Want to know more about our opponent heading into Saturday? Ask and you shall receive. John over at The Crimson Quarry was kind enough to exchange and answer a few questions about the Indiana football team, look for my responses over at his site as well, enjoy:
MNB: In general, how do you feel about having Bill Lynch as the head coach (signed through 2012)? It sure seemed as though they could've pursued a young up-and-comer who might have been able to continue on the success that Hoeppner had built in terms of re-energizing the program and stoking the fires of enthusiasm about football in Bloomington...
TCQ: There is no doubt that in a conventional coaching search, Bill Lynch would not have been considered for the job. His losing record and 21-game losing streak at Ball State and his low-key personality probably would not have made him an ideal candidate. Still, IU was in a close-to-impossible situation after the 2007 season. IU had just completed its most successful season in 14 years, was headed to its first warm-weather bowl game in 16 years, and many of the most highly respected voices concerning IU football, including Bill Mallory, were clamoring for his retention. It would have been a strange spectacle for IU to be conducting a coaching search as a lame duck staff prepared for IU's first bowl appearance since the early 1990s. IU has failed under retreads and failed under up-and-comers. Maybe an up-and-comer would have been the next Urban Meyer; maybe he would have been the next Cam Cameron. While re-energizing the program was part of Hoeppner's legacy, the guy was a damn good coach, and his sideline demeanor was more intense than that of any current Big Ten coach. For all of the happy-go-lucky stuff in press conferences, Hep was a taskmaster who desperately wanted to win. He was no Lee Corso-style huckster.
But, back to Lynch. I'm ambivalent about it. I do have doubts about him as a program leader and a gameday coach. On the other hand, he has modestly improved recruiting (Michigan would scoff, but our classes have gone from "a bunch of two stars with a smattering of three stars" to "a bunch of three stars with occasional two stars and four stars"). Thanks to the north endzone addition, Lynch has better facilities to sell than has any IU coach in decades. The conventional wisdom is that 2009 is Lynch's make-or-break season, and while we know little about AD Fred Glass's personnel style, I think it's a fair assumption. If he wins 6 or 7 games this year, I think he's secure. Will he ever turn in a Bill Mallory-type run of respectability? I don't know.
MNB: It's probably fair to say that your defense has saved two out of the first three games thus far. You guys have an embarrassment of riches with Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton, and after watching Tate momentarily go down last Saturday those two are concerns 1 and 1a for yours truly. Who else on the Hoosier defense should Michigan fans be cognizant of this Saturday? What should we expect in terms of a gameplan?
TCQ: You are correct that Kirlew and Middleton are the main concerns. Two other players to watch are the safeties, Nick Polk and Austin Thomas. Both guys have been starters for their entire careers, although both blew ACLs last year. Thomas had two interceptions in the Akron game. It's no secret, given IU's strength and playing against a freshman quarterback, that the Hoosiers will try to get to Tate Forcier. While Kirlew and Middleton justifiably get the press, their presence has allowed IU to spread things around in terms of the pass rush. Seven Hoosiers have recorded sacks this season. As to the "how," I'll leave that to someone with a better grasp of x's and o's. But I'm sure that taking Forcier out of his rhythm will be a priority.
MNB: Pistol offense... OK numbers against pretty "meh" competition thus far, yay or nay with a QB like Chappell? Is this thing just a fad or do you think it will be a system that positions IU to bring in some recruits they may not have had a shot at before?
TCQ: Well, the offense obviously is not a replica of the Nevada pistol, which is more of an option offense with an excellent running quarterback. IU has used WR Mitchell Evans as a mobile QB in the formation, but for the most part, it's more helpful to think of the Pistol as a formation rather than an offense. The IU staff's stated hope has been that it would allow the running backs to hit the holes hard and create more of a downhill running game, and after a heartburn-inducing performance against Eastern Kentucky, it seems to be working (albeit against sub-Big Ten competition). As for Chappell, he seems suited for the offense in the way IU is running it. Despite his nice numbers, I have some concerns about his accuracy and decision-making that I think may be currently masked by the quality of the competition and some nice plays by his receivers. Still, hopefully he will continue to improve and will keep his numbers where they are.
Will it help with recruits? Maybe. IU has a true freshman named Edward Wright-Baker who has a strong arm and excellent running skills. He nominally is IU's second-string quarterback, although they seem to be trying to save him as a redshirt. One has to wonder if the implementation of this offense is with Wright-Baker in mind. I'm a big fan of dual-threat quarterbacks as a field leveler for programs like IU, so that would make me happy.
MNB: Michigan's defense has shown that it can let teams drive the football at times already this season (and now may be missing starting safety Mike Williams), do you foresee any special twists or change-ups on offense from what we've seen the first three weeks?
TCQ: I don't know. IU already has introduced the Mitchell Evans-at-QB wrinkle. Whether they will further mix things up with personnel or formation or trick plays is hard to say. IU is 3-0 and a 21 point underdog. Hopefully Lynch has something up his sleeve.
MNB: I've long believed that Purdue's "count to four" first down cheer is the single dumbest crowd cheer in sports. That said I have to ask, what do you really think about Indiana's First Down March? Also, bonus question, why doesn't IU just build a bigger drum?
TCQ: I'm just impressed that so many Boilers can count to four. I like IU's First Down March. One of the major problems facing IU's football program over the years has been an absence of tradition and enthusiasm. The First Down March is a little goofy, but it's fun for the students and fans, it's original, and it's organic (I believe it was begun by some ardent student fans known as the Helmet Heads back in the Cam Cameron era). That fact that you, a Michigan fan, even know that IU has a First Down March tells me that I'm glad we do it. As for the drum, only a university without a music school could think that out-of-tune piece of junk is a good idea. Have you ever heard it? [Ed note - I have heard it, it's rather underwhelming, and I have another question, why do the big drum guys have to wear shiny helmets?] You should go to Purdue's senior day some time, when the senior band members all get to hit it.
MNB: Quick plug: for those that haven't been to Bloomington, just go, it's a great campus. Your favorite local establishment/watering hole? (Hard to beat Nick's from my experience)
TCQ: Nick's is Bloomington's most iconic establishment, and anyone who visits IU should stop in and play a game of "sink the Bismark." My favorite spot as an IU student was Yogi's, a sports bar that is a bit more low key than the places on Kirkwood Avenue and has excellent bar food. Other popular spots are the original Kilroy's on Kirkwood Avenue (a block from the main entrance to the IU campus), and Kilroy's Sports Bar a few blocks away, known simply as "Sports" in IU parlance. There are many more that I remember fondly, and I'm sure some others have arisen in the (gulp) nearly 14 years since I graduated.
So there you go! Many thanks to John for his time and knowledge, much appreciated!