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COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
Big Ten Leaders PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Kevin Wilson, 5-19 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Seth Littrell | DEF. COORDINATOR: William Inge, Doug Mallory
Kevin Wilson arrived at Indiana before the 2011 season with credentials as an offensive guru. Big Ten defensive coordinators will testify that isn’t hype. Even after losing quarterback Tre Roberson to a broken leg in Game 2, IU still finished first in the Big Ten in passing offense and second in total offense.
Most of the essential pieces return from that group, fueling discussion that the Hoosiers will be able ring up jumbo numbers again. Roberson returned from his injury to play in the Spring Game, and his ability to scramble separates him from Cam Coffman and Nate Sudfeld. But those two were effective as a tandem last season because of their passing accuracy. Sudfeld had only one interception (and seven touchdowns) in 82 attempts as a true freshman, and Wilson will not make a decision on the starter until fall camp.
The Hoosiers are also building depth at running back. Stephen Houston and Tevin Coleman are full-sized backs who have shown they can take on linebackers. D’Angelo Roberts crackles with the speed to slip outside. Receiver is another strength for IU. Shane Wynn is a tiny burner who was named the top player in the Spring Game. Kofi Hughes excels in the middle of the field, and tight end Ted Bolser is a large target with dependable hands.
Line play is always an issue at Indiana, but Wilson should finally benefit from the growing pains of the last two seasons because four starters return, led by guard Dan Feeney and tackle Jason Spriggs, starters as true freshmen.
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.
Indiana needs to get bigger. And faster. And stronger. And quickly. The Hoosiers were last in the Big Ten in rushing, total and scoring defense. Power teams like Wisconsin, Ohio State and Penn State simply lined up and rolled. IU allowed an average of more than 54 points in its last three games — and its top two defensive tackles are gone.
Look for a major youth movement. Indiana celebrated commitments from three 4-star prospects from Indianapolis, players who de-committed from other BCS schools — tackle Darius Latham (Wisconsin), end David Kenney (Iowa) and cornerback Antonio Allen (Ole Miss). Wilson also looked for help from two junior college transfers who enrolled for the spring semester.
Playing time is not guaranteed to anybody but safety Greg Heban and linebacker David Cooper, who return as the top tacklers. Zack Shaw is expected to help the pass rush by moving from linebacker to defensive end.
The Hoosiers don’t play with a large margin for error so they can’t continue to rank 56th nationally in kickoff returns and 92nd in punt returns. Wynn and Coleman can do better with kickoffs, and Wynn should improve the punt return production. Mitch Ewald ranks as the most accurate placekicker in IU history.
Wilson is tired of merely coming close and knows that this is the season that the Hoosiers should at least enjoy bowl-eligibility. The schedule is loaded with eight home games, and Indiana does not play away from Memorial Stadium until Oct. 12. Wilson and his staff recruited the highest-ranked class in IU history, packing it with the speed and size that his defense has lacked to stop the run.
But winning with freshmen is difficult in the Big Ten, so offense will remain Indiana’s calling card for at least one more season. Indiana’s best offensive players — Roberson, Houston, Bolser, Hughes — are starting their third season in Wilson’s high-tempo system, mastering the necessary deceptions. If the defense can make modest improvement, Indiana could score its way to six victories.