A lot this week has been made of the Indiana Hoosiers offensive situation in the coaches room this year. To be honest, I may be overblowing how terrible of a hire I think Walt Bell is. He’s a D1 coach and has bumped around a few programs, albeit never to a really good program at the high major level. He knows much more about football than I’ll ever dream.
That said, I’m not certain that anyone would be able to pick up this roster and score much with it. Offensive is what will hold the Hoosiers back yet again this year. Let’s look at the departures on the offensive side.
QB – Zack Merrill
QB – Michael Penix Jr —> Washington
RB – Davion Ervin-Poindexter (walk-on) -> Western Kentucky
RB – Chris Childers (walk-on) -> San Diego
RB – Tim Baldwin Jr -> UMass
RB – Sampson James -> Purdue
RB – Stephen Carr -> NFL
WR – Camron Buckley -> Jackson State
WR – Miles Marshall -> Miami (OH)
WR – Jordyn Williams -> Jackson State
WR – Jacolby Hewitt -> Florida International
WR – Da’Shaun Brown -> County Corrections
WR – Ty Fryfogle -> Dallas Cowboys
TE – Kham Taylor -> Missouri State
TE – Peyton Hendershot -> Dallas Cowboys
OL – Brady Feeney -> Colgate
OL – Caleb Jones -> Green Bay Packers
As far as I could verify, this is the comprehensive list of who is leaving the program on the offensive side of the ball. I’ve done the best I can to find where everyone is heading as well but some just don’t have anything out there yet. There’s a better list than mine here, but these are the cliffnote departures. As you can see, that’s a lot of loss. The WR and RB rooms are certainly devastated, and there is an open question mark at QB.
It’s not like this group of individuals really lit the world on fire last year though. Penix finished each season in the injury tent. Ty Fryfogle had a spectacular 2020 campaign and then fell completely out of the projected NFL draft by dropping every pass that came his way last year. The other WR’s on this list also had terrible years last year. Mile Marshall was one who Allen wanted to be the best out of the group, but he had drop problems as well. You can certainly blame some drops on the QBs last year, but the receiving corps never helped out their QB either.
The RB room is devastated by departure as well, though a good portion of those departures are walk-ons seizing their moments. Losing Stephen Carr to the draft hurts but lets get real, Indiana wasn’t in a place to capitalize on a good running back anyway. The Sampson James transfer occurred in the fall but still deserves to be brought back up here. Looking at this list, he’s one of 2 Hoosiers who transferred to other power conference schools. Make of that what you will.
Lastly, noting that Mike Penix is transferring to Washington is expected in this article. As stated above, he was hurt each season he was at Indiana. Hopefully he finds health and success at Washington, but he never really had a chance to get going last year, and even when he was healthy he looked like a shell of his former self.
WR – Emery Simmons <- North Carolina
WR – Andison Coby <- Tennessee
RB – Shaun Shivers <- Auburn
RB – Josh Henderson <- North Carolina
QB – Connor Bazelak <- Missouri
OT – Parker Hanna <- West Texas A&M
Recruits (247 Star Rankings Included)
WR – Omar Cooper – 4*
WR – Cam Camper – 3*
WR – Kamryn Perry – 3*
OT – Carter Smith – 3*
OT – Bray Lynch – 3*
OL – DJ Moore – 3*
TE - Brody Foley – 3*
TE – Ryan Miller – 3*
QB – Brendan Sorsby – 3*
Overall, this list of transfers and recruits was a part of the 26th best composite class on 247 sports, and the 30th recruiting class overall. While this doesn’t necessarily mean there will be results right away from some of the recruits here, if you’re a WR and can catch a ball you have a chance to play right away. I look for Cooper to be an instant player in some fashion.
One of the tight ends will need to step up and play as well with Hendershot out. They’ll be backing up Barner.
As far as the transfers go, I think there is some experience that will help. I think Shivers and Henderson should be in line to split carries to start the year. Both being smaller backs, I don’t expect either of them to be a traditional every down back like Carr was. Simmons and Coby give you some WR with experience, but again Buckley was supposed to provide that last year and it never happened.
The biggest name here will be QB Connor Bazelak. I think he’s staring down the barrel of a starting job. We’ve seen all of Tuttle we need to see and if Allen was content to start Jack, Connor wouldn’t be in Bloomington. Tuttle will continue to be a serviceable backup to Connor, but I don’t know he’ll ever amount to anything more than that.
Other Offensive Items of Note and Some Notable Returns
WR - DJ Matthews – DJ Matthews returns for his senior season fresh off an ACL tear in the Western Kentucky game. When healthy last year, DJ was an explosive presence and if he’s returning kicks again this year, look for my remote to become lodged in the wall. He’s a good receiver, keep him away from unnecessary risks coming off that injury.
QB - Donaven McCulley – You may have noticed how I said Tuttle will back up Bazelak and left out McCulley. That was very intentional. While he was a coveted 4* recruit, Donaven was unable to cement himself as the successor to Mike Penix in any of his outings last year. The staff was much more comfortable with Grant Gremell throwing the ball than they were with McCulley, which is awkward when you have to take your coveted recruit out on passing downs. Kind of a dead giveaway. If he improves his throwing, he could leap over Tuttle this summer because he is young and has athletic talent. Or if Bell runs an options heavy offense I can see McCulley being a better fit than Bazelak. But for now, he’s number 3.
QB – Jack Tuttle – He’s the backup QB and that seems to be his destiny. I feel for the guy, but hey, it is what it is. He’s had plenty of chances over the past 2 years to take the job and hasn’t done it.
OL – Matthew Bedford – Bedford is perhaps the most notable OL that remains. Bedford was a coveted recruit and has played each year for the Hoosiers. Look for him to be a rock on that line and for the coaching staff to finally stop playing musical linemen and just give him a spot.
OL – Josh Sales – Sales is another big ass lineman out of Indy. He will be a redshirt freshman. Look for him to compete and be another anchor on that line.
TE – AJ Barner – Barner is the heir to Hendershot. Barner showed flashes last year of being a good TE, and this year it’s his role to lose. I expect him to excel.
RB – David Ellis – I see David Ellis still on the roster. We’ll see how that goes.
Lukewarm is my temperature on this side of the ball. With the QB play completely up to how the line blocks, I’m concerned for sure that we’ll be finishing with Gremell again. I don’t want that. If Indiana is able to stay healthy and Walt Bell has an inch of creativity when it comes to calling plays, the offense should be okay. Otherwise, it’s gonna be a long year fellas.
My lack of optimism isn’t because I think that this team can’t be good. It’s that I’ve been an Indiana fan for a while so I know how this goes. Surprise me Hoosiers. Surprise me.