By Adam Hoge-
While Big Ten training camps are underway, Adam Hoge will devote an entire day to each of the 12 teams in the conference. He will include a preview on each team, plus news, notes and analysis on Twitter. He will also take your questions on Twitter and 670TheScore.com. Follow him at @AdamHogeCBS.
(CBS) 2011 wasn’t exactly a good year for the Indiana Hoosiers, but it probably wasn’t as bad as it appeared.
Kevin Wilson failed to beat an FBS school in his first year as IU’s head coach, with his only win coming against FCS school South Carolina State. That said, Wilson came in with a brand new attitude and saw a number of players transfer as a result. His team still battled hard against Penn State, Ohio State and Purdue and despite the 1-11 overall record, there were small signs of progress.
The Hoosiers bring back most of their skill position players, but the defense still has a ton of question marks. IU won’t be a pushover this season, but the schedule is tough. Let’s take a look at Indiana’s chances this season:
1. RB Stephen Houston (Jr.) – Houston broke out last season with 802 yards on just 151 rushes. He looked especially good with big plays against a good Wisconsin rush defense and he could become a star this season.
2. WR Kofi Hughes (Jr.) – Hughes led the team in catches (35), receiving yards (536) and touchdown catches (three, tied with Duwyce Wilson) last season. He also is a threat to run with the ball (172 yards on 27 carries). Hughes is suspended for the season opener because of a rules violation.
3. DT Adam Replogle (Sr.) – A leader on the defense, the Hoosiers need Replogle to have a big senior year.
4. QB Tre Roberson (So.) – It’s Roberson’s job now that Edward Wright-Baker and Dusty Kiel have transferred. The three split time last season, with Roberson eventually taking over as true freshman. He’s a threat to run, but has to improve the 57 percent completion percentage he posted last season.
5. DT Larry Black (Sr.) – Black and Replogle are the strength up the middle and they need to get to the quarterback. Black was second on the team with four TFLs last season.
what does IU have to do to be successful? Don’t understand how a big ten team can be that bad for that long! – @jbslevin14
To be fair, Terry Hoeppner had the program pointed in the right direction before he sadly passed away in 2007. The Hoosiers made their first bowl game since 1993 that year until Bill Lynch, but he couldn’t keep the program together. It’s not like Hoeppner was going to turn IU into a perennial Big Ten contender, but normal bowl trips weren’t out of the question. His death was a huge blow.
I really liked the approach Kevin Wilson took when he was hired last year. He put his foot down and told the players that things were going to be run a certain way. When that happens, it’s not surprising to see an awful first year. This season’s team resembles more of what Wilson wants and he should see better results. That might not necessarily result in wins right away, but 2012 should be an important step.
Basically, Wilson just needs to start building momentum that will hopefully catch the eye of some decent recruits. He doesn’t need four and five star guys to reach bowl games. He just needs to coach up the mid-level recruits.
How hard is Wilson’s job? Let’s put it in this perspective: In the last 10 years, the Hoosiers only have nine road wins and just 13 Big Ten wins. In eight of the last 10 years, IU has had a 1-7 or 0-8 Big Ten record.
Is Tre Roberson the answer at QB?
He better be. Wilson has made it clear that the Hoosiers are only as good as their quarterback.
Roberson was only a true freshman last year and the coaching staff insists he has developed. The key for the sophomore is to make better decisions with the ball. He needs to become more comfortable in the pocket and not rely on his legs as much. He has the ability to scramble, but he needs to panic less.
If Roberson emerges as a legitimate quarterback, the Hoosiers are going to have a pretty good running and passing game. This could result in some unexpected wins.
Is the defense good enough?
To be honest, probably not. The Hoosiers allowed 37.3 points per game last season and lost their best player in Jeff Thomas who had 9.5 TFLs. I’m not sure there is an All-Big Ten candidate on the unit, although sophomore safety Mark Murphy could be a good one.
The biggest reason why Indiana’s improvement might not show up in their record is their schedule. The Hoosiers could start the season 3-0 with games against FCS foe Indiana State and the MAC’s two worst teams in UMass and Ball State. In fact, they should start 3-0.
But after that, it gets much harder. IU’s home Big Ten slate includes games against Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin. Going 1-3 in those games would be a moral victory. On the road, the Hoosiers face Northwestern, Illinois, Penn State and Purdue. Again, getting one win in those contests would be a win.
IU also faces Navy on the road.
Kevin Wilson puts a firm mark on the program in just his second season. After a 3-0 start, the Hoosiers go into Evanston and shock Northwestern. They also pull off an unlikely road win at either Illinois or Penn State and upset Iowa at home and surprisingly become bowl eligible for the first time since 2007.
Roberson doesn’t develop and the offense remains one-dimensional. The defense doesn’t improve and the Hoosiers basically have the same problems as last year. They manage to beat one of the non-conference FBS schools on their schedule, but that’s it. Couple that with the win over Indiana State, IU finishes 2-10 and 0-8 in the Big Ten, improving by just one win overall.
Check out Adam’s final verdict on the Hoosiers when his Big Ten preview concludes later this month. Up next in the series are the Ohio State Buckeyes. Tweet your questions to Adam at @AdamHogeCBS.
Catch up on the series:
Aug. 8 – Illinois Fighting Illini
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.