After a practice last spring, new IU Coach Kevin Wilson was asked why freshman linemen Cody Evers and Ralston Evans were getting time with the first team.
The short version of his answer: “They haven’t been here long enough to learn how to play soft.”
That was our hint. Wilson was going to play for the future, not for right now.
That’s not to say he wanted to throw this season away. He just decided it would be easier to teach younger guys his system rather than veterans who already learned the “soft” ways of IU football.
Though the Hoosiers have one win in eight tries in Wilson’s first season, we are seeing signs the coach’s strategy is working.
On offense, at least. “Working” is probably not the right word to describe the defense, but that’s a topic for another day.
The offensive unit that put up 24 points at Iowa last Saturday is likely to be similar to the one we see in the next few seasons. With the exception of senior lineman Andrew McDonald, the Hoosiers had an awful lot of youth on the field.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet your 2012 Indiana Hoosiers.
Quarterback Tre Roberson — freshman.
Linemen Collin Rahrig, Peyton Eckert and Bernard Taylor — freshmen.
Wide receiver Cody Latimer —freshman.
You get the point.
Many of the other offensive contributors, including running back Stephen Houston, wide receivers Kofi Hughes and Duwyce Wilson and tight end Ted Bolser, are only sophomores.
Even without former IU 2012 commit nner Kiel, this is the offense of the future.
“It’s encouraging because we’re not only playing a lot of young guys, the young guys are making a lot of plays, too,” Co-Offensive Coordinator Rod Smith said. “If those guys keep getting reps, keep going against quality competition and competing and battling like we are, it’s just going to prepare them for what’s ahead.
“The good things are coming. They’re coming.”
This is an exciting point in the season for the Hoosiers because they finally seem to have some offensive continuity. And that all starts with the quarterback.
Unless Roberson gets hurt, I don’t see Ed Wright-Baker or Dusty Kiel getting on the field again this season. Roberson is clearly Wilson’s quarterback going forward.
With that in mind, Roberson will have a chance to grow in the final four games and should feel much more comfortable by the time the season ends.
If and when Roberson starts the first game next season, he might be in better shape than Gunner Kiel would be. He’ll feel comfortable running the offense, and he’ll have a group of young guys around him that he’s played with for an extended period of time.
Roberson looked strong against the Hawkeyes. If he keeps taking steps forward, who knows how good he could be.
“We’re bonding together, man. We’re just trying to make some chemistry,” sophomore receiver Jamonne Chester said. “Earlier in the season we had a lot of different starting quarterbacks. We couldn’t get a lot of chemistry. But now, we’re building on that and everything’s starting to click.”
Chester isn’t surprised so many freshmen have gotten time so quickly. Wilson said the best players will play back in the spring, and he hasn’t backed away from that statement.
“I feel like everybody starts out equal. Whoever wants it more just has to go get it,” Chester said.
In other words: The young guys have outworked the veterans.
Or maybe they just haven’t learned how to play soft yet.
Yep, that’s probably it.
This was a game many circled on the schedule before the season as a Big Ten game IU could win. Given the fact Northwestern has failed to live up to expectations, you’d think this game is even more winnable.
But IU has also disappointed.
I don’t think the IU defense is capable of keeping Dan Persa, Jeremy Ebert and the Wildcats in check. The Hoosiers may score a good number of points, but it’s going to be a disappointing Homecoming for the Hoosiers.
Northwestern 38, IU 24