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Saturday, March 2
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

IU football team introduces offense formations during Wisconsin loss

Running backs Darius Willis and Nick Turner were returning.

Nearly 2,000 yards of receiving production returned as well.

Kevin Wilson, the guru behind the highest-scoring offense in NCAA history, was taking the reins.

Even with a new quarterback, IU’s offense looked to be its strength entering this season, as it had been the previous two years.

However, through seven games this season, IU is averaging 21 points per game. Willis has yet to play due to injury, Turner left the team and no receiver is averaging more than 40.86 yards per game.

Wilson put much of the blame for the offensive letdown on the receiving corps.

“I would have been of the opinion that our receiver crowd and our offensive line, with some seniors, would have been the groups that would have led us,” Wilson said. “Those groups have been the two most inconsistent groups.”

Even with the offensive line starting at least two freshmen for much of the season and weathering injuries to senior tackle Josh Hager and junior center Will Matte, sophomore quarterback Edward Wright-Baker said he is still responsible for making plays.

“I feel comfortable when I go out there every game,” Wright-Baker said. “I have to do everything right. I have to have my footwork right. I have to have my reads right.”

The receiving corps is taking responsibility for the sluggish offense, too, despite the inexperience on the line that might force the quarterback to hurry his throws.

“We’ve just got to be more urgent,” sophomore wide receiver Duwyce Wilson said. “We’ve got to realize the quarterback doesn’t have that much time. We’ve got to run faster. We’ve got to break quicker. We’ve got to make our blocks, and we’ve just got to do our job so everything can click on offense.”

Last Saturday, in IU’s 59-7 loss to Wisconsin, the Hoosiers unveiled several new wrinkles in the offense, trotting out a pair of formations previously unused this season.

One was a Wildcat-type formation featuring sophomore wide receiver Kofi Hughes under center, though he was a quarter back in high school. He rushed seven times for 31 yards but did not attempt a pass.

“Each week we’re going to change our game plan and try to show different looks, just trying to find different ways to get the ball in the hand(s) of some of our best players,” Co-Offensive Coordinator and Wide Receivers Coach Kevin Johns said.

The Wildcat was popularized in recent years by the University of Arkansas and the Miami Dolphins. It utilizes a variation of the single-wing formation of old and typically features the quarterback, or whomever lines up under center, taking a direct snap and immediately running to whichever side of the line is loaded with blockers.

IU also debuted a lesser-used formation known as the Diamond on Saturday. It features three players in the backfield surrounding the quarterback, with two of them typically serving as blockers.

On Saturday, Hughes, senior tight end Max Dedmond and redshirt freshman running back Matt Perez joined Wright-Baker behind the offensive line.

“The more you bring guys into the box, the more defensive guys you bring into the box, as well,” Johns said. “It’s not like they’re still going to stay back. It gives you more guys to protect, but it gives you less guys to get on the routes. There’s some give and take on the formation.

“It was productive Saturday. We’ll see how it develops and where things go as we move forward.”

Even when using the new formations, though, some things do not change, the roles of the offensive line among them.

“I just block the defensive end,” senior tackle Andrew McDonald said. “I don’t think formations really affect me too much. Coach tells me what I need to do. We see what we need from the play and what we need to accomplish.

“With three guys back there, it throws the defense off because they have to adjust to it. Plus, it just adds another thing the defense next week has to prepare for. I feel like we get some help on the edges with pass (protection). All around, it’s just a win-win.”

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