Did you notice anything different when you logged onto the site? You should have. Today is the beginning of Big Ten 2010, our comprehensive spring preview series. From now through the end of May, we'll be dedicating each week on TRE to individual programs, and providing daily team insight and analysis. We'll work in reverse chronological order from last year's conference finish. We hope that this approach will allow us to more completely appraise each club. We owe our organizational inspiration to our friends at Team Speed Kills, who pioneered the installment preview last year.
As our masthead reflects, the first stop on our virtual road tour is Bloomington, Indiana. Let's travel I-37 South to Monroe County to visit a perpetual Big Ten cellar-dweller: the Indiana Hoosiers.
FIRST IN A SERIES: THE INDIANA SPRING FIELD GUIDE
Indiana at a glance...
First Season: 1897
Head Coach: Bill Lynch (3rd Year, 14-23, .378 winning percentage)
All-Time Record: 433-591-44 (.426)
2009 Record: 4-8 (1-7 Conference)
Offseason Cliff Notes...
The Hoosiers ended 2009 on the heels of a five-game slide that irrevocably severed any aspirations of playing in the postseason. In a late-January decade in review feature, we called the Hoosiers the "whipping boy of the Big Ten," pointing to their one winning season in the Aughts, 0-21 record against Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan, a losing series record against every team in the Big Ten, and six 1-7 season in-conference finishes. Still, when we handed out coaching grades last month, we gave Bill Lynch a straight B for "patching up the talent mismatches the best he could and keeping the Hoosiers close against some top teams." Our writers were most impressed by Lynch's use of his tall wideouts to shield defenders on jump balls and slant passes, and offensive agression.
Is this the future of Indiana football?
The offseason has been relatively quiet to date. On National Signing Day Indiana announced a 25 member class that ranked last in the Big Ten, but was widely considered to be the school's strongest in years. Highlights included quarterback Kofi Hughes of Indianapolis Cathedral who earned honors as the state's Gatorade Player of the Year. The Hoosiers made a small splash early this month when they announced that star Indiana high school coach Mo Moriarity would join the staff as the team's offensive line coach. The move led the Crimson Quarry to speculate about Bill Lynch's future. As they reported:
Moriarty, who is 55 years old, walked away from one of the best high school jobs in the state to accept a job with a coach who will be on all of the preseason "hot seat" lists. Is Moriarty bullish about IU's chances in 2010, with a fine nucleus of skill position players returning? Has Bill Lynch been guaranteed 2011 by Fred "contracts mean something" Glass? Do he and his wife simply want to return to Bloomington, where they lived for nearly 20 years, even if it means he's back on the job market in December?"
If nothing else, the hire gives the Hoosiers some traction in in-state recruiting.
In the cupboard...
Total Returning Starters: 14 (8 Offense, 4 Defense, 2 Special Teams)
Indiana returns an average number of starters in 2010 -- the majority on the offensive side of the ball. The Hoosiers are set at skill positions, with senior quarterback Ben Chappell and talented running back Darius Willis returning to the field. Several anchors on the offensive line depart, but at least one source is confident that "the replacements that are in line are just as talented as the departed seniors."
If he can stay healthy Darius Willis (28) will ground the Hooiser attack in 2010.
The defensive side of the ball is an entirely different story. The Hoosiers are struggling to replace 7 contributors (including three defensive backs, two linebackers and both defensive ends) to a porous unit that ranked 10th in conference in 2009. Bill Lynch loaded up on defensive backs (6) and linebackers (6) in his incoming class to try and offset the fall out. Additionally, 2009 redshirt recruits, and junior college transfers like linebacker Jeff Thomas and cornerbacks Lenyatta Kiles, and JuCo Player of the Year Andre Kates will step up to the plate.
1. Last year, the Hoosier attack finished 9th in the conference overall. This underscores the fact that Indiana had the 4th best passing offense in the Big Ten. Can a new offensive line, and the aforementioned Darius Willis, achieve better production on the ground?
2. Will Bill Lynch's decision to move receiver/wildcat quarterback Mitchell Evans to the defensive side of the ball pay dividends? Keep in mind that Evans will miss all of spring practice while recovering from hip surgery.
3. Can Indiana put together a working defensive depth chart?
4. Can the Hoosiers stay healthy? (If you think this is axiomatic, consider that "Two years ago the offensive line was so depleted IU couldn't run a legitimate spring game [and] [l]ast year the defense was visited by the injury bug."
The Road Ahead...
|9/18/10||@ Western Kentucky|
|10/9/10||@ Ohio State|
|10/16/10||vs. Arkansas State|
|11/20/10||vs. Penn State|
Indiana's 2010 schedule does it no favors. Although its out of conference diet is manageable (Towson, WKU, Akron, Arkansas State), the Big Ten slate is downright formidable -- especially the month of November. Games against Iowa, at Wisconsin, Penn State, and at Purdue, make a four-game losing skid to close the season quite likely. That's the last thing Bill Lynch needs.
MONDAY: Spring Field Guide
TUESDAY: Your Team Almost Lost to Indiana - What the Hell is Wrong with You?
WEDNESDAY: Remembering an Indiana win from a decade ago
THURSDAY: MVP Profile
FRIDAY: Keeping the Enemy Close - Rival Blogger Interview