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You can read the entire Indiana preview in Athlon Sports' 2012 Big Ten magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
Big Ten Leaders PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Kevin Wilson, | OFF. COORDINATOR: Seth Littrell | DEF. COORDINATOR: Mike Ekeler, Doug Mallory
The Hoosiers ranked in the top half of the Big Ten in one of the 17 statistical categories charted by the NCAA — passing offense. They were fifth. That was not enough to please Kevin Wilson, whose 1–11 team was the only team from a BCS league that failed to defeat an FBS opponent last season. Wilson knows that IU’s 55.8 percent completion percentage must improve by at least 12 percent, and the passing touchdown total of 10 has to double. Although Tre Roberson emerged as an average passer (57 percent) and solid runner (426 yards), he could lose his spot to either Cameron Coffman, a junior college transfer who excelled in the Spring Game, or freshman Nathan Sudfeld, because of their power arms.
The running game needs work, too, although seven of the top eight rushers return. Stephen Houston ran like a Big Ten back, averaging better than 5.0 yards per carry. He fumbled only once and gained more than 100 yards against Wisconsin, Northwestern and Purdue. D’Angelo Roberts will start practice as the backup, but don’t be surprised if freshman Tevin Coleman or transfer Isaiah Roundtree overtake him.
Kofi Hughes led the team with 35 catches last season. He’s back to operate from the slot. But Wilson needs Duwyce Wilson to return from a serious knee surgery and Cody Latimer or Jay McCants to emerge as deep threats. Center Will Matte and guard Bernard Taylor need help on the line.
When you rank last in the Big Ten in rushing, total and scoring defense, change is mandatory. Wilson wasn’t willing to wait to develop young talent. He signed five junior college defensive players, plugged all five into the lineup in spring practice and expects them to bring athleticism and toughness to a unit lacking both qualities.
Linebackers Jacarri Alexander and David Cooper will be asked to make this unit faster and more tenacious. They looked solid in April, as did Chase Hoobler, who was named to the Freshman All-Big Ten team and made plays all spring.
Four defensive line regulars return, but the Hoosiers’ inability to slow the running game makes it uncertain whether they can hold their starting spots. Justin Rayside, another junior college transfer, could push somebody from the lineup.
Applications are also being taken in the secondary. IU allowed 26 passing touchdowns while making five interceptions. Safety Mark Murphy and cornerback Greg Heban finished second and third in tackling, respectively, but must improve their ball-hawking skills.
Placekicker Mitch Ewald is a nice weapon but would be more of a factor if the Hoosiers weren’t consistently down three touchdowns in the second half. Wilson is looking for a punter, and he expects Shane Wynn to provide some big plays as a return specialist.
Tom Crean needed four seasons to turn the Indiana basketball team around, so it’s unrealistic to expect miracles from Wilson in Year 2. His most important decision will be at quarterback. Although Roberson provided thrills and some long plays, he’s not a perfect fit for the pro-style passing game that Wilson and new offensive coordinator Seth Littrell prefer. They’ll be tempted to go with Coffman or Sudfeld. But Indiana allowed nearly 43 points per game while going winless in the Big Ten. Unless the Hoosiers start to hold their own on either line of scrimmage, major improvement will have to wait another season.