Big Ten Team Profile: Indiana Hoosiers
WNUR Sports’s Lynden Ostrander (@lynden_o) previews the Indiana Hoosiers as part of our summer Big Ten Preview series. To check out our previous previews, click: Illinois | Purdue | MichiganWhen you think of the Indiana Hoosiers, you automatically envision Bobby Knight and the last team to go undefeated in college basketball. The very last thing that would ever come to mind is Hoosier football. The Hoosier football team went 4-8 last year with an abysmal 2-6 record in Big Ten play. But brace yourself…. The Hoosiers are on the rise. Yep, you read that correctly.
The good news for Indiana football? Tre Roberson is back under center after breaking his leg in the second game of the season last year. Roberson has shown flashes of Antwaan Randle El-type capabilities. Consider this: in just 2 games last year, he threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns with a 66 percent completion rate, and ran for 133 yards with three scores. That’s absurd.
Indiana displayed signs of growth last year with 4 wins. That’s incredible considering the history of Indiana football. Besides returning 21 of 24 starters from last year, Indiana landed two four-star recruits ranking 43rd in the country. Indiana hasn’t had that high-caliber of recruits in ages, which is a huge bright spot. Heck, they gave the best team in college football, Ohio State, all they could handle last year, lighting them up for 49 points and lost by only three. This team can be scary to play any given Saturday. Indiana also got four-star recruit DT Darius Latham to flip from Wisconsin and landed a stud in in-state playmaker Antonio Allen. Indiana also had the best pass-blocking line in the conference and most of the key components of that line are returning, which bodes well for this season.
The bad news? The Hoosiers have won a grand total of five games in two years, with none coming against an FBS school that had a winning record. Needless to say, third-year head coach Kevin Wilson is on the hot seat. Yes, Indiana football is terrible, and yes, nobody is expecting to become some powerhouse, but no AD will stand for five wins in two seasons for too long, especially in the Big Ten. Plus, they only return six seniors, which is minimal to say the least. Also, this team is extremely young with below par depth. About those 23 touchdowns this secondary gave up through the air last year…. That’s a huge problem and must be addressed.
Indiana gets their dual-threat playmaking quarterback back this year as mentioned in the top, which will jumpstart their offense. Indiana surprisingly led the Big Ten in passing yards last year, and that will most likely increase with Roberson healthy. Ten starters will be coming back this year on the offense. Running back Stephen Houston has been holding down the fort since 2011. Last year he had 12 scores, 749 yards rushing, and ended the year on a strong note with a 158 yard, 3 score game in the last game of the season. He will most likely make a run at 1000 yards this year. At receiver, Shane Wynn had a team-high 68 receptions for 660 yards and six TD’s with 9.7 yards a catch. With his wheels those numbers will most likely increase, especially if Roberson can extend the play allowing Wynn to get open for more down the field throws. Roberson will be looking his way a bunch. Not to mention this guy can take it to the house at kick returner. Watch out for him.
Last year Indiana’s defense couldn’t get off the field, and had 7 less minutes of possession per game than their opponents. When opposing offenses went 12 for 18 on 4th down tries and converted 40 percent of their 3rd downs, you had a bad year to say the least. Ryan Phillis returns to anchor the d-line, a phenomenal athlete for his size and a very efficient pass rusher. There will be a ton of junior college transfers competing for spots. Look for David Cooper, a junior college transfer, to have a big year at linebacker. Last year he was second on the team in tackles with nine tackles for loss. Greg Heban returns and is undoubtedly the leader of this defense. The safety led the team in tackles with 91, picked off three passes while deflecting 11, and recorded seven tackles for loss. The dude can flat out play and is all over the field.
The special teams for Indiana last year was anything but special. The only bright spot was Tevin Coleman who had a punt return for a score last year against Northwestern. They have experience but the numbers need to improve.
The Hoosiers have to play well at home to be successful. The Hoosiers open up the season with the first 5 games at home, which will dictate how this year will go. The good thing is eight of their 12 games are at home. The first 3 games are cupcakes against Navy, Indiana State, and Bowling Green. Then they lose 4 straight against Missouri, Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan. Indiana then beats Minnesota in a close game and takes care of Illinois, to go 5-4 then lose their last 3 to end the year 5-10. So 5 wins is my prediction, which is a game better than last year. Hey, with the level of talent they have and the stiff competition in the Big Ten, one game under 500 is progress. Indiana’s success relies on 2 things: Tre Roberson and Indiana’s defense on third down. If both of those factors are positive, you could see a 7-win season from Indiana. In my non-expert opinion, I don’t see that happening.