Big Ten Preview – Indiana
Offense – Returning Starters – 5; Key Departures – WR Demarlo Belcher.
Second-year head coach Kevin Wilson was hired with the understanding that he was an ingenuitive offensive mind that could make lemons into lemonade. His 2011 showed mixed results, but on the positive side Indiana was only held under 20 three times, and 2012 should give Wilson a more stable core. The offensive line gained experience last year and should be a strength ifthey can open holes for incumbent running back Stephen Houston and quarterback Tre Roberson, who grabbed the starting job late last year. After transferring into the program Houston led the team with 833 rushing yards and flashed the ability to carry the Hoosier offense against solid defenses. Roberson, a duel threat option, passed for 937 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 426 yards all inside of seven games of his true freshman year. With a better understanding of the offense Roberson should improve upon his touchdown-to-interception ratio, which was 1-to-2. Kofi Hughes and Jamonne Chester will need to step up to replace Demarlo Belcher, otherwise Roberson will have a tough time moving the offense. He has quick feet, but at 6 feet even and 180 pounds, he won’t make it through a full Big Ten schedule scrambling for first downs.
Key – The offensive line needs to gel and run block, run block, run block. To be honest, Hughes and Chester just aren’t going to be good enough to turn the tables for Roberson, so it’s going to have to be the running game. Houston is going to have to carry the load and Roberson is going to have break long runs and get out of bounds. Look for Wilson’s unit to improve in its second year, but the depth isn’t there to weather injuries.
Defense – Returning Starters – 6; Key Departures – LB Jeff Thomas, LB Leon Beckum.
You’ve already read that Kevin Wilson’s forte is offense, but if he wants to keep his job for a very long time he better start focusing on the opposite side of the football. Indiana finished 114th out of 120 Division 1 teams in points allowed – and without Matt Barkley, Robert Woods, and Marquise Lee you aren’t going to win many football games if you allow an ungodly amount of points. Over the last six games of the year Indiana allowed an average of over 45 points per game. So what is the strength of the defensive unit? Returning defensive lineman Larry Black and Adam Replogle were solid last year and should be able to disrupt the opposing offensive line. Indiana lost their top two players from last year’s linebacker core so it will start and end with success on the defensive front. Black is a 310 pound sophomore who is stout in the middle but also provides ample quickness to make plays behind the line (7.5 in 2011). Replogle lines up next to Black but provides more quickness off the line and is the Hoosiers returning leader in tackles (110) and sacks (10); it’s not much, but it’s a start.
Key – Just improve. Indiana’s defense isn’t going to turn into Ohio State’s overnight so it’s got to be baby steps, but enough of a step forward that they can win a couple games. This defense and team needs some momentum, and the defense needs to take some pride in keeping their opponent out of the endzone. How many straight years can they tolerate being the doormat before they put in a decent season?
And 1 – The first season for head coach Kevin Wilson didn’t go as planned. Indiana stumbled out to a 1-3 out-of-conference record (and they weren’t playing Alabama and Oregon), and then continued to slide until their final game ended and granted sweet mercy at 1-11. You’ll notice Indiana brings back only 11 starters from last season but doesn’t have many key departures, which is because they didn’t have many good players. A lot of young guys got time last year and Indiana is hoping that the extra experience can help to bridge the talent gap that exists in the Big Ten.
Prediction – 3-9 (0-8)
Indiana – 8-8-12
Iowa – 8-9-12
Michigan – 8-10-12
Michigan State – 8-13-12
Northwestern – 8-16-12
Ohio State – 8-17-12
Penn State – 8-20-12
Purdue – 8-21-12
Wisconsin – 8-22-12