Preview 2017: Indiana Hoosiers
Previewing and looking ahead at the Indiana Hoosiers season – and what you need to know.
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– 2017 Indiana Preview: Kevin Wilson Left A Loaded Team
– 2017 Indiana Schedule Analysis
– Indiana Previews: 2016 | 2015
What You Need To Know About The Indiana Offense
Is the offense going to change much, if at all? Not really. Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord is going to keep everything going.
It starts with QB Richard Lagow, who was able to bomb away and push the ball down the field for big gain after big gain. But he threw 17 picks along the way. As long as he can cut down on the errors, he should be among the Big Ten’s most productive passers.
With the return of Simmie Cobbs from injury, to go along with top target Nick Westbrook, the passing game production won’t slow down after cranking up 274 yards per game.
The rushing attack, though, could be a problem with Devine Redding taking off early for the NFL. It’ll take a host of backs in a rotation to find the right mix until one emerges from the pack. Even without all-star guard Dan Feeney to blast away, the line will still be a positive – the recruiting has been terrific.
Biggest Key To The Indiana Offense
Yeah, about those picks … and the fumbles, too. Indiana turned the ball over 29 times on the season after giving it up just 14 times in 2015. Fortunately, the defense made up for a slew of the mistakes with takeaways, but Lagow can’t keep throwing picks, costing the Hoosiers a win against Wake Forest with five interceptions – with 496 yards, though.
The team’s five turnovers were disastrous against Penn State, and the three giveaways against Utah were costly. Of the seven losses, six of them were helped by two turnovers or more.
What You Need To Know About The Indiana Defense
It took a few years, but the Indiana defensive talent was built up enough to finally start giving the program something to be excited about defensively. After finishing 45th in the nation in total D – the Hoosiers were 93rd two years earlier – the team started winning because it could finally stop someone.
Nine starters return, and that doesn’t sound T.J. Simmons, one of the team’s leading linebackers for two years, who missed all of last season. Now he joins Tegray Scales, who should be in the hunt for All-America honors no matter where he plays in the corps. Great against the run and in the backfield, he’s the superstar, but the Hoosiers have other playmakers, too.
The secondary that did a great job last season is loaded, with Richard Fant one of the Big Ten’s top corners, leading the group with all four starters back. Now they need help from the pass rush.
Scales will do his part, but the pressure needs to come from all sides after losing LB Marcus Oliver and a few key linemen. As long as the tackles hold up against the run, the Hoosier D won’t slip a bit, but …
Biggest Key To The Indiana Defense
That run D needs to be nasty. The Hoosiers got away with it against Maryland – getting ripped up for 269 yards and three scores – but they lost the other three times on the year when they allowed 200 yards or more.
Granted, two of those games were against Ohio State and Michigan, but IU was in both battles – they just couldn’t stop either team’s ground game. Against FBS teams over the last four seasons, the Hoosiers are 2-17 that run the ball 44 times or more against them – both wins came against the Terps.
Indiana Will Be Far Better If …
The O scores when it’s got the chance. Miserable in the red zone, the Hoosiers were the third-worst in the country when it came to scoring inside the 20, coming up with points just 71% of the time.
Mediocre placekicking was part of the problem, but the rest of the offense misfired a bit too often, too. It mattered in the 26-24 loss to Utah, and it was a big problem in the five-point loss to Wake Forest. IU isn’t good enough to not take advantage of every opportunity.
Best Indiana Offensive Player
WR Nick Westbrook, Jr. – At 6-3, 215 pounds, he’s a big target who can get deep. The team-leader with 54 catches for 995 yards and six scores – with a rushing score – he averaged well over 18 yards per catch.
He ripped up Northwestern for 126 yards on ten catches, and was steady throughout as the go-to target who always seemed to get deep. He won’t have to do as much with the return of Simmie Cobbs, but he’ll still be the No. 1 target.
2. QB Richard Lagow, Sr.
3. WR Simmie Cobbs, Jr.
4. OT Coy Cronk, Soph.
5. OT Brandon Knight, Jr.
Best Indiana Defensive Player
LB Tegray Scales, Sr. – Combining with T.J. Simmons – who redshirted last season – Scales should give the Hoosiers a terrific linebacking corps with a few big hitters. The 6-0, 230-pound Scales returns after an all-star season with a team-leading 126 tackles with seven sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss, and even a pick six.
Able to play inside or out, he turned into a machine in the backfield from his spot in the middle, with four tackles for loss against both Penn State and Purdue – he’s a guided missile.
2. CB Richard Fant, Sr.
3. LB T.J. Simmons, Sr.
4. S Marcelino Ball, Soph.
5. S Jonathan Crawford, Jr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
RB Devonte Williams, Soph. Or Alex Rodriguez, who took off in the spring game. Or Tyler Natee, who might end up being the Big Ten’s best short-yardage runner. Or Ricky Brookins, who added 82 yards last year, or Mike Magette, who ran for 180, or Tyler Natee, the leading returning rusher with 237 yards and two scores. The Hoosiers have to find a back to replace Devine Redding – a two-time 1,000-yard back.
Williams ran for 167 yards last season, and doing a nice job on kickoff returns, he’s got the flash and explosion to come up with big things for the attack. But now he has to show it off – or one of the other backs has to take over.
The Indiana Season Will Be A Success If …
It’s a winning campaign. Yeah, the Hoosiers have gone to two straight bowl games, but they lost them both and finished 6-7. As good as the team has been for the last few seasons, the last winning run was 2007 – going 7-6. It won’t be easy, but the team is good enough to get to at least seven victories.
Key Game To The Indiana Season
Oct. 14 vs. Michigan – How far will the Tom Allen team progress by the midpoint of the season? After having to deal with Ohio State and a trip to Penn State to start out the Big Ten season, the Hoosiers will likely be 0-2 in conference play before hosting the Wolverines. IU has played Michigan tough lately, and with two road games to follow, coming up with a win might be a must.
2016 Indiana Fun Stats
– Sacks: Indiana 30 for 146 yards – Opponents 13 for 92 yards
– Fumbles: Opponents 22 (lost 10) – Indiana 15 (lost 6)
– Average Yards Per Pass: Indiana 8.3 – Opponents 7.4