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Preseason Spotlights from Behind Enemy Lines: Indiana Hoosiers

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This could be Indiana’s best team in quite some time.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 23 Michigan at Indiana Getty Images

Maize n Brew teamed up with the Big Ten team sites here at SB Nation for a preview of each of the football programs in the conference to help us look ahead to the 2020 season. This Wednesday’s comes in the form of a look at the Indiana Hoosiers, who host the Michigan Wolverines in Week 3 on Nov. 7 looking to snap a 24-game losing streak in the series..

Representing our friends over at The Crimson Quarry is managing editor Mike Miller, who was kind enough to chime in on Indiana ahead of the new campaign.


Overview of the 2020 Hoosiers

“Indiana took the long-awaited major step forward in 2019, winning eight games for the first time since 1993. This year, with the funky schedule, the question isn’t so much how many games will IU win, but which teams the Hoosiers will beat. The pieces are in place to win a game on the road at Michigan State, or at home against Michigan or Penn State — and if there were ever a season when IU could do something it’s not necessarily expected to do, it might be this one.

“Health feels like a major storyline to monitor, particularly at the quarterback position. Michael Penix has demonstrated that he has the talent to be in the conversation with the Big Ten’s best quarterbacks, but he’s yet to prove he can stay healthy for a full season. If he can, Indiana’s offense should be explosive.

“The soul of IU football, however, is such that Bad Things seem to be lurking around every corner. It’s rare that this program has looked at an opportunity for prosperity and done anything other than vomit on its shoes. Even with all the returning talent and rightfully-high expectations, skepticism is baked into every fall season in Bloomington. IU football often does IU football things. This year, can it not?

Indiana’s key departures

Coy Cronk, LT, four-year starter, grad transferred to Iowa

Peyton Ramsey, QB, off-and-on starter since 2017, grad transferred to Northwestern

Ronnie Walker, RB, former 4-star recruit, transferred to Virginia

Nick Westbrook, WR, graduated

Reakwon Jones, LB, graduated

Donavan Hale, WR, graduated

Simon Stepaniak, OG, graduated/drafted by Green Bay Packers

Indiana’s key returnees

Michael Penix, QB (RS So.) — Set the program single-season completion percentage mark (68.8) in 2019, which also ranks sixth in Big Ten history, IU’s most talented quarterback since Nate Sudfeld (though both have very different games)

Stevie Scott, RB (Jr.) — Enters 2020 needing 18 yards to reach 2,000 for his career

Whop Philyor, WR, (Sr.) — Second-team All-Big Ten last year, IU’s Offensive Player of the Year, program’s all-time leader in double-figure catch games (5)

Peyton Hendershot, TE (RS Jr.) — Set IU’s single-season TE records in 2019 with 52 catches and 622 yards

Matthew Bedford, LT (So.) — 2019 IU Offensive Newcomer of the Year

Jerome Johnson, DT (RS Sr.) — IU’s best defensive lineman two years in a row, NFL Draft prospect

Marcelino Ball, Hybrid LB (RS Sr.)

Tiawan Mullen, CB (So.) — Freshman All-American, IU’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year, led the Big Ten and finished second among freshmen nationally with 13 breakups

True freshmen or transfers that could make an instant impact

Jovan Swann, DT, graduate transfer from Stanford

Dylan Powell, OG, graduate transfer from Stanford

Rashawn Williams, WR, Fr., former 4-star recruit

What’s your team’s biggest strength?

“Returning experience. In February, ESPN ranked IU 11th nationally in expected returning production. For a program that won eight games last fall, the majority of the most important players are back.”

What’s your team’s biggest weakness?

“Pass rush. It feels like a perennial question mark for Indiana. IU has some interesting talent up front, but until this group generates more reliable pressure, it will remain a concern.”

How does your fanbase feel about your coach and his staff?

“After leading IU to its first eight-win season in nearly three decades last fall, Tom Allen is beloved in Bloomington. Not only has the team’s improvement earned him the praise and admiration of IU fans, but folks appreciate his approach to the profession. He’s different from a lot of his college coaching colleagues in that he doesn’t seem like a scumbag. His passion for his home state, his drive to make IU a very good football program and the personal empathy and care he extends to his players have made him one of the most popular and respected figures in the IU orbit. His mantra of L.E.O. — love each other — illustrates the way he guides the team, and you’d be hard pressed to find a single IU fan willing to speak ill of him. As far as his staff, folks were disappointed to see offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer leave after only one year. It was an understandable and amicable departure — DeBoer is now head coach at Fresno State. There’s some skepticism about DeBoer’s replacement, Nick Sheridan. This is Sheridan’s first crack at a big-boy OC job, and there’s reasonable concern about a regression.”

Who is your team’s MVP this season and why?

“Penix because he’s going to absolutely sling it. On the short list of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks, Penix is no worse than third-best in the league.”

Predict your team’s record, its best win, and a potential surprise loss

“5-3

Best win: Michigan

Surprise loss: Maryland”


Thanks to The Crimson Quarry for helping us preview the team ahead of the season. We’ll have more from each team on Michigan’s schedule and the other teams in the Big Ten in the coming weeks leading up to the 2020 campaign.