Like always, please let me know if I have anything wrong. School websites aren’t always up-to-date post-spring, and there’s usually at least one thing I’ve missed.
Kellen Lewis, who was without a doubt Indiana’s best quarterback over the past couple years, and probably the best wide receiver and running threat, is gone after several disciplinary issues finally caught up with him. That leaves Ben Chappell, who started at QB much of last year, to take over under center. He’ll likely be backed up by Teddy Schell and an incoming freshman.
|Indiana QBs Passing 2008|
|Mitchell Evans (WR)||2||8||25.00||37||1||0||4.63|
|Indiana QBs Rushing 2008|
Behind Chappell, depth is scary for the Hoosiers. I’ve personally never been all that impressed with Chappell himself, and though he averaged more yards per attempt than Lewis did, he’ll never be nearlty the rushing threat that a school like Indiana might need from the QB position. Still, if Chappell continues improving (last year was his first with significant starting time), he could be a good passer.
Marcus Thigpen departs after leading the Hoosiers in rushing (at least from the RB position) over the last three years. However, Indiana has done a pretty good job spreading around the ball, and Bryan Payton has plenty of experience by now. Demetrius McCray and Zach Davos-Walker will also get their fair share of carries.
|Indiana RBs Rushing 2008|
|Indiana RBs Receiving 2008|
Last year’s backups do have experience, but they also averaged somewhere between 2 and 3 full yards per carry less than Thigpen in the opportunities they got. This RB unit will likely be even more of a platoon than it was in the recent past, since nobody stands out like Thigpen clearly did, and even with a standout the Indiana coaches didn’t give him the ball as much as they should. The departure of Thigpen also means “bye bye, receiving threat from backfield,” so there’s one less weapon on a Hoosier offense that is desperately seeking them.
Best QB? Gone. Best RB? Gone. Why, let’s move our best WR to defensive back! Sounds dumb, but then, this is why your coach is close to getting fired… from Indiana. Ray Fisher will now be a DB, so even though he’s highlighted as a returning player, don’t expect him to get nearly as many receptions as he did last year. Andrew Means, who was by far a better deep threat, will not return, meaning DeMario Belcher and Terrance Turner are the only truly proven players left on the outside for the Hoosiers. Tandon Doss will step up in the slot for IU.
|Indiana Receivers Receiving 2008|
|Mitchell Evans (DB)||9||129||0||14.33|
|Max Dedmond (TE)||6||51||0||8.50|
|Kellen Lewis (QB)||2||17||0||8.50|
|Brad Martin (TE)||1||6||0||6.00|
I still don’t get it. “We lost all of our other offensive weapons, so let’s move the best remaining guy to defense.” If you can explain this line of thought to me, please do. Maybe they’ve given up on offense and are hoping to win games with defense. Anyway, expect Belcher’s YPC numbers to go way down as he’s the main threat that defenses can count on. Considering Terrance Turner didn’t have high YPC numbers even when he wasn’t the #2 receiver, don’t expect great things out of him either. Fisher will likely moonlight on offense, or even switch back full-time, if defensive back depth is any indication.
This may be the bright spot for the Hoosiers on offense. If I’m reading their depth chart correctly, they didn’t even play a single senior on the line last year. Senior Pete Saxon played in every game, despite injuries, and he’ll be back along the interior in 2009, after seeing time as both center and guard last year. Enormous redshirt junior James Brewer will probably a starter on the interior, which he was before suffering a season-ending injury last year. Senior Rodger Saffold will return at left tackle, and the other book-end is redshirt junior Mike Stark. Redshirt junior Cody Faulkner will return for his second season at right guard. Jarrod Smith started most of last year, but he has moved to DT. Redshirt senior and Junior Mike Reiter and Alex Perry (respectively) will also get time on the OL.
The Hoosiers have set school rushing records over the past couple years, so the offensive line is nothing to be trifled with. Especially since no contributors leave, they should be a force to be reckoned with. Of course, the rushing records may have had more to do with Kellen Lewis and Marcus Thigpen than the line itself. Still, they have experience, and you can’t fault them for being up front when the Hoosiers had some great players in the backfield.
So, the pieces up front are certainly in place for Indiana, it’s just a question of how they move the ball with their skill players. The switch from a read-option with Kellen Lewis to a pistol with Ben Chappell is a fairly significant change, and it’s the first year in this system for everyone – coaches included. They should be able to grind out the ball a bit with the downhill rushing attack, but Chappell will need to improve and find some targets to keep defenses honest.
DT Greg Brown was an important part of this defensive line over the past couple years, and he’s certainly not there to plug the middle anymore. Additional pain is caused by the loss of the other tackle, Ryan Marando. Still, Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton are a fairly formidable pair of defensive ends. Deonte Mack and Terrance Thomas will have to step up in the middle.
Thomas is slightly undersized for a tackle (265 pounds), so the Hoosiers might not plug the middle much. They may get better penetration from the DTs in years past, though. The big question with Middleton is “what have you done for me lately?” As a sophomore, he had an All-American-caliber year, and was a finalist for the Ted Hendricks award. This is good. Last year, he finished with a third of the tackles and a quarter of the sacks from the previous year. Can he return to sophomore form? IU’s defense may depend on it.
This is a fairly strong linebacking corps for the Hoosiers, returning their top two tacklers, and the player was only 12 tackles behind the departed player. Tyler Replogle, Matt Mayberry, and Will Patterson will carry the load for Indiana. Mayberry is the man in the middle for IU.
This should be a strength for the Hoosiers, as the linebacker group, while a little light on stats last year, was far from a weakness. They’ll probably have more to deal with in the way of offensive linemen this year, as the young tackles in front of them will struggle to plug the front.
Chris Adkins will probably move to safety for his redshirt senior year, as Richard Council is already one of the starting corners, and Ray Fisher has moved over from wide receiver, and I don’t think even the Indiana coaches are dumb enough to move their best wide receiver to backup defensive back. Polk will be the other starter at safety in his redshirt senior year. Jerimy Finch, onetime Michigan commit and erstwhile Florida linebacker, will play a key reserve role for the Hoosiers. Austin Thomas will play a key reserve role as well. In fact, I rescind my previous statement. Adkins will stay at corner, and the IU coaches are indeed stupid enough to move Ray Fisher from starting WR to reserve defensive back.
Despite losing their top tackler, safety Joe Kleinsmith, the Hoosiers return a lot of players with significant time under their belts in the secondary. They have more depth than quality starters, of course, but they won’t struggle as much in the secondary as they do along the defensive line, if they can manage to replace Kleinsmith.
The Hoosiers are going to be weak up front, barring a resurgent year from Greg Middleton in which he simply destroys all comers. However, the linebackers should be better than they were last year, and the defensive secondary has much more depth than 2008, if nothing else. If Joe Kleinsmith’s production at safety can be replaced, the secondary should improve as well. Here come the qualifiers: Rushing defense 2008 was 91st, and pass efficiency was 106th in the nation. Better than “horrible” generally means “pretty bad.”
One of IU’s all-time leading scorers departs in Austin Starr. Nick Ford, a redshirt junior who kicked all of one extra point last year, is the only other guy with some experience. Punter Chris Hagerup returns.
|Indiana Kicking 2008|
|Indiana Punting 2008|
|Kellen Lewis (QB)||3||92||30.67|
Hagerup is a pretty good punter, so as long as his leg doesn’t fall off from fatigue halfway through the year, that should be solid. As far as kicking goes, Starr is going to be tough to replace. However, there is little indication of how good Ford might be, so he’s a complete wildcard. It’s probably safe to assume slightly less good than Starr, despite Starr’s off-year in 2008.
I predict pain. No particular reason, other than “You lost basically everyone of note from your mediocre offense, and a couple key pieces on your awful defense.” Kellen Lewis was the engine that made the Indiana train go last year, though the Hoosiers did manage to upset jNWU (just NorthWestern University) without him. Still, uh, they’ve got no playmakers left on offense, and the defense, while deep, doesn’t have the quality to keep opposition from scoring, and lots.