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B1G 2022 // Indiana Potluck #3: Walt Belt, the Hoosiers Offense, and Fried Biscuits

Because the world isn’t fair, grab a fried biscuit and come argue about some things.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 30 UMass at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome back to Indiana Week!

Our preview of the Indiana Hoosiers marches on now that BuffKomodo has led the faithful in a study of the Indiana skill positions...but there’s one thing left for us to look at on the fun side of the Hoosier squad: the good-looking sumbitch in charge of running the whole thing.

Today it’s best-looking coaches, worst-looking offenses, fried breakfast treats, and whether Indiana’s even in the Midwest at all.

Are you intrigued?

Me neither. But I’m the one who wrote it, so I already know how this is going to go.

The Football: Uh...Walt Bell, everyone!

Behold:

Walt Bell by Year

Year Team FEI Rank ∆PrevYr
Year Team FEI Rank ∆PrevYr
2014 Arkansas State -0.1 67 +28
2015 Arkansas State -0.25 80 -13
2016 Maryland -0.04 68 +24
2017 Maryland 0.17 46 +22
2018 Florida State -0.51 97 -38
2019 UMass -1.49 129 -34
2020 UMass -1.5 126 +3
2021 UMass -1.15 126 --

The Daily Hoosier compiled some additional numbers on the Bell tenure, and they’re possibly more damning. Now, there are, of course, caveats: Bell’s time at Maryland coincided with the Tyrrell Pigrome/Kasim Hall injurypalooza that was Maryland 2017 and a decimated Florida State offensive line plus mercurial Deondre Francois in 2018.

As BuffKomodo noted this morning, though, the Hoosiers have imported some playmakers that could thrive in Bell’s system. That good-looking sonofabitch talked about a “quick, efficient, well-protected pass game that can create explosives”–a fantastic way to talk about football that I hope gets him a visit from DHS–and maybe Mizzou transfer QB Connor Bazelak, the 2020 SEC Co-Freshman of the Year, can make that happen. With Jack Tuttle expected to take a back seat, the Hoosiers should be in the hands of an error-prone but potential-laden QB, which I’m sure will go just fine.

So tell me, writers:

* What do you see as the strength of Indiana’s offense in 2022? It feels like I’m previewing a Fred Hoiberg-coached team right now, so how do you see a way forward for the Hoosier offense under Walt Bell?

* Where does this offense finish in 2022?

* Who’s the best-looking coach to walk through your football program in a while? (Yes, Nebraska fans, it’s time to cut open a vein about Bob fuckin’ Diaco.)

Kind of…: The strength of Indiana’s offense in 2022 will be that it will be rather different than the 2021 offense. Sorry, that’s all I’ve got. I know UMass isn’t a hotbed, but Dear Lord do those numbers look ghoulish. I guess I’ll say they get a dead cat bounce and finish 10th or so in the conference.

Green Akers: Strength, huh? Sorry man, can’t do it. Almost all the skill guys are new, and the line is mostly intact but has been bad for years. Bazelak is probably an upgrade over hobbled Michael Penix Jr. or any of the other guys IU threw out there last year, so I guess he’s my answer, but that’s only if he stays healthy.

Bell’s results with both inferior and superior talent to what IU presents him don’t exactly inspire confidence. I’d pencil them in somewhere between 100-110th. As for the last bit, the only Dantonio assistant whose face immediately comes to mind is Jim Bollman, so…pass.

BoilerUp89: C’mon MNW. Put up a trigger warning before you mention Diaco. Indiana’s offense may have semi-decent QB play. If he doesn’t get murdered behind the swiss cheese O-line. Or finds someone capable of catching the ball.

MNW: You’re not even the one who should be triggered by him!

There’s an interesting connection between Diaco and Bell, though, and it’s that perhaps the UConn AD office was led by just the thirstiest interviewers who got lost in Diaco’s and Bell’s eyes.

Now explain Jim Mora, I guess.

I don’t think Bell’s a terrible hire, in that he probably sees himself at a school above Indiana in the pecking order and wants to find a way back there. With all these alleged playmakers at IU, really nowhere to go but up, and a coach who I’d think is willing to stay out of the way and let him do that, Walter Bell IV—that’s right, ladies, there’s probably a trust fund—could be flexible and unpredictable with the Hoosier offense. At least it’s not Nick Sheridan, right?

MaximumSam: Walt Bell may not be the second coming of Bill Walsh, but Indiana jumping from horrid to merely average on offense would do wonders. A tough ask, with all the new pieces, but they will likely have a coherent if unexciting plan on offense. I’d say they make a respectable showing. Respectable, like that guy you know who hasn’t been in jail recently and works almost full time hours.

As far as good looking chaps? Mike Vrabel cut a chiseled walk back when he coached with the Buckeyes. He had just retired from playing in the NFL so he hadn’t quite been beaten down by life and quarter pounders.

Thumpasaurus: OK, so in context that Maryland tenure is actually reasonably good considering that was the Perry Thrills era. It’s not his fault that Florida State got completely broken by Alabama in the first game of Willie Taggart’s first season, and UMass football is notoriously neglected from a resources perspective.

Here’s where the upside might happen! Being the fantasy-college-football-playing freak that I am, I can tell you that Walt Bell coached Fredi Knighten at Arkansas State. He was a 5’11” 190lb dual-threat QB that was not a highly touted recruit but was a quick athlete with an adequate arm. Knighten was a junior by the time Bell got to Ark St and had showed some flashes in relief appearances but never contested for the starting job.

The reason I know about Knighten is because in his first year as a starter he threw for 3277 yards and 24 TDs, ran for 779 yards and 11 touchdowns, and caught 2 for 64 yards and a touchdown. He was not an especially efficient runner at 3.7ypc, but lead back Michael Gordon added 1100 rushing yards at 6.2 a pop. The really crazy thing about those 3277 yards is that Knighten really spread it around; no individual receiver had as many as 700 yards, though three went over 600.

Of course, defense in the Big Ten is very different from defense in the Sun Belt. Notably, this offense fell flat against Tennessee and The U that year. That being said, Donaven McCulley is a much more highly touted athlete than was Knighten and Stephen Carr is a capable lead back.

You know what? Now I’m deep enough in this rabbit hole. If I’m going to say this offense has 2014 Ark State potential, but it’s Indiana Football, we should maybe assume the worst and dial up a game tape where their offensive line is just overmatched and the opposing defense has superior talent.

There we are.

So their running play is inside zone, which they used to keep the defense honest here but to little effect. They got behind early but tried not to get desperate. There’s at least 3 wideouts at all times, usually one back but sometimes two. Knighten is a big time running threat on the zone read and on draws out of empty sets, which McCulley can do. However, McCulley is going to need to throw accurate enough deep balls that the defense has to respect the whole route tree. Knighten didn’t really connect on any deep ones in the opening half, but the threat was established enough that they had a lot of room underneath.

In the best of times? Here’s what it looked like.

As for the best looking coach to come through our program?

Depends on what you mean by that. I certainly hope I can pull off shirts this tight in my 60s:

Wisconsin v Illinois Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Beard Lovie could have been an icon if Recruiting Day got as much attention as Chest Day. Nevertheless, he’s probably the choice here; doubly so if you love the Bears. Even more so if you like Chicago’s NFL team.

WSR: The pieces have potential, so that’s better than some of the other offenses, right? I don’t think that it’s Bell’s fault that he’s been in bad spots in the past, but…taking a job at Indiana may not fix that trend.

I think the offense finishes bottom half, but not bottom of the bottom half. 8-10ish feels about right, knowing that there are still plenty of programs out there that don’t know how to build an OL or just don’t care about scoring points.

Prettiest coach? I mean, we’e got Peej. A full goddamn character arc of Peej. There was new hire young and energetic Peej with hair, then after 1 season he shaved rather than letting everyone know that the Minnesota job makes you either pull out your hair or lose it or have it all go grey, and now there’s I HAVE HAD SOME WORK DONE Peej.

misdreavus79: I… don’t know. Indiana was so god awful last season that I couldn’t begin to tell you what parts of the offense are going to be effective. Like, maybe the quarterbacks will actually give something of a breath of life to the offense, but I honestly can’t in good conscience give you a precise answer.

As per where it’ll finish, it’ll finish in bad. Let’s say sixth in the East assuming Rutgers continues to be an inconsistent mess there.

Assuming we don’t include GAs and the like, it has to be a tie between Manny Diaz and Chuck Losey, III. I mean, look at that mustache! Honorable mention goes to former DC Brent Pry, who was a looker in his own right.

Buffkomodo: Ugh. The strength of the offense is that everything and everyone is new. That’s not an exaggeration either. New QB. New RB1 and RB2. Same DJ Matthews, but new WR core. New OC. That’s the strength to start. They’d better figure something out before UC to cling too as well.

I think the offense finishes in the meaty part of the bell-curve somewhere. No more fringe terrible finishes, but no Deboer esk finishes either. Actually, probably will look like old man Deboard back there calling plays again.

To be honest, Nick Sheridan isn’t goofy looking and Deland McCullough can probably pull. Tom Allen has the sex appeal of a youth pastor and the personality of…well a youth pastor as well. However, in that leather jacket picture with Woodson he made some 30 year old women swoon so there’s that.

Poll

How does Indiana’s offense do under Walt Bell?

  • 1%
    We’re talking a top-tier B1G offense—just a better face is all it needed. And a quarterback, I guess.
    (1 vote)
  • 10%
    Solidly top half.
    (7 votes)
  • 50%
    A dead cat bounce, but nothing earth-shattering.
    (32 votes)
  • 37%
    Well, it can’t get any worse.
    (24 votes)
64 votes total Vote Now

The Food: I bet Walt Bell never eats fried food...

Let’s head a little south in Indiana today for something a bit sweeter than the Hoosiers’ bitter 2021 – and, as we do, let’s dial it back to breakfast time. Nothing like a fresh start on Wednesday, right?

Visit Indiana

Those are the fried biscuits and apple butter of the Nashville General Store and Bakery: bread dough proofed a little longer, fried to order, and rolled in cinnamon sugar before they’re served with apple butter for dipping. Delightful.

So, writers:

* This seems right up your alley, but anything in the fried doughnut category you’ve had or make–including these fried biscuits–we should know about?

* Fried biscuits strike me as decidedly Southern – is southern Indiana even part of the Midwest?

Kind of…: Homemade donuts are great. My grandmother used to make basic fry bread, which is great too. (Though this was a long time ago, and times were different, so she called it squaw bread, which exists but is something entirely different.) Apple butter is an excellent addition to almost any fried dough.

Southern Indiana is not part of the Midwest, but at least in part because regional differences are disappearing and the Midwest basically doesn’t exist anymore. On or off the field, the South has won.

Green Akers: The closest thing I’ve done to homemade donuts would probably be a monkey bread, which I bake halfway and then take out of the oven, spritz with olive oil spray and dust with cinnamon sugar and then finish up in the air fryer.

The phrase “Kentuckiana” exists for a reason.

MNW: Really I asked this because in 8 days I’m going to be in room after room of people where we’re discussing actually important historical things and then the conversation breaks down with “But I don’t know...is Pittsburgh really in the Midwest?” and I start looking for a rope.

(No, southern Indiana isn’t, because it’s below I-70, the marker that I, a Real Midwestern Historian, have asserted is the southern cultural boundary of the Midwest.)

Thumpasaurus: After Detroit City FC’s heartbreaking exit from the US Open Cup last night, the contributor above me went to the beignet truck looking for comfort. But alas, access to beignets had a cutoff time.

It feels like if City is ever going to lose an important game again, they should keep the beignet truck there an extra hour.

But I digress. I used an Amish recipe to homemake some glazed donuts one time. Bear in mind I do not have a fryer of any kind, so I was just using a lil pot of oil. No serious injuries!

MaximumSam: I haven’t made fried donuts in forever, mostly because the ones I made were lackluster. But I’m a wisened chef now, and it may be time to give them another shot. Warm donuts fresh out of the fryer are perhaps one of the best foods to exist. The most recent fried dough like thing I’ve made were empanadas, though that is based more on the filling than the dough.

WSR: I haven’t made doughnuts…yet. But I’m sure that’ll happen at some point because I’m making nearly everything else. And I’m just going to tapdance around the 2nd part of the question because I have some THOUGHTS on Indiana. Fucking Mississippi-ass state masquerading as part of the north can get the fuck on out of here. That was tactful enough, right?

Buffkomodo: Fry everything. Homemade donuts hit the spot. Fried Oreo balls are the shit. Elephant ears. I dunno if I want to continue.

As for your second question, it very well may not be. There’s a lot of migration north that still occurred from the 20’s through the 50’s and really brought a bunch of southern culture with it. For example, my grandfather is from Tennessee and my grandmother is from Kentucky. They moved to southern Indiana at different times and met and married and yadda yadda.

That’s not an uncommon story deep in southern Indiana either. I speculate that the reason for that movement was because Tennessee and Kentucky kind of sucked economically and people needed money. Reasons aside, southern Indiana has become a melting pot of southern traditions and language and is a very interesting culture in its own right.

misdreavus79: Uh, so, this isn’t right up my particular alley so I’mma sit this one out…

Poll

Fried biscuits?

  • 26%
    Extremely my shit.
    (17 votes)
  • 52%
    As a treat.
    (34 votes)
  • 21%
    No thanks.
    (14 votes)
65 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Is southern Indiana in the Midwest?

  • 37%
    Yes, and I shall devote a lengthy comment to explaining why.
    (27 votes)
  • 62%
    No, and I shall devote a lengthy comment to explaining why.
    (45 votes)
72 votes total Vote Now