To an outsider, year two of the Kevin Wilson era looked like a step in the right direction. The Hoosiers won two Big Ten games and almost won two more taking OSU and MSU deep into the fourth quarter. However, losses to Navy and Ball State kept Indiana from a bowl. How do Hoosier fans feel about last season and the direction of the program going into year three?
I'm not sure it is possible to be more excited about a 4-8 season. Indiana lost their one player that could be considered a budding star in QB Tre Roberson in the first half of the second game. It really built in a bevy of excuses for not winning more games. I think any Indiana fan will tell you that the Ball State and Navy meltdowns don't happen with Tre Roberson in the game. I don't think it saves any other games but it makes others more interesting. Overall the direction of the program, in the context of our history, feels like the sky is the limit.
One area Kevin Wilson hasn't had trouble excelling is developing pass offenses, and he has done that yet again, getting Indiana over 300 ypg. However, this follows a year where Indiana's rushing offense (featuring freshman Tre Roberson) was actually the more productive unit. Which leads to the question: who starts at quarterback this year, and what do you expect from the offense?
I expect the offense to continue its explosiveness from recent years. That is one thing that Indiana has been able to count on. The issue is the reliability. Tre Roberson will start at QB but I wouldn't be shocked to see us go all Danny Hope at Purdue on the conference and play multiple QBs. Wilson is going to do what will get the most consistent results. The production has been there in the past but not always when we needed it. Whichever QB can sustain a 4th quarter drive will be the starter by the end of the year. My money is on Roberson, but Nate Sudfeld and Cam Coffman showed flashes of their ability last year as well.
Indiana's defense last year was one of the worst in the conference -- the same as Wilson's first year. How long until this unit makes strides toward even being average? Any young players you're excited about?
The defense has always been IU's Achilles Heel. I expect the defense to go from historically awful to just bad this year through a combination of veteran leadership and superior talent injection. Indiana has several 3 year starting juniors and seniors on this squad with a bevy of experience. Couple that with the conference's 4th best recruiting class which was nearly all defensive prospects (including poaching a 4 star DL from Wisconsin, which feels amazing) and I can understand where some optimism is coming from. The question is whether some of the stud high school seniors can physically compete in very physical positions as freshmen.
Going into this season what do you think Indiana's best position group is? Also, what is the one you are least confident in?
Have to feel great about the WRs and the stable of QBs. I don't think losing Tre Roberson this year gives IU fans that sinking feeling of wasted season like it did last year now that we know Sudfeld and Coffman are both capable of being at least middle of the pack B1G QBs if not better. The WRs are also up there in the confidence rankings. Cody Latimer could compete for a #1 spot on almost any team in the conference, Kofi Hughes is a burner with great hands, Shane Wynn and Duwyce Wilson are legit tertiary threats and 4 star freshman Taj Williams is an intriguing prospect. The D-Line however is a crap shoot. After graduating two long contributing seniors we just have no idea is freshman Darius Latham is up to the task or whether we're still trying to plug the dam with our finger.
Did the spring game answer any questions about this team?
The toughest thing about the Spring Game was it introduced more questions. Tre Roberson looked a little rusty still as he recovered from a broken leg. Sudfeld and Coffman both looked good. Just can't be certain on the QB situation until the end of summer. Luckily, it's a pretty low leverage atmosphere and the media scrutiny will not likely be high. The rushing attack was relatively non-existent but for the past two years we've been a run through passing kind of team. The defense was encouraging but honestly it's a spring game and it's best to not over analyze these for Indiana. We've seen impressive games in the past followed up by 3 win seasons.
What are your expectations for this team's third year under Kevin Wilson? Is bowl eligibility the baseline goal for success, and do you see Indiana getting the six wins necessary?
Bowl or bust. We're looking at 8 home games with all the "easy" conference games in Bloomington. Missouri comes to town but even they aren't super imposing. Win at least three in the non-con and three conference games and we're bowling. After three years and assuming a relatively healthy roster I don't think that's too much to ask. I'd put the over/under at 5.5 and I'd be tempted to take the over. It's a favorable schedule and Indiana shouldn't be the cake walk that we so sadly can call a tradition.