solid separation at release with the use of his hands and has good strength to play through contact without being re-routed. Has good use of hands to high-point the ball and has solid ability to create yards after catch. Cobbs is a very good blocker downfield and uses his size and strength to stay engaged. Cobbs is utilized primarily outside the numbers and doesn’t threaten the middle of the field. Look for the Buckeyes to use the ball skills and speed of Denzel Ward versus Cobbs, though Kendall Sheffield’s athleticism is a favorable matchup as well.
Lagow enters his second season as starting QB in Bloomington and will look to improve upon a 2016 campaign that saw him pass for over 3,300 yards and 19 touchdowns. Lagow possesses the prototypical size of an NFL-caliber QB at 6’6” and 240 pounds and he has the arm strength to go along with it. Lagow has solid overall accuracy and throws a nice, catchable deep ball-an area of improvement from last season. When pressured, Lagow has good enough mobility to escape the pocket and buy time while delivering an accurate ball on the run. He tends to stare down his intended target and relies on his arm strength to fit into tight windows, a large factor in the 17 interceptions he threw last year (2nd most in the Big Ten). He also does not progress through post snap reads and looks to throw deep without looking off safeties.
Last season’s leading receiver for the Hoosiers, Westbrook hauled in 54 receptions for 995 yards (18.4 average). Westbrook is the deep threat in the passing game and led the conference in 40-plus yard receptions during the 2016 season. A large frame and big-play ability make Westbrook a key piece to the Indiana offensive attack, especially opposite a healthy Simmie Cobbs. Buckeye safeties Jordan Fuller, Erick Smith, and Damon Webb will be challenged in the intermediate and deep levels, though will be able to play a bit deeper due to the lack of running attack compared to Indiana teams of the past.
The leader of the Hoosiers’ defense, Tegray Scales, earned second-team All-American and second-team All-B1G honors last season where he led the country in tackles for loss (23.5). Solid size and very good speed, Scales is very aggressive and fills gaps in run support quite well. His speed, lateral agility, and good overall athleticism allows him to avoid blockers to make the play. Displays good ability to shed blockers and is a good tackler in the open field. Lacks discipline against motion and can be manipulated by play action. The Buckeye offensive linemen will need to make a difference at the second level for the running game to be productive, with emphasis on Scales.
Fant is the NCAA active career leader in pass breakups with 44 PBUs in 38 career games. Fant possesses very good speed to match any receiver on deep routes, and is able to utilize his speed to regain position when beaten at the release. The Hoosier CB shows good ability in Man Press coverage where he can run with a receiver and utilize his long arms to play the ball. He displays good awareness as he will consistently come off his route to offer support to a deep pass to the same side of the field. Fant also shows good ability to high point the ball and good body control when operating near the sideline or with a receiver to complete an interception or avoid a penalty. He is active in run support and is not afraid to take on larger ball carriers despite his 5’10” 175lb frame.
The senior defensive end has a solid frame with long arms. He uses speed off the edge to threaten the pocket and displays good bend when running the arc. Has shown a decent pass rush repertoire, utilizing a spin move on occasion and has active hands to swipe away the arms of his opponent. Gooch shows good mental processing and awareness to leverage outside runs and has a good understanding of funneling the ball carrier back inside. Will align inside on third downs, primarily standing up and threatening the A Gap. Does not have good speed-to-power, so if Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Prince can stalemate his jump off the ball he will struggle to get home.
Coy Cronk #54 LT, 6’5” 295, Sophomore – The next future star of this OL group. Very solid in both run and pass protection. Has a nastiness about him and finishes blocks to the echo of the whistle.
Nile Sykes #35 DE, 6’2” 250, Junior – Athletic defensive end that excels in rushing the passer, utilizes primarily speed to power to rush the QB. Has good speed and very good effort in chasing down the play.
Marcelino Ball #42 “Husky” LB, 6’0″/212, Sophomore – Athleticism for days, can cover a variety of opponents with his combination of size, speed, and play strength. Utilized on the offensive side of the ball during their Spring Game where he took an end around and broke a number of tackles for a big gain.
Jonathan Crawford #9 SS, 6’2” 200, Junior – Imposing Safety with big hit ability and very good ball skills. Solidifies the defensive secondary, the strength of the Hoosiers team.