No IU running back has scored a rushing touchdown this season.
Two games into the season, the zero in the touchdown category isn’t an alarming statistic, but it is causing some concern among fans as former Hoosier running backs Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard had five and three touchdowns, respectively, at this point in 2014 and 2015.
Junior running back Devine Redding is the feature back this season, but IU offensive coordinator Kevin Johns said he doesn’t see the zero as an issue in regard to Redding’s performance.
He’s still run for 135 and 110 yards against Florida International and Ball State.
Johns said a lot of the problem is the offense stalls or commits penalties in the red zone that reduce Redding’s opportunities to cross the goal line.
With a tough Wake Forest rush defense coming to Bloomington, Redding will be facing the toughest opposition he’s seen this season.
“They make it very hard,” Johns said about Wake Forest. “They’re going to load the box and make it tough to run. They’ve always hung their hat on that, so it’ll be a great challenge for our linemen, our backs and our tight ends and receivers to find a way to run the ball.”
The Hoosiers are averaging 216.5 rushing yards per game, and the Demon Deacons have allowed a total of 239 rushing yards in three games.
Last season, while still allowing IU to run for 211 yards, Wake Forest only gave up one rushing touchdown to Howard.
Johns said no matter what season the Hoosiers play the Demon Deacons, they know they will face a stout defense — a defense he and IU running backs coach Deland McCullough described as sound and well-coached.
The Hoosiers went into last season’s matchup with the Demon Deacons with a simple strategy and handed the ball to Howard 33 times. Without that NFL-caliber running back in the backfield and the possibility of All-American senior offensive guard Dan Feeney missing the game with a concussion, Johns and the offense face a different obstacle.
To counter a defense that only allows 79.6 rushing yards per game, Johns said the offense needs to get creative in how it distributes the ball to the running backs. Handing the ball up the middle won’t maximize the yards gained from the backfield.
Running backs like sophomore Mike Majette and freshman Devonte Williams, who have two catches and one catch, respectively, may see more opportunities on screens and dump-off passes so the Hoosiers can take advantage of their speed in the open field.
“We have seven or eight guys in the backfield that we think can all play and that were all different athletes in high school,” Johns said. “We’re just trying to figure out how to best get the ball in their hands and in what types of situations.”
Redding said he wants to face a defense like Wake Forest’s because a successful game against a tough opponent could give the offense the confidence it needs to face teams like Michigan State, which awaits IU the following week.
McCullough said he knows his running backs are going into the game with a physical mentality and that ball security — something Wilson said was becoming an issue for Redding — is cleaned up and a non-issue.
“Last week we barely had a good day against Ball State,” McCullough said. “There were opportunities where we could have had a great day, but we just didn’t attack them. That’s what we’re working on — being ready for those and being ready to exploit those opportunities when we get them.”
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