The top 10 Indiana football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. OG Dan Feeney, Sr.
It’s his line now. If it’s possible to be a guard and be a star, that’s the 6-4, 310-pound Feeney after earning All-Big Ten honors as a blaster of a drive blocker for the run. Jason Spriggs was the main man last year at tackle, but this time around the offense will work even more around Feeney, especially considering how much the line is rebuilding.
Able to do it all, he’s a good pass protector and can move his feet, but he’s at his best when he’s able to line up and destroy his man. He’ll be an NFL starter next year, but for now he could be the Big Ten’s best blocker.
2. RB Devine Redding, Jr.
It’s his turn now. Tevin Coleman was the star of the ground game two years ago, and Jordan Howard took over the running attack last year, but the 5-10, 205-pound Redding did his part with 1,012 yards and nine touchdowns with a workmanlike effort in the rotation.
With Howard down late in the year, Redding took over with three straight huge performances with 130 yards against Maryland, 144 against Purdue, and finishing up with a monster 227-yard, one score day against Duke. It’s workhorse time for the new Hoosier star.
3. WR Simmie Cobbs, Jr.
The team’s leading receiver was the dangerous deep threat, averaging over 17 yards per catch finishing with 60 grabs for 1,035 yards and four scores. Good over the first half of the year, he found his groove over the second half with four 100-yard games in the final seven – and over 80 yards in two of the other ones, highlighted by a nine-catch, 192-yard day in the win over Maryland.
At 6-4 and 220 pounds he has elite size and matchup issues for most defensive backs with good enough speed, but now he doesn’t have Nate Sudfeld throwing to him.
4. LB Marcus Oliver, Jr.
Likely the biggest key to the new 4-2-5 alignment, the 6-1, 236-pound Oliver will be the big thumper on the inside and the leader of the corps. He led the team last season with 112 tackles in his Honorable Mention All-Big Ten season, and came up with two picks along the way. He’s more of a physical presence than a playmaker in the backfield, coming up with double-digit stops in six games with 21 in the last two and 27 in a two-game stretch against Penn State and Rutgers.
5. SS Jonathan Crawford, Soph.
The Florida native came up with a terrific freshman season coming up with a team-high four interceptions while finishing second on the team with 76 tackles with a sack. He’s not a huge defender at a rangy 6-2 and 194 pounds, but he’s built like a free safety and has nice range and tackling skills in the open field.
6. LB T.J. Simmons, Sr.
The 6-0, 229-pound veteran gets in on just about everything starting almost every game so far in his three-year career. He followed up a strong 72-tackle sophomore season with 73 stops holding his own in the middle of the linebacking corps. Speedy, he came up with three sacks and six tackles for loss, highlighted by a 15-tackle day against Michigan State. His role will change now in the new defensive scheme, but he’s a great veteran to build around.
7. WR Ricky Jones, Sr.
The team’s second-leading receiver in yards, the 5-10, 184-pounder from Sarasota, Florida, is a smart, speedy receiver who took off as a junior after not doing too much in his first two seasons. Last year he came up with 54 catches for 906 yards and five scores doing a consistent job with five catches or more six times. Averaging close to 17 yards per grab, and he’ll continue to be a big-play performer.
8. WR Mitchell Paige, Sr.
With 57 catches for 684 yards and six scores, Paige finished second on the team in catches, but he did his most good as a punt returner averaging over 11 yards per try with two scores. At 5-7 and 175 pounds he might be small, but he’s shifty and dangerous after his first cut. A mid-range receiver, he’s a safety valve, highlighted by his 11-catch day in the bowl loss to Duke.
9. QB Richard Lagow, Jr.
The 6-6, 240-pound JUCO transfer had just enough of a strong offseason to suggest that he might be the answer to take over for Nate Sudfeld. He’s big, can push the ball down the field, and has just enough experience at the lower level to be ready to step in and make the offense go. The other main QB options can’t fire quite like he can after generating huge stats for Cisco Community College after leaving Oklahoma State. While he’ll throw picks, he’s the best passer on the roster to take advantage of the strong receiving corps.
10. PK Griffin Oakes, Jr.
The All-Big Ten star is a true weapon hitting 24-of-29 field goal tries including a 51-yarder against Michigan. While he missed two key field goals in the bowl loss – one was a 56-yarder – he was a major factor over the second half of the season and ultra-reliable inside 50 yards coming up with a school record for the most points by a kicker.