BLOOMINGTON – With the start of preseason camp Monday, the Indiana Hoosiers unofficially began their 2014 season. With the actual season opener less than four weeks away, here are some major story lines to keep an eye on during camp.
Changes on defense
While the high-powered Hoosiers offense put up an incredible 38.4 points per game in 2013, the defense was historically atrocious. Indiana allowed 560.2 yards per game in Big Ten play, the most in conference history, while giving up an average of 38.8 points per game.
Doug Mallory has been replaced as defensive coordinator, with Brian Knorr taking over. Knorr, who most recently held the same role at Wake Forest, is changing the defense from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 system.
He believes that the versatility of the 3-4 defense can make it harder for opposing offenses to read the coverage.
We can quickly go to a four-man front and we showed that ability in the spring. I think the versatility of that certainly helps us, Knorr said.
To me they’ve shown some proficiency in what we’ve asked them drop (coverage) wise.
You face teams like we will in the first four weeks that are going to spread you from sideline to sideline and it’s good to have edge guys, it’s good to have a 3-4 system where you can drop eight at any time.
Replacing offensive threats a priority
The Hoosiers’ offense last season revolved primarily around the passing game, gaining 306.7 yards per game through the air. However, Cody Latimer and Kofi Hughes were the team’s top two receivers and both have moved on the NFL. Tight ends Ted Bolser and Duwyce Wilson, running back Stephen Houston and quarterback Tre Roberson are also gone, and it won’t be easy to fill their shoes. The six players combined for 203 yards receiving, 98 yards rushing, and 94 yards passing per game in 2013, leaving the door open for other guys to step up.
The loss of Roberson shouldn’t be a huge hit as he split time at quarterback with Nate Sudfeld. Roberson’s decision to transfer allows Sudfeld to take over as the full-time quarterback and become more of a leader.
Seniors Shane Wynn, Isaiah Roundtree and Nick Stoner provide experience at receiver, while many younger players, including sophomore Caleb Cornett and freshmen Dominique Booth, J-Shun Harris, and Simmie Cobbs, will have the opportunity to compete for time on the field.
Just from the summer I’ve seen a lot of guys that are hungry, a lot of guys that our football team is important to them and that they’re willing to work really hard, offensive coordinator Kevin Johns said. From a talent standpoint, I think that will shake itself out on those fields in the next couple weeks, but I think from a mental standpoint these kids are sharp, they’re hungry, they want to win, they want to succeed and they want to play. It’s going to be a fun competition.
Another guy to watch is running back Tevin Coleman, who ran for 958 yards and 12 touchdowns in nine games last season before sitting out the final three games with an injury. Running backs coach Deland McCullough sees Coleman developing into a special player.
He’s got a nice broad picture of (the system), McCullough said. What he’s been working on since is the finer points, the small stuff – his footwork being very consistent, crossing his tracks, having good angles, doing things like that. It’s going to be exciting to see what happens.