Indiana Hoosiers 2016 Preview and Prediction
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#55 Indiana Hoosiers
Big Ten West Division PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Kevin Wilson, 20-41 (5 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Kevin Johns | DEF. COORDINATOR: Tom Allen
Indiana displayed the improvement fans were looking for by earning a bowl game last season. This year will be no different for the Hoosiers, as coach Kevin Wilson hopes to guide the program to another postseason trip. Losing quarterback Nate Sudfeld will hurt, but Indiana returns talented running back Devine Redding and a solid offensive line. The defense should show improvement behind new coordinator Tom Allen.
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Previewing Indiana’s Offense
Kevin Wilson has shown he can build prolific offenses in the Big Ten, but that doesn’t mean people don’t ask if he can do it again. This time he’ll have to deliver without a quarterback who set multiple school records (Nate Sudfeld), a halfback who ran for more than 1,200 yards (Jordan Howard) and a tackle who earned a prominent spot on NFL Draft boards (Jason Spriggs). Don’t expect Wilson to settle on a quarterback until late summer. Danny Cameron, the walk-on son of LSU offensive coordinator Cam, and junior college transfer Richard Lagow led the competition during the spring. Cameron knows the offense. Lagow has the better arm. IU would like to redshirt Zander Diamont, its most experienced quarterback.
The running game is less unsettled. Devine Redding earned enough snaps when Howard was ailing to run for 1,012 yards and nine touchdowns. Expect him to share time with Camion Patrick, a former wide receiver who missed last season for academic reasons.
At receiver, Wilson has the mixture he loves — a tall, deep threat in Simmie Cobbs, a possession guy in Mitchell Paige and a sharp route-runner in Ricky Jones. Mike Majette and Ricky Brookins will split time at receiver and halfback.
Despite the loss of Spriggs and another starter, the line remains a strength. Wilson, a former offensive line coach, says senior guard Dan Feeney is the best blocker he has coached. Brandon Knight has been compared to Spriggs.
Previewing Indiana’s Defense
Wilson has not shown he can build a winning defense. He changed coordinators, again, recruiting Tom Allen, a former Indianapolis high school coach who employed a 4-2-5 alignment at USF last season. The defense also welcomes Mark Hagen, a former IU linebacker who arrives from Texas A&M to coach the line.
Allen must create opportunities to employ his talented linebackers, because Marcus Oliver, T. J. Simmons, Clyde Newton and Tegray Scales were the unit’s strength last season. Nate Hoff and Ralph Green have the bulk to be run stoppers at tackle, but Indiana lacks experience on the edges and a pure pass rusher. Greg Gooch and Nile Sykes, two more former linebackers, should contribute.
The secondary struggled — again — allowing 313.8 passing yards per game. Safety Jonathan Crawford showed playmaking skills, grabbing four interceptions and making the Big Ten All-Freshman team. Chase Dutra is a quality safety if he can stay healthy. Two transfers — Jayme Thompson (Iowa Western via Ohio State) and Wesley Green (South Carolina) — should deliver an upgrade in the secondary.
Previewing Indiana’s Specialists
Everybody remembers Griffin Oakes’ controversial missed field goal in overtime of the Hoosiers’ Pinstripe Bowl loss to Duke, but don’t forget that he was the Big Ten Kicker of the Year and hit 6-of-8 from 40 yards or more. Joseph Gedeon has the inside track to replace Erich Toth at punter. Paige gave Indiana occasional thunder in its punt return game, taking two back for touchdowns, including one for 91 yards. Devonte Williams and Brookins will handle kickoff returns.
The Hoosiers ended an eight-year bowl drought last season, but now comes a more substantial challenge — earning back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in 25 seasons. The pieces are there at running back, receiver and the offensive line. Can Wilson develop a 60 percent passer who doesn’t make bad reads? Defensively, the issue has not changed at Indiana in more than a decade: The Hoosiers lack the serious beef to win on the line of scrimmage against top Big Ten teams. Six wins remains their ceiling — without serious injuries or major issues.