Column: IU football future shines bright
The IU football team recently released five new helmets, catapulting the team into the news cycle.
While some will scoff at the notion that IU football should be taken seriously, the program, led by third-year head coach Kevin Wilson, has seen rapid improvement during his first two seasons.
Some may say this point is moot by referencing Wilson’s record at IU, which currently stands at 5-19.
It’s understandable why you would step away from the discussion at that point, but you’re doing yourself a disservice by not delving deeper into the facts.
Wilson inherited a Hoosier program that was in a state of utter disarray.
What was Wilson’s solution to the problem?
He cleaned house.
Any individual associated with IU football who had a personal agenda was sent away, most notably former receiver Damarlo Belcher, who was dismissed from the program late in the 2011 season after a drug-related charge.
Yet Wilson’s decision to start from scratch has paid dividends.
Entering the 2013 season, the Hoosiers feature 19 returning starters, largely due to Wilson’s choice in 2011 to start a slew of freshmen he had recruited. These were his players, rather than holdovers from the Bill Lynch era.
Because of Wilson’s “win today” attitude, he began his tenure at IU by constructing the type of spread offense he ran at Oklahoma, and one that gained him enormous respect as one of the most brilliant offensive minds in college football.
Most importantly, the 2013 edition of Wilson’s offense will be anchored by a veteran offensive line that includes four returning starters: sophomore tackle Jason Spriggs and junior tackle Peyton Eckert, as well as junior guard Bernard Taylor and sophomore guard Dan Feeney.
As is typical in a no-huddle spread offense, this group is tasked not only with providing consistent pass protection, but also with winning the battle at the line of scrimmage to spur the zone read rushing attack.
And despite Wilson’s desire to throw the football, his offense must improve its running game, as the Hoosiers finished 96th nationally in rushing yards per game last season.
The experienced offensive line and redshirt senior running back Stephen Houston, along with sophomore quarterback Tre Roberson, should bring about a marked improvement in that facet of the game.
And while putting points on the board is a necessity in itself, the Hoosiers require even more work defensively.
The porous defenses IU has produced on an annual basis have been the sole reason why the Hoosiers have failed to truly compete in the Big Ten Conference for the better part of the past decade.
The cornerstone of any successful defense is stopping the run.
Yet the Hoosiers allowed a woeful 231.33 rushing yards per game last season, finishing in the basement of the Football Bowl Subdivision at 116th. For IU to become a legitimate competitor within its own conference, vast defensive improvement is paramount.
The key aspect of that effort will be the implementation of Ralphael Green and Alex Todd as starters at defensive tackle in the Hoosiers’ 4-3 alignment. If they get bullied by opposing offensive lines, IU’s defense will have a very long season ahead of it.
Yet the outlook for the Hoosier team in 2013 is bright, especially considering the schedule layout; the Hoosiers’ first five games of the season are in Bloomington, four of which are winnable games: Indiana State, Navy, Bowling Green and Penn State. The other is against SEC foe Missouri.
Should the Hoosiers win each of those four contests, they would only require two more victories the remainder of the season to become bowl eligible.
Now that’s winning today.