Indiana Daily Student

COLUMN: Do Indiana football’s young players have the potential to save the program?

<p>Freshman offensive line blocker Dasan McCullough celebrates after a call was ruled in Indiana&#x27;s favor against Penn State University Nov. 5, 2022, at Memorial Stadium. Indiana lost to Ohio State on Nov. 12 in Columbus, Ohio.</p>

Freshman offensive line blocker Dasan McCullough celebrates after a call was ruled in Indiana's favor against Penn State University Nov. 5, 2022, at Memorial Stadium. Indiana lost to Ohio State on Nov. 12 in Columbus, Ohio.

Indiana football got crushed by Ohio State, to nobody's surprise. While it’s easy to focus on the things that went wrong ‚ which is a lot — there has to be some sort of hope to come out of this game. 

Indiana head coach Tom Allen handed the keys to sophomore quarterback Dexter Williams II after starting quarterback junior Connor Bazelak failed to move the ball. Williams’ stats weren’t eye-popping, but he showed a glimpse of how dangerous he can be for opponents. 

Taking this into mind, and considering the already established freshman linebacker Dasan McCullough, one has to at least ask the following. Can this young core be the group to finally bring Indiana football relevance? 

Allen’s 2019 and 2020 teams had successful seasons, but at this point it doesn’t seem to matter. Indiana’s fall from grace has become a nosedive, and the future doesn’t seem all that promising. 

But all it takes is putting together a few pieces and the right coaching, as the 2020 team proved. With Williams, McCullough and other talents such as freshman running back Jaylin Lucas, Indiana might be able to build around these players if their full potential can be utilized. 

[Related: COLUMN: Ranking Indiana football’s six losses from most to least entertaining]

However, the players are only half of the story. Effective coordinators play a huge role in a team’s success — again, see 2020 Indiana and it feels like the coaching staff is losing favor on a weekly basis.  

With big contractual obligations, a fire sale of the coaches doesn’t seem realistic. If that’s the case, then it’s up to the players to push this program in the right direction, but are they capable of doing so? 

To ask so much of 18-to 22-year-olds seems unfair, and it is. But earning more than one conference win seems doable in the near future. 

Williams showed off his arm and mobility against the Buckeyes — one of the nation’s best defenses. Having been sacked four times and playing in poor conditions, Williams wasn’t exactly getting help elsewhere. 

McCullough has been one of the best defensive freshman in the country this season and put up another solid game with four tackles including one for a loss. Lucas only got seven touches but was able to break off a 10-yard run. 

Indiana’s 2023 recruiting class isn’t quite as strong as its 2022 class, so the Hoosiers may have to rely on who they have now. Should fans prepare themselves for the worst, or will things start to turn around? 

Only time will tell, but I liked what I saw from the young core. Additionally, I like the decision to let Williams show what he can do, because it’s clear Bazelak and the previous offensive system wasn’t panning out as intended.  

Before Indiana can even test this with its play on the field in coming years, it first must ensure all key components return to the roster. In an era where the transfer portal can snatch anyone at any time, Allen has to get this team to buy into his program. 

No one really knows what the future holds for Indiana. Not all hope is lost, but it’s still hanging on by a thread.

Follow reporters Garrett Newman (@GarrettNewman20) and Jacob Spudich (@spudichjacob) and columnist Will Foley (@foles24) for updates throughout the Indiana football season. 

Support the Indiana Daily Student to beat Purdue's student newspaper, the Exponent, through making a donation to the IDS Legacy Fund! Whichever publication raises more money before the Purdue v. IU football game Nov. 26 "wins" the challenge, but all donations go to support student journalism at the respective publications. To help IU beat Purdue and support the IDS, follow this link to donate. 

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