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B1G 2023: The Indiana Hoosiers Offensive Offense

This offense may be offensive.

One legend, and two guys who the jury is still out on.

Well, it’s Indiana week as you might have seen yesterday which means we have to talk about the offense today. Seeing as how it is a day ending in “y”, that means it’s a day I’m dreading talking about the Indiana offense for the 2023 football season.

Why’s that? Well it’s because if my article yesterday didn’t put any damper on expectations, then let me be 100% clear: this team will not be good. This team will not be good on both sides of the ball, but the offense is likely to be the worst. Sure, I could talk at length about the upcoming offense….oh wait, I can’t. There is about 0 press on this offseason for the Indiana Hoosiers. So since there’s not a lot for me to have a take on, let me just pick the 3 things I think are going to be the biggest issues/questions on offense.

Also, here are the notable departures.

Luke Wiginton — OL — Ball State

Randy Holtz – OL — No information found, though did not look hard

Malachi Holt-Bennett – WR — UAB

AJ Barner – TE — Michigan

Connor Bazelak – QB — Bowling Green

Charles Campbell – K — Tennessee

Jack Tuttle – QB — Michigan

Caleb Murphy – OL — Retirement

Shaun Shivers – RB — NFL Draft (Fairly Certain Exhausted Eligibility)

Luke Haggard – OL — ?

Parker Hanna – OL — ?

DJ Matthews JR – WR — Exhausted Eligibility and NFL Draft

And here are the notable additions from the transfer portal:

Noah Bolticoff – OL – TCU – 3 Years Eligibility

Tayven Jackson – QB – Tennessee – 4 Years Eligibility

Christian Turner – RB – Wake Forest/Michigan - ?

Dequece Carter – WR – Fordham – 1 Year Eligibility

EJ Williams – WR – Clemson – 2 Years Eligibility

Max Longman – OL – Umass – 1 Year Eligibility

I’m not putting an incoming freshman list because, well, according to 247 sports there were no offensive recruits in the top 748 of prospects overall. I wish it were funnier, but it’s really pretty sad at the point.

STORY LINE #1 – Who is under center?

This is the most important offensive question to answer, but not by much. An argument could be made that the question of how good will Bob Bostad be for the offensive line could be the top story line, but we’ll talk about that in question number 2. For now, let’s talk the sexy position that is QB. And…well…it ain’t pretty.

Last year, the Hoosiers had a QB battle between Jack Tuttle and Connor Bazelak with Bazelak coming out on top. It appeared to be a decent choice until Bazelak just kind of started chucking the ball around with no cares at all. Balls sailed. He couldn’t run or avoid the rush. Indiana tried to bring in Jack Tuttle but got him absolutely killed AGAIN.

The Hoosiers cycled through the QB room a couple more times against Penn State and finally landed on Dexter Williams II. This scampering young QB came in against Penn State and played pretty well. Well enough that they decided to start him the rest of the year…until that miserable Purdue game where Williams would suffer a season ending lower leg injury. That injury will likely keep him from playing in 2023 as well, meaning that Dexter Williams will be in his 4th academic year before possibly finding playing time. He missed all of 2021 with a torn ACL. He redshirted 2020.

That means that the one ray of sunshine the Hoosier had on offense last season is no longer an option, perhaps forever. The two guys on the roster that have the best shot at starting are now Tennessee transfer Tayven Jackson, brother of beloved Hoosier basketball player Trayce Jackson-Davis, and Redshirt QB Brendan Sorsby. Jackson comes into the battle with 3 career completed passes for 37 yards and Sorsby has also 3 completed passes for 8 yards and an interception. Between the two, they have 10 attempts total.

It’s almost mind boggling that Indiana is completely incapable of bringing in someone with actual experience into this spot. I guess Tom Allen and Walt Bell are trying to nail down somewhere between the all legs and no arm talent Dexter Williams and the all arm and no leg talent of Bazelak. Personally, Indiana was much, much better running the option with Williams. However, it appears that running the ball with your QB is not something Allen is really a fan of all the time, and who can blame him. Indiana hasn’t finished the year with its starting QB since Peyton Ramsey was under center in 2018/2019 ish. Whoever starts, God help them and save us all.

STORY LINE #2 – Will the offensive line be any better under Bob Bostad?

This will be where the Hoosiers win and lose to be honest. After allowing talented QB after talented QB to get drilled by a swiss cheese looking line, Darren Hiller was FINALLY fired last season. Perhaps the worst part of the whole situation was that Indiana seemed to be noticeably better on the line after that. Part of that is scheme, and part of that was that Darren Hiller was atrocious at his job. Whatever it was, Rod Carey did have the Hoosiers OL looking a lot better (still not great BoilerUp89 and the BoilerBot Army) by the end of the season.

I guess either Carey didn’t want to return or Allen had other ideas, but Carey was not retained for the position. Instead, Indiana did something intelligent on paper and hired Bob Bostad to rebuild their offensive line program. Bostad is perhaps best known for his work with the Wisconsin offensive line from 2006-2011. Say what you want about his other stops along the way, he did some good work with that crew.

So I guess why not bring in the guy who coached a program that was known for its offensive line. Seems like a good move for once. Out of Allen, good moves seem to be in short supply. Will Bostad be able to put out a functional line with the slew of new guys? Will he be able to build a line good enough to save Tom Allen’s job? That’s a big story this year.

STORY LINE #3 –Walt Bell…WTF?

By the end of the season, Indiana was really hurting for talent. They turned to…preseason all-american kick returner Jaylen Lucas…to play receiver and running back. They stopped trying to go quick and throw quickly and instead….went to an option style offense and ended up beating Michigan State and I honestly think they beat Purdue if Williams doesn’t get hurt.

Perhaps the first red flag of the Walt Bell era should have been the first play of the 2022 season, where an OBVIOUS TO EVERYONE screen pass to Shaun Shivers gets BLOWN UP in tremendous fashion. I honestly thought Shivers had a concussion after that hit. Perhaps the second red flag should have been that after touting Dexter Williams as in the QB competition in spring camp, Indiana trotted out Jack Tuttle AND Brendan Sorsby before actually giving Williams a shot to play.

What will the third red flag be? I mean you could pick anything, like the timeout at Nebraska AFTER A FUCKING TOUCHBACK TO START THE GAME. Or it could be something yet to come. Whatever it is, it’ll be because this offense has absolutely no talent to its name.

What was clear last year was that Indiana CLEARLY did not have the talent to play the style of offense that Walt Bell and also Tom Allen wanted to play. It’s how they blow a 14 point lead to Rutgers. It’s how they failed to find any answers against Nebraska. It’s how they managed to stop scoring after Dexter Williams gets hurt against Purdue.

My opinion is that Walt Bell is not a good offensive coordinator, and having him at a Big Ten school at this point is malpractice by Allen. But I mean I guess we should give him another year to see what he can make out of the mess of an offensive talent pool he has. Perhaps I’m being too negative, but my God things have gotten extremely ugly for the last two years and there wasn’t really any bright spot after Williams got hurt.

Enough of my ramblings. Now I’ll ask you, our “writers,” how do you feel about the Indiana offense?

1) Am I being too negative and pessimistic? Should I give this squad a chance to get killed by Ohio State before jumping to conclusions?

Brian: I really don’t know what to expect from Indiana this season, but I’d hate to base any sort of judgement on its performance against Ohio State. Not many teams would fare well using that game as a benchmark.

MaximumSam: I don’t see anything here resembling hope or momentum. So I think you are being a perfectly reasonable amount of negative.

MNW: I think Walt Bell’s a pretty good negative all by himself — we talked at length about his negatives last year (though that dreamy face is a positive), and not much appears to have changed, by your assessment.

I’m bummed for Williams and mortified to learn of the two options that Indiana could be throwing on the field this year. So best of luck to you? I’d personally start Jackson just to keep the basketball fanbase happy. You wouldn’t want any fans to start writing more angry letters about leadership...or, come to think of it, any fans to start writing angry letters about getting the job because of your brother.

Huh, it’s almost like lazy racist pieces of shit are gonna be that way regardless.

Anywho, Indiana’s offense will be “Northwestern 2022” levels of terrible.

Kind of...: I mean, our “writer” has done a very good job of tamping down expectations...Indiana was bad last year, but better than 2021. But, yeah, still bad. I don’t seem much room for hope, but given that they have games with L’ville (under Brohm) and Maryland before September is up, we’ll see pretty quickly if they’re capable of winning a shootout against reasonable competition. I doubt it, but we’ll see.

misdreavus79: I mean, how much worse could it get? Don’t answer that!

2) Is Bob Bostad good or even worth talking about?

Brian: I guess we’re about to find out.

RockyMtnBlue: Dunno, but he can’t possibly be worse.

MaximumSam: No and no. Well, he may be just fine as an OL coach, but that doesn’t equate to a magically good oline.

MNW: Northwestern had a similar thing when Fitz finally managed to get his buddy Adam Cushing out of the OL coach slot and into the HC job at Eastern Illinois, where—and you’ll never believe this!—he failed miserably.

The ‘Cats replaced him with 90s wrestling enthusiast and mountain of a man Kurt Anderson, who...well, the line numbers went from bad to middling, improving in pass pro but struggling in the power game Fitz wants to play. But they’re getting people drafted and not quite the liability they used to be? I think Bostad should aspire to that, first.

Kind of...: Pretty much agree with @MNW. Bostad should equal marginal improvement. And, hey, who turns down improvement? But OL coaches rarely are difference makers on their own, and even more rarely in a situation as dire as Indiana’s.

misdreavus79: Genuine question, who is that?

3) Is Penix for Heisman Tom Allen’s biggest failure?

Brian: I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I’d like to know what happened. Penix had such a nice season in 2020, the sky seemed the limit. In retrospect, I suppose it was. Just not in Bloomington.

RockyMtnBlue: Probably. Indiana’s offensive line in 2022 was legendarily bad. Seriously, one of the worst o-lines I’ve ever seen, and I was a Lions fan for decades. We really don’t know what else the Hoosiers had because that line was so broken it didn’t matter. New coach should help, right?

MaximumSam: I liked Tom Allen - he seemed to have everything moving in the right direction. A solid defense and a surprising amount of offensive weapons. Then Kalen DeBoer left and it all went to crap. The bigger failure is not hiring him to be the head coach.

MNW: MaxSam hit it on the head here — though I think with the offensive line doing what it did, the Penix-for-Heisman thing was just a ticking time bomb. Dude was gonna get crushed back there eventually and not get up.

Kind of...: I mean, DeBoer was only there for a year. They were 5-7 both seasons before he came on and had some tough losses each year. It seemed like Allen really had things stabilized before DeBoer arrived. And he wasn’t there in 2020 when Indiana went 6-2. Losing DeBoer—and Penix—doesn’t make you better, but that seems to only be one failure out of several, and they intertwine in ways that singling out just one seems to let Allen off the hook for how fast this has all fallen apart.

misdreavus79: I still don’t understand why Penix transferred. Well, I do, but I don’t.

What did YOU think about the incoming Indiana offense? Will it be improved? Will it be worse? Am I simply being too mean? Let us know!