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2017 Indiana Potluck Part 2: Defense

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How’s Indiana going to be on defense this year?

Purdue v Indiana Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Welcome to day 2 of the Indiana week. The next time you’re in Bloomington, you should get Fish and Chips or seafood from the Irish Lion.

How will the Indiana Hoosiers be on defense this year? They’ve got studs like Tegray Scales as LB and defensive line full of Juniors and Seniors. Is it too early to tell?

LPW: I have no fricking idea.

Candystripes: I’m a fan of the Hoosiers, and even I can’t tell you how the defense is going to look in 2017 right now. It’s actually kinda foolish to try guessing, as anytime before last year, assuming anything better than the previous year’s defense would have been fairly wrong. Only last year did the defense finally take a step forward, and while the man who probably gets a large portion of the credit for that is now the head coach, that might actually cause the progress to stagnate some. If Marcelino Ball and Rashard Fant can hold down the secondary, and Tegray stays healthy for the whole season, there’s certainly plenty to like on that side of the ball for the Hoosiers.

Townie: Indiana’s defense was middle of the pack last year. They return almost everybody, so we can use last year’s numbers to get a feel for this year. They have a couple of true superstars in Tegray Scales and Rashard Fant. Those guys won’t be enough to change Indiana’s D much this year.

I’m a numbers guy, so let’s run down some stats from last year.

First, the good news - they ranked fifth in sacks in the B1G, with 33 for -220 yards. They ranked 8th in first downs allowed, giving up 19.5 first downs per game. They ranked fourth in stops on third down. They held on third down 2 out of 3 times.

They gave up about 27 points per game, which was better than Sparty, the Terps, Illinois, rutger, and Purdue. They allowed around 380 yards per game (about 5.1 yards per per play), again, middle of the pack. Just swap Northwestern for MSU and you see the teams behind Indiana.

This defense spent a lot of time on the field last year (Indiana ranked 10th in time of possession).

Even with Tegray Scales, last year’s rush defense wasn’t great. They gave up 3.8 yards per play and 20 rushing touchdowns. Opposing teams ran for 160 yards per game on average. That ranked Indiana ahead of just the Terps, Illinois, rutger, and Purdue. Losing NT Ralph Green isn’t going to help this group.

However, Indiana’s pass D was suspect last year. Teams threw the ball 417 times vs Indiana last year. The Hoosiers came up with 13 picks, which was good for 7th in the B1G. They took two of those picks back for touchdowns, which tied them for third in the B1G (with Nebraska and Sparty). However, they gave up 17 touchdowns. However, they gave up an average of 220 yards through the air per game. That puts them above just Minnesota and Northwestern, in terms of pass D.

The problems on defense came on fourth downs (they gave up 17 first downs on 27 attempts...so 63% success rate on fourth down) and at the goal line (they ranked dead last in red zone D).

If you got within the twenty yard line against Indiana, you were going to score. Opponents came away with points 39 times out of 43. That’s a 91% success rate. Purdue’s offense doesn’t have a 91% success rate in practice...but Indiana’s defense let teams score that easily.

Twenty three of those thirty-nine scores were touchdowns. Seventeen of them on the ground. It’s like Indiana’s line gave up inside the twenty. That’s a huge area of concern...particularly because of another problem: turnover margin.

Actually the defense ranked fifth in total takeaways in the B1G. As we said, they had thirteen picks and recovered ten fumbles, for 23 total takeaways. Only the Buckeyes, the Badgers, the Gophers, and the Butler Toters had more...

The problem was that 23 takeaways wasn’t enough to cover the losses on the offensive side of the ball. So, Indiana’s turnover margin was -6 for the year. That’s only better than the Terps and the Boilers.

In general, Indiana was a lower middle defense last year. Improvements on red zone defense and run stopping will move them up. Barring injury, the two guys to talk about this year will be Tegray Scales and Rashard Fant.

WSR: Indiana does not have a defense, and any fake news suggesting otherwise does not deserve acknowledgement or comment.

Aaron: The combination of youth and talent makes me think this unit will be at last as good as last year’s. Let’s not go thinking that just because the Hoosiers have not had a good defense in a long time that they can never have a good defense.