Let’s talk about the 2023 Indiana Hoosiers defense for a hot minute. While I know a lot will probably be made about the over pessimistic tone of the first two articles, let me tell you IT WON’T GET BETTER IN THIS ARTCICLE (leaving this typo because it works still). Because as Indiana has found out in the last two seasons, everyone worth their salt on the Hoosier defense has basically left in the last two years. That’s left this roster pretty depleted, young, and honestly I don’t know if it’s any good.
That said, Indiana has done some work in the transfer portal bringing in a nice haul. I’m skeptical it’ll wok out, but at least maybe this side of the ball might be okay.
Here is the notable departure list:
- Trevell Mullen – RS Fr – Undecided
- Deland McCullough II – RS Jr – Undecided
- Sio Nofoagatoto’a – Sr – Arizona
- Dasan McCullough – So – Oklahoma
- Chris Keys – So – Mississippi State
- Tiawan Mullen – NFL Draft
- Jaylin Williams – NFL Draft
- Bradley Jennings Jr – NFL Draft
- Cam Jones – NFL Draft
- Devon Matthews – NFL Draft
- James Head Jr. – End of Career
- Demarcus Elliott – End of Career
- Bryant Fitzgerald – End of Career
- Lance Bryant – End of Career
- Jonathan Haynes – End of Career
And here are the notable additions:
- Anthony Jones – Oregon - Edge
- Trey Laing – Southern University – Edge
- Robby Harrison – Arizona State – DL
- Carl Biddings – Louisville – DL
- Joshua Rudolph – Austin Peay – LB
- Kobe Minor – Texax Tech – S
- Darryl Minor – UTEP – LB
- Philip Blidi – Texas Tech – DL
- Marcus Burris Jr. – Texas A&M – DL
- Jacob Mangum- Farrar – Standford – LB
- Lanell Carr – West Virginia – LB
- Nicolas Toomer – Stanford – CB
- Andre Carter – WMU – DL
- Jamier Johnson – Texas – CB
Story Line #1 – So who are these guys?
If the offense hadn’t been so horrible and had so many problems over the past couple years, this would have been a question on that article too. However, Indiana defenses under Tom Allen have always been a source of decent play and competency, last season not with standing. That said, there is a ton of turnover at Indiana this season, even more so than usual.
Indiana is losing a few key contributors to the NFL and retirement ranks, including Tiawan Mullen and Cam Jones. Cam Jones spent the majority of last season injured, and that likely cost Indiana at least the Rutgers and Maryland games, perhaps more. Indiana also sees the best recruit in the ranking era leave for Oklahoma in Dasan McCullough. Top that off with the fact that the 7th best recruit Trevell Mullen entered his name into the portal right after spring camp and it looks like Indiana is dealing with a fairly blank slate defensively.
Indiana did manage to score a haul in the transfer market though, bringing in quite a few names from various notable universities. I see Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and Oregon on the list of schools players are transferring in from. While that’s not the only thing that counts, it does mean Indiana should have something to work with most likely.
It really makes me think of that scene in Major League though. Where they’re in the owners office going over the roster.
“Who the hell are these guys?
“This guy’s dead!”
Anywho, we’ll see how it all mashes together. If there is any real area to have confidence in, it’s a Tom Allen defense. If this struggles this season, then things won’t be good.
Story Line #2 – Is Tom Allen calling plays?
A notable story from last season was the fact that Tom Allen himself was calling plays last season. This came after Charlton Warren left for North Carolina and Indiana hired Chad Wilt. Allen calling plays has been a hot topic amongst the fanbase as in the past, it has meant that Allen isn’t spending enough time doing actual head coach things. And to that end, why even hire a DC if you’re going to do it yourself.
Some have brought it back to the fact that Tom Allen thought last year could be as bad as it was and wanted to spare Chad Wilt the responsibility of having a rather terrible defense. Some have said he just simply can’t let go. Whatever it is, it certainly does take him away from fulfilling all his coaching obligations at times. So this will be something to look at going forward into the year.
Story Line #3 – Is Tom Allen even a defensive specialist anymore?
After the last two seasons, you could be wondering this very topic. You’re certainly right to wonder if Tom Allen has what it takes as a Big Ten head coach. I think that if the defense is bad again this season, this will be brought up a lot in the small Indiana football circles. However, is it even right to ask this question?
For all the ills of the 2021 football season, that Hoosier defense led by Micah Mcfadden was not as bad as the last 4 games made it seem. In fact, you can very easily argue that defense was not the problem with 2021. If you simply look at the scores and recaps, you see a noticeable trend where Indiana fails to score much at all and yet the defense keeps giving the Hoosiers chances. See the Michigan State game where Indiana holds Kenneth Walker to 84 yards and no touchdowns, only allows 13 points defensively, yet an Indiana pick 6 causes the Hoosiers to lose 20-15.
Then last season, the dam kind of broke. Indiana seemed to be giving up chunk play and explosive plays left and right. The defense kind of cost them the Nebraska game, the Rutgers game, and the Maryland game. It was quite disappointing. In my attempt to be fair though, this was the first truly BAD defensive performance from wire to wire a Tom Allen defense has had.
I don’t think this is a fair question at this point, but if things go sideways quickly the cries of “I thought he was a defensive guy” will be a lot louder. If those cries do eventually come this year, it may only be from a handful of people as I think one more lousy year and there may not be an Indiana fanbase there to hear from.
Bottom line: Tom Allen has earned some respect on the defensive side of the ball. Let’s see what he does.
Now onto our “writers’” space. Tell me writers:
1) For the most disappointing year in your sports fandom, what was the main culprit of the terrible results? I don’t want to hear anything about Hazel BU89.
RockyMtnBlue: The most disappointing year was 2008, when Michigan broke a looooooong bowl streak by going 3-9. We managed to lose to Toledo, a MAC team that also went 3-9. There were a number of reasons for this, but first among them was, holy Christopher on a cracker, Rich Rodriguez is a bad coach!
MaximumSam: Tress got whacked by the evil tattoo conspiracy, Luke Fickell was in the crosshairs, and Urban Meyer was lurking. Who would have thought that all three could end up in the hall of fame for coaching. Not this guy, at the time.
MNW: In 2013, it was bad luck (Hail Mary, the Drew Dileo slide, injuries) combined with slapstick coaching (the Mike Trumpy Speed Option at Iowa comes to mind). In 2021...well, Pat Fitzgerald can raise a tremendous amount of money for the university, and I’ll leave it at that.
WSR: How the heck am I supposed to pick just one “most disappointing season?” At least I can say without question that the culprit is almost always Minnesota football.
Kind of...: 1) 2000. The two-time defending Rose Bowl champs were preseason #4, but were undone by an breathlessly over-hyped “scandal.” Lost to the three eventual tri-champs by 12 combined points, with two of the games going to OT.
2) 2008. UW was preseason #13, and had moved into top 10, before coughing up a 19-0 lead over the last 20 minutes to the worst Michigan team of the last 60 years. Season went into a tailspin after that, with a 7-6 finish. UW earned bowl eligibility only by beat Cal Poly in OT to finish season, and that required Cal Poly missing 3 PATs. Bielema takes the blame for most that year, including not retaining Mike Hankwitz after the ‘07 D backslid a bit. Transfer QB Allen Evridge simply was not the answer, either. 2018 wasn’t much fun either, but that team kept fighting and had Jonathan Taylor, so a far cry from the two I already mentioned.
misdreavus79: Let me tell you about a time where Kirk Ferentz was so sure the Penn State offense would do jack schitt that he took an intentional safety to put the game away.
2) In a world with the transfer portal the way it is, should you focus more on recruiting or just start plucking experience out of the portal?
BoilerUp89: Due to the constraints of your first question, I refuse to answer. As for the second question, schools not named Michigan, OSU, or PSU aren’t going to get the top transfer talent. We can certainly plug holes with the portal, but if the rest of us start ignoring high school recruiting completely, the ceiling of our programs gets dramatically lowered.
Brian: Focus on recruiting. Like free agency in the other professional sports, the transfer portal is a very effective way to plug holes or fill in gaps, but not a sustainable way to build a team. Particularly a football team. It can, however, every once in awhile lead to a pretty spectacular year-over-year improvement (just ask Mel Tucker or Lincoln Riley).
RockyMtnBlue: For question two, I’m unconvinced you can build a team from the portal. Fill in a gap or two, sure. Maybe add some depth where it’s needed. You still need to recruit.
MaximumSam: I’m a believer in continuity, and having guys in the program for multiple years is the way to go instead of Rent a Helmet. However, does that still apply for a program like Indiana? I’m not sure. They have to upgrade talent in any way they can. There are a lot of ways to be bad.
MNW: Having an actual vision for your offense and defense seems important regardless of whether you’re going to use the transfer portal liberally or not. In the Northwestern case, it’s been a failure to develop a quarterback AND seemingly no idea of what kind of QB you actually want to get in the portal.
WSR: Yes. Your coach should be constantly recruiting, and he should be recruiting HS kids, the transfer portal, and your current roster. It’s a dumb new world with zero laws, and our coaches need to understand that and do everything they can to survive.
Kind of...: Portal is important and can’t be ignored, but HS recruiting needs to stay the main priority. “Culture” still matters, and if you recruit well as the HS level, you have those guys for 4-5 years. Portal should be about adding pieces to an already strong framework. [This message was dictated and approved by Luke Fickell.]
misdreavus79: I mean, didn’t Mel Tucker already put out the POC on this? You can’t live and die by the portal. You gotta have continuity. There’s also the “reasons why they’re entering the portal” part of it. If you’re loading up on guys who couldn’t cut it at their previous spot, well, that might work. If you’re picking off players who did really well and want more competition (G5) or players who did really well and want to cash in on that NIL (LOLPitt), your chances are better.
Either way, you gotta build continuity. That’s why the more successful programs are using the portal to fill gaps.
What did YOU think about this years prospective Indiana defense? Will it be better than it was? Can Tom Allen recapture the magic? Let us know in the comments!