Posted by: marcmwm | May 23, 2009

Big Ten four downs: Indiana

Iowa running back Jewel Hampton (27, top) is upended by Indiana's Joe Kleinsmith (33) during the fourth quarter of the Hawkeyes' 45-9 win over the Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind., on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008. (Gazette file)

Iowa running back Jewel Hampton (27, top) is upended by Indiana's Joe Kleinsmith (33) during the fourth quarter of the Hawkeyes' 45-9 win over the Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind., on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008. (Gazette file)

 

QUICK LOOK BACK: After making it to the postseason for the first time since 1993, the Hoosiers plummeted last season, dropping like a stone to a 3-9 and 1-7. What went wrong? QB Kellen Lewis never found his footing. He was suspended in the spring before coach Bill Lynch relented and allowed him to return in the fall. He rotated with Ben Chappell and played some receiver before suffering an ankle injury against the Hawkeyes. Last month, Lewis got the boot.

All five offensive linemen and the TE return, which should help as the Hoosiers transition to a “pistol” style offense this fall. This little bit of the spread, little bit of traditional run should boost a running game that will need to be better and that is without a proven running back.

DE Jammie Kirlew finished second in the conference with 10.5 sacks last season. After a promising 2007, DE Greg Middleton disappeared. These two could form the Big Ten’s top rush duo, but that’s a “could” for now.

Chappell was thrown into an impossible situation. The uncertainty with Lewis bouncing in and out had to affect his play — he threw six TDs and eight interceptions. This year, he’s the man. Knowing that now should help continuity and confidence. It should.

FOURTH DOWN — CONCERNS: The Hoosiers’ defensive staff is pouring bodies on DT, trying to find a solution at an extremely thin position. That’s not good for a defense that finished 11th or 10th in every category that mattered in the Big Ten last season. The “uh oh” factor rises with the six defenders who sat out spring drills with various ailments.

Here’s one fact that has to raise eyebrows at a school that just finished a good-sized stadium renovation (bowled in one end zone and filled it with facilities galore), the Hoosiers drew just 3,500 to their spring game. That has less to do with the ’09 prospects than it does with the general hang-dog vibe that continues to shroud IU football.

THIRD DOWN — STRENGTHS: Indiana might have a running back or, maybe, a bunch of running backs. Bryan Payton, Darius Willis, Demetrius McCray and Trea Burgess (who was tried at LB this spring, didn’t take) are all in the running coming out of spring practice. McCray and Willis combined for 168 yards and two TDs in the spring game. As a freshman against Iowa in 2006, McCray rushed for career-high 84 yards on 13 carries. Going into his senior season, that’s still his career high. Willis, a freshman, might be the best of the bunch. He’s a big body at 6-0, 219.

SECOND DOWN — THE TALK: “It’s a more mature group. We have more seniors. We have more juniors. We have a lot of guys who have played a lot of football. They understand it. I think the fact they’ve had the highs and lows here . . . they had a little success, then they got knocked down a notch a year ago. They want that success again. That’s the way we want them to approach things going into the summer.” — IU head football coach Bill Lynch on how the team during the spring seemed different than the squad that went 3-9 in the fall of 2008.

“We are disappointed to have to make this decision. When you have expectations of those on your team that are not met, you need to do what is ultimately in the best overall interest of your program.” — Lynch after he dismissed Kellen Lewis from the team on April 30.

FIRST DOWN — THE PLAY: Are you buying Ben Chappell? He wasn’t good in the all-out spread IU ran last season. Will the pistol be more suited to his game? He’ll stand a couple yards closer to the center, still in a shotgun formation, but it’ll be on him to make the ball fakes that will make or break the play-action pass game that could sprout from this move. Perhaps the biggest factor here that could help Chappell is the shift in philosophy. Indiana wants to run the ball more this season. With five starters returning on the O-line and four possibilities at RB, the Hoosiers sort of have to.

The new facilities are the second biggest news out of IU football this spring (the first being Lewis’ dismissal). The north endzone facility, which opens in July, will upgrade the weightroom from 5,000 square feet to 25,000. If this doesn’t send a charge into the strenght and condition of IU players, nothing will.

The money spent on this upgrade — I’ve seen it, it’s considerable — surely expectations will ratchet up. If you were making a “hot seat” list of Big Ten coaches, would Bill Lynch be No. 1 and 1A? Probably.

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Responses

  1. They suck, lost Lewis and I fully expect Lynch to get canned if they;re as bad as you think they’ll be this year.

    He gained some respect when he let Lewis go but bottom line he’s just never been a real successful coach.

  2. I kinda feel bad for Lynch – he had/has enormous shoes to fill in taking over for Coach Hep, and he doesn’t have much to work with.

  3. Hoeppner was on to something. He changed culture there, and quickly.

    Rest in peace.


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