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Team works to overcome 2011 weaknesses in season opener


Junior linebacker Jacarri Alexander in practice. He will be starting in Saturday's opening game. IDS File Photo Buy Photos

Following the team’s worst season since 1984, the Hoosier squad will make its 2012 season debut Saturday night against Indiana State.

IU Coach Kevin Wilson has made it clear this game will not be a “walk in the park.” IU is Indiana State’s lone Football Bowl Subdivison opponent this year.

“I believe they’re going to come in and fight to win the football game, and we better be ready to answer the bell, because this one is not going to be easy,” Wilson said.

“We’ve been talking about that for several weeks.”

The Hoosiers have reason to worry in this game.

In the 2011 season, IU was the third-worst team in the FBS in rushing yards allowed. The Hoosiers allowed an average of 243.7 yards on the ground per game.

Whether IU’s rush defense has improved will be made clear Saturday. Indiana State’s running back, Shakir Bell, was last year’s leading rusher in the Football Championship Subdivision, compiling 1,670 rushing yards in an 11-game span.

A 5-foot-8-inch, 185-pound junior from Indianapolis, Bell is a running back who Co-Defensive Coordinator Doug Mallory described as a “runner with power, but with great vision and patience as well.”

“He’s a very quality back,” Mallory said. “We’re going to have our hands full with him.”

On the other side of the ball, in IU’s last season, the offensive line allowed 31 sacks, the fourth worst record in the Big Ten.

In their first game of the 2012 campaign, the Hoosiers’ offensive line will have their first test against an FCS All-American defensive end.

Senior Ben Obaseki recorded 7.5 sacks last season for the Sycamores and had one game in which he logged 22 tackles, five tackles for loss and three sacks.

“He plays at a high level and is a good football player,” IU Offensive Line Coach Greg Frey said. “All you can ask of a football player in your program is to play at a high level, and he does that.”

With Obaseki’s and Bell’s prowess on the field, Wilson said he knows the Hoosiers will not be able to take Indiana State lightly, especially based on IU’s performance last season.

This is a new team and a new start for the IU football program. Whether the defensive front seven and the offensive line have improved will be made clear.

“They’re going to take away that run and try to get you one-dimensional, get you third and long and tee off on your quarterback,” Wilson said. “They’re impressive. We’re going to play a lot of teams with probably more talent than Indiana State, but there’s a reason why they’re talking about being conference champions.”

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