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Indiana Football: Hoosiers' 2022 Spring Preview

Connor Bazelak, Missouri Tigers Football

Missouri transfer quarterback Connor Bazelak will get the first shot at taking over the reins of the Hoosiers' offense this spring following the departure of Michael Penix Jr.

After a surprisingly successful 2020 season, Indiana football fell back to earth in 2021. Despite entering the season with rare national preseason rankings and expectations, Indiana fell flat in a hurry with injuries and losses in key games along the way to an unfortunate step-back season in Bloomington. But the overall stability of the program is believed to be in good hands under head coach Tom Allen, and the 2022 season will be an opportunity to bounce back.

But Indiana will have some new looks to its roster in 2022 after this past offseason, which means forming its identity in spring could be essential heading into the new college football season next fall. Indiana's spring football practices will be worth paying attention to because if all goes well, Indiana could still be a team nobody will want to play in the Big Ten in 2022.

5 Storylines to Watch During Indiana's Spring Practice

1. The post-Michael Penix Jr. era begins with a transfer

Indiana will have a new starting quarterback in 2022, and the addition of Missouri transfer Connor Bazelak appears to be the answer. Bazelak enrolled at Indiana in time for the start of the spring semester, which will give him a chance to immediately form bonds with the Hoosiers and get in a rhythm with his new receivers. As Penix? He’ll look to finish off his college career at Washington, giving curious Indiana fans a reason to stay tuned to #Pac12AfetrDark next fall.

Related: Early 2022 Big Ten QB Preview and Rankings

2. Relying on Indiana’s veteran defense

One thing that has been pretty consistent in the recent success of the Indiana program under Tom Allen has, naturally, been the defense. The 2022 season should keep that trend going as the Hoosiers won’t have to worry too much about plugging too many holes on defense. The secondary is in the best shape with the return of Tiawan Mullen helping to cement the stability for the backfield.

3. But the defense does have some room for improvement

Indiana's 2021 season didn’t live up to the preseason hype, and the defense was to blame for some of this. The Hoosiers allowed 33.3 points per game last season, the highest average allowed by a Big Ten program in 2021. That was surprising after Indiana had made steady improvement in points allowed per game in the three previous seasons before that, each allowing fewer than 30 points per game. Expect Allen to turn things around with this being a focus in 2022.

4. In search of leading receivers

Back on offense, Indiana is looking to replace its top two receivers from the 2021 season. That includes a big tight end void after losing Peyton Hendershot to the NFL, and with wide receiver Ty Fryfogle also heading off to the pros. Each had more than 500 receiving yards last season, and Hendershot was the only player to have more than one touchdown reception in 2021 (he had four). Clearly, the focus on finding reliable receiving options will be key this spring with a new quarterback throwing the football.

5. Another key offensive transfer from the SEC

Quarterback wasn’t the only key offensive position with a transfer addition from the SEC. Indiana also added running back Shaun Shivers from Auburn. The experienced running back comes to Bloomington with more than 1,000 career rushing yards and eight career touchdowns, and he could be stepping into a big role with the Hoosiers. Shivers can also catch a pass to help add some versatility to the Indiana offense.

Related: Ranking the Big Ten Transfer Classes for 2022

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— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB, on Instagram, and Like him on Facebook.