Indiana's struggles on offense could be looked at one of two ways.
On one hand, perhaps IU's offensive line struggled to run the football and was forced to pass more to pick up yardage. After all, the two scrimmage squads at the spring game combined to throw for 356 yards on 77 passes in a sloppy game while combining to rush for 37 yards on 51 carries. Perhaps the juggling along the offensive line was the reason for the offensive brownout.
Or, and this is the option the Hoosier coaching staff is praying is the case, IU's defense has improved dramatically and is in position to become a strength. In reality, it's probably a combination of both.
Head coach Bill Lynch fully admits that he doesn't put a lot of stock in the spring game because he considers it nothing more than a fun outing for the players, a reward for their hard work during spring practice. And to be fair, Indiana's defense showed a lot of promise during practices, with a renewed energy being shown on the defensive side of the ball. There is a lot of hunger along the defense, where a lot of players have been waiting a few years to get onto the field. Throw in the fact the Hoosiers have shifted to playing more 3-4 defensive schemes, and IU has a new look to throw at opponents.
That said, Indiana's offensive line was shaky all spring, and although the coaching staff was conservative when it came to dealing with injuries, there's no question the O-line will be the biggest concern heading into preseason camp in August. The Hoosiers seem to be in good shape at the skill positions and have potential on defense, which puts pressure on new offensive line coach Mo Moriarty to whip his group into shape.
This much is certain. Indiana appears to have better leadership overall this spring, and Lynch is excited about his team's prospects. The Hoosiers feature more depth on both sides of the ball than they have in years, which is a good sign that Lynch has the program headed in the right direction. Whether that plays out remains to be seen, but the pieces are in place from a talent standpoint to give Indiana a bit of a boost in 2010.NOTES, QUOTES
--QB Ben Chappell looked solid all spring, and his accuracy has improved. Chappell's deep-out throws were on the money, and he did a great job of leading his offense. Some around the program consider Chappell a candidate for All-Big Ten honors if he continues to develop, and the fact he hasn't been forced to learn a new system this spring has clearly given him more time to work on his fundamentals.
--The Hoosiers have to replace no fewer than seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, but if the spring is any indication, IU could take a step forward in that area this season. Indiana's defenders showed a marked improvement in speed during the spring, and the Hoosiers' secondary could take a step forward with the move of former wide receiver Matt Ernest to cornerback and the addition of JUCO transfer Lenyatta Kiles to the roster. Ernest and Kiles both had their moments during the spring and show a lot of potential.
WR Tandon Doss -- Doss established himself as the Hoosiers' go-to guy in the passing game last season, but he has focused on polishing his game and managed to add muscle to his frame without sacrificing speed. Doss' routes were more precise in the spring, and he's looking to take a huge step forward in the fall.
DE Kevin Bush -- Bush raised some eyebrows, and not just because of his interesting story. He's a 2005 graduate of Homestead High School who started his college career at Toledo before heading off to the Army. He spent time in Korea and Iraq before enrolling at IU last year, and he sat out the 2009 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bush's leadership stood out during the spring, and his speed as a stand-up defensive end in the Hoosiers' new 3-4 scheme will give Indiana a boost off the edge.
WR Duwyce Wilson -- The Hoosiers are already blessed with a bevy of quality wideouts, but redshirt freshman-to-be Duwyce Wilson is going to provide IU with even more balance. Wilson is big, quick and has great hands, and his ability to burst upfield after making the catch will be a positive for the Hoosiers.
CB Matt Ernest -- Ernest is a converted wide receiver who saw limited time on the field during spring due to an elbow injury suffered as a pitcher for the IU baseball team, but when he was on the field, he showed good instincts in the secondary. Ernest broke hard on passes, and his speed will make him a player to watch in the fall.
RB Antonio Banks -- Banks is a special case in that he graduated from high school in December to enroll at IU, and instead of planning to attend his Senior Prom, he's playing football for IU. Although Darius Willis is clearly the Hoosiers' top running back, Banks wowed observers with his ability to find holes and break tackles. The question, of course, is whether Banks will be redshirted next season, and that decision could come down to how healthy the injury-prone Willis is next fall.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You need to know when you come out of the spring who the guys are that you can really count on once you come back in August. In August, it's not open tryouts. In the spring, in a lot of ways it is. You give a lot of guys a lot of reps and a lot of chances." -- Head coach Bill Lynch on what he hoped to get out of spring practice this season.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: Indiana's 2010 campaign will hinge on two areas—the defense and the offensive line. IU boasts the talent to take some strides on the defensive side of the ball, especially among the front seven. The Hoosiers are replacing a lot of starters on defense, but the replacements are solid and could help Indiana take a step forward. If IU's offensive line comes together quickly and opens holes for the running game, Indiana's offense will be far more dangerous. Indiana's first six games will tell the story of the season. IU faces Towson, Western Kentucky, Akron, Michigan, Ohio State and Arkansas State to open the season, and five of those should be considered winnable games. If the Hoosiers get off to a 5-1 or 4-2 start, they should be in good shape to return to a bowl.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Indiana didn't lose a single key contributor at the skill positions, and the development of QB Ben Chappell will be critical. Chappell was solid last season, but the Hoosiers need him to become a playmaker with his arm next season. WRs Tandon Doss, Damarlo Belcher, Terrance Turner and Duwyce Wilson provide plenty of options in the passing game, and RB Darius Willis is a star in the making, as long as he stays healthy. IU still faces some questions along the offensive line, but there is potential there, as well, in the forms of OG Justin Pagàn and OT James Brewer. The Hoosiers also hope to use their tight ends more next season, and Charles Love III has emerged as a big target in the passing game.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Indiana is replacing a lot of individual talent on defense, but that "D" didn't always play well as a unit, and opponents racked up big play after big play last season. IU faces a lot of question marks, but Indiana is going to turn to more 3-4 schemes on defense to provide different looks in the fall. DTs Larry Black, Jr., Adam Replogle, Mick Mentzer and Nick Sliger all are impressive run stoppers, and Replogle is versatile enough to play defensive end as well. The question comes in the secondary, which is inexperienced but features some speed. LB Tyler Replogle and S Mitchell Evans will be the leaders for the defense and will have to enjoy big years for IU to be successful next year.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Indiana's punting game is in good shape with the talented if still mildly inconsistent Chris Hagerup in the mix, but the same can't be said of the kicking game. Nick Freeland showed promise last season, but he's inconsistent, and redshirt freshman Mitch Ewald has yet to prove himself. In the return game, Tandon Doss showed talent last season, but he may be relieved of his return role in favor of Jerimy Finch, Nick Turner or Dre Muhammed.
--RB Darius Willis sat out the spring game after undergoing ankle surgery April 16. The surgery, which was planned before the spring workouts started, was moved up due to a hip injury suffered by Willis in the team's first scrimmage. With Willis out of action, the coaching staff decided to do the ankle procedure earlier than planned to give Willis the maximum amount of time to recover before August. Willis is expected to be 100 percent by the time summer camp opens.
--LB Tyler Replogle sat out the last week of spring practice after suffering a concussion, and the injury has raised some eyebrows because he has suffered concussions on at least two other occasions. The IU training staff will be monitoring Replogle very closely next fall.
--WRs Damarlo Belcher and Terrance Turner both sat out the spring workouts to nurse injuries, but they both are expected to return at 100 percent in the fall.
--Jack Denton, an early enrollee who graduated from high school in December, entered spring practice as a linebacker, but he has been moved to tight end.
--OL Cody Faulkner suffered an ankle injury early in the spring and missed almost all the workouts. Although he is expected to recover in time for fall practice, the missed time won't do any favors for the oft-injured Faulkner.
--CB Lawrence Barnett, who likely will be one of the Hoosiers' starting cornerbacks next season, sat out most of the spring with an elbow injury.
--Through April 17, the Hoosiers have already received seven commitments from the Class of 2011. OL Ralston Evans, OL Kirk Harris, LB Kyle Kennedy, TE Jake Reed, LB Mike Replogle, QB Tre Roberson and LB Zack Shaw have all committed to the Hoosiers.
Previous Report: 04/21/2010