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Indiana Football: 2022 Hoosiers Season Preview and Prediction

Cam Jones, Indiana Hoosiers Football

Cam Jones and the Hoosiers are ranked No. 82 in Athlon Sports' Top 131 for the 2022 college football season

New offensive coordinator. New defensive coordinator. New quarterback. New running backs. New wide receivers. New starting middle linebacker. New almost everything.

But there is an old mission around the Indiana football program: discovering how to make Hoosiers relevant in the Big Ten East again.

After a surprising Top 25 finish in the shortened 2020 season, the Hoosiers collapsed to 2–10 last season, floundering to 0–9 in the Big Ten.

Head coach Tom Allen recruited five new assistant coaches as well 12 players from the transfer portal while trying to return IU to its winning ways of 2019 and 2020.

Related: Athlon Sports' College Football Top 25 for 2022

Previewing Indiana's Offense for 2022

Nothing worked last season. The Hoosiers ranked last in the Big Ten in total offense, averaging fewer than 300 yards and 18 points per game. IU had four touchdown passes in nine Big Ten games.

Allen dismissed offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan, replacing him with Walt Bell, who earned a solid reputation as a play-caller at Maryland and Florida State before three tough seasons as the head coach at UMass.

The starting quarterback will be a multi-player competition in fall camp, but Missouri transfer Connor Bazelak projects as the favorite because of his performance in spring ball as well as his two seasons as a starter in the SEC. Bazelak is a career 66 percent passer but must improve his 23-to-17 touchdown-to-interception ratio. If Bell believes mobility is more important, then either Dexter Williams II or Donaven McCulley (who could also move to receiver) will get the call.

None of the Hoosiers' top four running backs return, but that's not as dire as it sounds because they combined for only 1,066 yards. Transfers Shaun Shivers (Auburn) and Josh Henderson (North Carolina) saw the void as an opportunity to play immediately, although neither ran for 90 yards last season.

Indiana reboots at receiver, although D.J. Matthews Jr. started four games in the slot before a knee injury ended his season. Cam Camper, a transfer from Trinity Valley (Texas) Junior College, drew consistent praise for his ability to generate yards after the catch in spring practice. Emery Simmons caught 30 passes in three seasons at North Carolina before transferring to IU, which recruited him out of high school. Jaquez Smith redshirted last season but was a four-star recruit and the second-highest-ranked player in IU's 2021 class. Tight end AJ Barner has the size, hands and speed to emerge as the top pass catcher.

The Hoosiers averaged 3.2 yards per carry and allowed 29 sacks, which is a polite way of saying the offensive line has work to do. Three starters return, but there have been multiple position shifts, as Matthew Bedford moves from left guard to left tackle, Luke Haggard from left tackle to right tackle and Zach Carpenter from right guard to center. All eyes will be on this group.

Previewing Indiana's Defense for 2022

The Hoosiers' defensive scoring average soared from 20.3 to 33.2 points per game, which ranked last in the Big Ten. Defensive coordinator Charlton Warren left for North Carolina after one season. Although Allen hired Chad Wilt from Minnesota to run the defense, Allen will be more involved in the defensive game plan and play-calling, which is his background.

IU worked the portal hard on defense, and at least three newcomers could start. The two players who excelled in spring practice were JH Tevis, a tackle who had 37 tackles while starting every game for California, and Myles Jackson, a Georgia native who spent two seasons at UCLA. Jackson has leadership skills that resulted in him being named a team captain.

The primary issue on defense will be replacing Micah McFadden, who was the Hoosiers' top tackler and coach on the field since 2019. Bradley Jennings Jr. arrives from Miami (Fla.), where he lost his starting position last year after starting all 11 games in 2020. The Hoosiers' key performer will be Cam Jones, another fifth-year player who finished third for IU with 43 tackles in 2021. Speed is Jones' calling card.

Watch freshman linebacker/edge rusher Dasan McCullough, the highest-ranked member of IU's recruiting class. Although his father, Deland, left the IU staff to become the running backs coach at Notre Dame, Dasan and his brother, Deland II, a reserve cornerback, remained with the Hoosiers.

The secondary should be the strongest unit. Tiawan Mullen and Jaylin Williams are seniors and tenacious, experienced coverage guys. Safeties Devon Matthews and Bryant Fitzgerald started multiple games last season. But the Hoosiers must improve their ball-hawking skills. Their interception total slid from 17 to five last season even though IU played four more games than in 2020.

Related: Big Ten Football Predictions for 2022

Previewing Indiana's Specialists for 2022

Veteran Charles Campbell returns after making 13-of-18 field goals and all 20 extra points. IU added Alejandro Quintero from Blinn (Texas) College to push James Evans at punter. Matthews should return punts if his knee is healthy, and the same is true for David Ellis on kickoffs.

Final Analysis

The Hoosiers were outscored by nearly 25 points per game while losing all nine Big Ten games and were buried by a schedule that featured six teams ranked in the top 20 in IU's first nine games. There are so many new faces and holes to plug that even with a more favorable schedule, they'll be fortunate to double their win total to four games.

National Ranking: 82

Podcast: Complete Big Ten Preview for 2022 + Predictions and Rankings