Indiana: 2010 was a carbon copy of the last three years for the Hoosiers, winning only a single conference game. That repeated poor showing finally led to Bill Lynch and his staff finally being shown the door. For the fifth time in ten years IU will have a new coach trying to correct their misfortune in the person of Kevin Wilson. Wilson comes to Bloomington after having spent eight seasons in Norman learning under the tutelage of Bob Stoops. For the last six seasons Wilson was either the fulltime or co-offensive coordinator for the Sooners. Wilson is not foreign to the Big Ten, as he spent three seasons at Northwestern under the late Randy Walker. Since his arrival on campus he has been working hard trying to change the culture of losing that has seemingly taken up residence at IU since they decided to field a football team. Personally I like the hire as I believe he will instill a toughness and discipline that has been lacking since the days of Bill Mallory. Hoosier fans may be anticipating immediate results, but unfortunately there is little in the way of talent on the roster, so even though I expect to see an improved product on the field the results in the won/loss columns probably won’t be vastly different from 2010.
Offense: The good news is the Hoosiers return eight starters from last year’s squad. The bad news is they return eight starters from last year’s squad plus they have to replace a three year starter at quarterback. There are three legitimate candidates vying for the QB job, none with any significant amount of playing time, RS junior Adam Follett, and two RS sophomores Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker. Follett is more of a pocket passer and less mobile than the other two, and considering the change in the offensive philosophy a more mobile quarterback will be required. The offensive line returns four, junior Center Will Matte, senior tackles Andrew McDonald and Justin Pagan, and junior guard Marc Damish, but after spring camp concluded Wilson commented that he was looking forward to some of his 2011 line recruits arriving on campus to challenge for starting assignments. That alone should send up warning signals that the current member are a very under performing unit, and that coaching alone won’t be sufficient to elevate their play to the level he requires. One 2011 recruit, Ralston Evans, who made it to campus early appears to have impressed enough in spring ball that he earned a starting assignment. Because of the issues with the talent of the offensive line the running game will likely suffer even though there is some decent talent. RS junior Darrius Willis, when healthy has the making of being a featured back and has shown flashes of his talent. The operative word is healthy, something he has struggled to achieve since arriving on campus. RS freshman Matt Perez was considered a prized recruit when he signed with IU, unfortunately his season ended before it began when he tore his ACL in preseason camp. He could be the featured back to start the season as Willis has been suspended for violations of team rules. The one unit that IU can compete with most any team is their receivers. They return Demarlo Belcher, the conferences reception leader from 2010 and a second year TE who was a pleasant surprise in 2010 as a freshman in Ted Bolser. Besides these two IU has sufficient depth that is talented.
Defense: The Hoosiers can’t get any worse defensively than what they displayed in Madison when the Badgers rang up 83 points. Wilson has seven returning starters from an absolutely abysmal unit that gave up on average 34 points and 410 yards per game. If Wilson holds out any hope of having a winning season he will have to shore this side of the ball up quickly. IU returns three starters along the front, an undersized and former linebacker in Darius Johnson (6’, 241), and two serviceable tackles in Larry Black and Adam Replogle. Behind these three is an undistinguishable group, hence Wilson’s eager anticipation for the arrival of his 2011 class this preseason. The linebacking unit is led by senior Jeff Thomas who mans the middle. Along with Thomas is another returning senior starter, Leon Beckum. What has hindered the performance of this unit is the inability of the DL to keep opposing blockers from getting to the second level and tying them up. Not overly athletic and often times undermanned physically the IU linebackers get swept away in the wash of offensive blockers, further limiting their effectiveness. The secondary returns only one starter in FS Donnel Jones, but even him maintaining that position is tenuous at this point with the new staff. The staff may have lucked out by having walk-on Greg Heban, emerge late last year at safety. Overall no starting position on defense is truly settled as there are simply too many to be contested when practice resumes in August.
Special Teams: Both specialists from 2010 return. As with all positions after a coaching change there is no certainty that they will retain their place on the depth chart. Kicker Mitch Ewald connected on 16 of 19 field goal attempts, with a long of 49 yards, and was perfect on PAT’s. Senior Chris Hagerup averaged a pedestrian 39.4 yards per punt in 2010, continuing his downward trend from 42.4 yards and 40.5 yards his freshman and sophomore years respectively.
2011 Outlook: New coach, new attitude, same results, at least temporarily. 2011 might be a situation of taking one step forward and two steps back record wise. At best I see IU going 4-8, but that is having them win the two games that I see as being toss ups, North Texas State and Purdue. The only two games where I have IU holding an advantage is Ball State and South Carolina State, after that the rest of their schedule will be difficult to negotiate with having to break in an inexperienced quarterback as well as the entire team learning a new system. There is little quality talent among the projected starters, and less amongst the depth. When the head coach is looking for untested true freshman to make an impact you know there is little in the tank to work with. Wilson needs to preach patience to the IU faithful because this is a program in need of total reconstruction talent wise and that will take a minimum of three solid recruiting classes starting with the 2012 class.