Are there Indiana foods you’re REALLY MAD we haven’t highlighted yet? Shame me in the comments!
I say that because...well, once you get past “fun offense” and “wow, these two pigeons really like to flap their wings at each other,” I struggle to gin up much for the Indiana Week potlucks. I know about sugar cream pie and persimmon surprise or whatever, and there’s a place west of Indianapolis that makes a mean braunschweiger, I’m told.
But after that? Literally no idea.
Indiana finished 23rd in S&P+ in 2019, returns some of the most production in the country, and Bill Connelly thinks they could find their ceiling in 2020. But he notes that, with Rutgers and Illinois, the Hoosiers still lag well behind the rest of the Big Ten in average recruiting performance (though they’ve added a 4* QB recruit for 2021...and a Kiwi punter).
Today, though, we’re asking what it is about the Indiana defense that has helped vault them into the ranks of “competitive” under Tom Allen. Crimson Quarry has pinpointed the cornerback unit, and as Tom Allen handed over the defensive keys of his 4-2-5 to DC Kane Wommack, the team PPG dropped from 29.9 to 24.4, continued to get good production out of Husky hybrid Marcelino Ball, and saw the emergence of LB Micah McFadden (60 tackles, 9 TFL, 2 INT) and ballhawking CB Tiawan Mullen. Add to that a strong line anchored by Jerome Johnson (5 sacks), junior DT Demarcus Elliott, and Stanford transfer Jovan Swann, and Indiana returns the pieces of a defense that should be even better in 2020.
We’ve gotta ask, though, if the 2019 production was a product of the opponents. Indiana rode shutouts of FCS Eastern Illinois and D-II Rutgers and 3-point stiflings of Northwestern’s and UConn’s St. Olaf-level offenses to that defensive ranking. Faced with the speed and playmakers of Nebraska and Purdue—to say nothing of the 51 to Ohio State, 40 (!!!) to Michigan State, 34 to Penn State, and 39 to Michigan—the Hoosiers’ offense had to bail them out.
So tell us:
(1) Rather than the usual 4-3 vs. 3-4 debate, let’s add the 4-2-5 into the mix. Do you like it, or does it give you the RichRod shivers? [Be honest: Did you even know Indiana played it?]
(2) Will the Hoosier defense fare as well in 2020, or was their 2019 production a product of weak scheduling?
(3) Has your coach ever stripped himself of some playcalling duties? How’d that work out?
Candystripes: 1) It seems to be working better than most defenses did during the Wilson years, so I like it a helluva lot.
2) The level of competition should be slightly higher on average, but even if there’s a slight regression, they should be fine. Of the 4 big numbers up above, remember that 6 of that MSU total was their game-ending pick, and if they hadn’t done that, Indiana was still in good shape to beat them, meaning their defense was also not holding up well right then. And just like MSU, that 34 for Penn State seems large, until you put up the 27 Indiana scored on the other side. A competitive game in Happy Valley for IU is a rare thing in recent years. On the other two, well, the Hoosiers’ inability to beat those teams is, uh, known. Giving up 51 to the Buckeyes just barely ranks in the top half of their scoring for the season. We’re fine.
1) 4-2-5 sounds cool, but I am all about the really weird numbers. Let’s go 3-3-3-2.
2) The Hooiser defense will not fare quite as well as last season because they do not have Ball State, Eastern Illinois, and UCONN on the schedule. Same can be said for almost every B1G team this season, though. Especially if they had an easy OOC.
3) I don’t remember any coach stripping themselves of playcalling duties. If they did it would probably not work out.
Stew: Iowa has actually moved to more of a 4-2-5 base in recent years, and I think it’s for the best. Almost every team plays some sort of spread, and asking a true linebacker to cover a slot receiver, running back, or even tight end is going to end in disaster. So putting another fast guy out there is probably a good idea. Besides, Iowa’s best position group has been the defensive backs for a while (All Hail Phil Parker!), it just makes sense.
As for Indiana? No, I had no idea the Hoosiers played a 4-2-5. And while I do know that S&P+ does account for strength of schedule, a few of those teams were just so very horrendously bad at offense, the numbers were still skewed a bit, as MNW points out, look at what even MSU did to them. They’ll be ok, but probably nothing to go gaga over.
Ferentz likes to say he lets his coordinators operate freely, which I totally believe on the defensive side of the ball. But he’s also admitted to overriding offensive calls, and there’s just no damn way he’s giving up on the outside zone to the short side of the field on 3rd and medium or less. I know, you know, the goddamn defense knows it, every fucking time.
MNW: I think Gary Patterson is absolutely a data point that the 4-2-5, if implemented properly, can work. Unlike WSR, I’m not a great passable conscious defensive mind, but I found Football Study Hall’s breakdown of the Gary Patterson 4-2-5 very helpful in understanding exactly what’s going on here. Hoosier Huddle had more, too, on what made Allen’s 4-2-5 so effective at South Florida that Kevin Wilson wanted to hire him at Indiana. Wommack is certainly in that vein.
As far as it working at Indiana, it sure seems like Tom Allen has both his hands on the defense and enough sense to let someone with more time and energy handle the program. Feels like it plays into the Allen Identity that there is no one name you can single out from the defense—not quite TCU levels of positionless football, but definitely a solid, ball-hawking defense in theory.
For Northwestern and a coach giving up control, Pat Fitzgerald used to be the special teams coach. He added Jeff Genyk as special teams coach while continuing to go for it constantly on 4th down and it got markedly mediocre-er. The more things change at Purple Iowa, huh?
pkloa: I like the idea of 4-2-5, I think every team should have it ready to go. If you have speed on defense, you’ll obviously have more success with it than if you’re B1G slow. I did not know Indiana runs it, but it makes sense.
It will be hard for the Hoosier Defense to improve with the returning offense they’ll see in the B1G East. I’ll put them down for a regression, but hopefully not too far.
Rumors were that Franklin was calling the plays for the last few games of the John Donovan era, and maybe the last few games of the Ricky Rahne era. Franklin gladly gave the reins over to Moorhead, and should do the same for Ciarrocca.
Did you know Indiana ran a 4-2-5?
This poll is closed
I can’t even count that high.
Food Nerd Stuff
Look, Mothership! We’re cross-linking! Don’t you love us?
In the search for famous Indiana alumni and things the Hoosiers have given us, I learned of something called Castle Wolfenstein, the original first-person shooter game — though his company went broke in 1987 and the design was picked up by a broker, then sold to John Carmack and John Romero, the makers of Doom. [Read about it on Polygon.]
Now, I know literally nothing about video gaming, and even less about first-person shooters. So you can tell me whatever you want to, writers, about Castle Wolfenstein and the Wolfenstein games, first-person shooters, and other video-game-type things. GO.
babaoreally: In high school our computers were on a school network where you had to sign in and then your only choices were to select from a list of programs that you were assigned. Unless you knew the simple workaround: select run a program from disk without inserting a disk. It would give you a choice: Abort, Retry, Ignore. If you chose Abort, then it would kick you straight out into a DOS prompt. We used this technique to play the Quake 2 demo on the LAN during a computer programming class that was too easy.
Stew: So I played a whole TON of Doom II in 1995 on our old family Mac. And one of the perks to playing this was that there were 2 “secret” Wolfenstein levels where there were nazis that needed killin’. And boy, it sure was nice to go into berserker mode, punch a nazi, and see him liquify.
pkloa: I’ve never been good at first person shooters. Give me some cheat codes and I can play for a few minutes. There are other games I’d much prefer playing, like an RPG, or Grand Theft Auto. Mobile games have gotten really good. I’ll give a racing game a shot, had a lot of fun with golf, and I’m back on the Clash of Clans wagon after seven years off.
Alright, so this was a huge mistake. Talk about whatever you want in the comments—I figured Castle Wolfenstein, whatever it is, would be enough to make up for Indiana Defense Day. I was...wrong.