Believe me, I didn't pick Chappell for Indiana's MVP profile just because, well, he's a quarterback and probably the only player most casual fans might know on this non-descript Hoosier squad. He was chosen because, as my "domino theory" effect below will show, his continued improvement and success will be the difference between the expected 4-8 record or a surprisingly solid 7-5.
Point 1: There Will Be No Defense in Bloomington
Indiana's defense, as LB points out here, is in a state of flux. The standout players from last year are almost all gone...and that was from the Big Ten's 2nd worst defense. This wasn't a scheme issue, there were just too many weak players to succeed.
This 2010 IU defense will face Terrelle Pryor, an on-the-rise Purdue team, John Clay, and Ricky Stanzi...and the NW spread. I refuse to believe a somewhat talentless IU defense that's moving offensive players to defense during Spring Practice will be able to slow most of these established offensive threats.
So with that said...
Point 2: You're Going to Need Fire From That Pistol
Chappell commanded the Big Ten's 4th best passing offense in 2009. It didn't always yield points, but it sure helped with ball control and third down conversion percentage. When Chappell and his receivers were on the same page, even solid defenses struggled to slow the short slants and sideline comeback routes. Points against Iowa, Wisconsin, and Penn State, three Top 15 defenses nationally? 24, 28, 20. Point proven.
What do we know about Ben Chappell's mechanics and room for improvement? LB graded him out in the B range in 2009, claiming Chappell looked comfortable throwing out of the Pistol and was getting good zip on his throws. We also know Ben has been improving since he got to Bloomington and is now poised to break a bunch of Indiana passing records.
Finally, we know Ben is a student of the game in the Craig Krenzel mold and never acted out publicly amidst the whole Kellen Lewis ordeal. That levelheadedness ensures no academic/personal issues from Chappell this offseason, something his more talented predecessor never could promise.
Point 3: Score Points or Die
Indiana proved it could move the ball without a consistent run game in 2009, thanks mainly to the variety of passing options offered by the Pistol and the chemistry between Chappell and his wide receivers. The Hoosiers also proved their talent level will consistently be lower on the defensive side of the ball, a curse that the 2010 recruiting class and offseason will be unable to reverse.
We can then surmise that Indiana's best chance for success will come from a successful offensive attack. Since I don't foresee any seismic changes to the Pistol philosophy this offseason, Hoosiers fans can hope that Chappell's maturity and ability to learn will lead not only to increased point and yardage production in 2010, but to a small improvement in the win column.
MONDAY: Spring Field Guide
THURSDAY: MVP Profile