With controversy at quarterback and a bevy of newcomers in the fold, Indiana football is clouded by uncertainty heading into the 2023 season. After a promising 3-0 start to the 2022 campaign, the Hoosiers stumbled and finished just 2-7 in conference play and 4-8 overall.
Ahead of a daunting week one clash against No. 3 Ohio State, the Indiana Daily Student football beat gave their predictions for the 2023 season.
Most valuable player
MATT PRESS: Without a definitive star on either side of the ball, there are a lot of directions I could go here, but I ultimately landed on redshirt senior defensive end Andre Carter. The Western Michigan University transfer was quietly productive for four seasons before breaking out in a major way in 2022. Indiana’s defense was akin to a sieve last season and found great trouble getting to opposing quarterbacks. Carter is a refined pass rusher with inside and outside versatility and boasts a tremendous 6-foot-5-inch, 273-pound frame. Head coach Tom Allen has lauded Carter’s ability all offseason, and if he can replicate his seven-sack, 13.5 tackle-for-loss campaign of 2022, I think Carter has a chance to be the Hoosiers’ most valuable player.
DANIEL FLICK: The last time sophomore running back Jaylin Lucas, an 18-year-old All-American, took live snaps at Memorial Stadium, he turned in the best offensive performance of his decorated freshman campaign, taking nine carries for a career-high 100 yards and a touchdown while tying for the team lead with five receptions against Purdue. Lucas’ value as a return specialist is already known — his two kick return touchdowns led the FBS last season — but he showed down the stretch he’s also capable of being a legitimate game-changer offensively. The 5-foot-9-inch, 170-pound Lucas is already the Hoosiers’ most explosive playmaker, and if he’s able to more consistently impact games on offense, he may just end up being the team’s most valuable player, too.
DALTON JAMES: This one is a no-brainer; I have to go with Jaylin Lucas. With an inexperienced starting quarterback at the helm, whether that be redshirt freshman Brendan Sorsby or fellow redshirt freshman Tayven Jackson, Lucas will be the driving force of the offense. He didn’t see as much action out of the backfield as counterparts Shaun Shivers and Josh Henderson, but Lucas is now set to be relied upon as the starting running back with Shivers now in the Canadian Football League. If the end of last season is any indication, Lucas is poised for a highly productive sophomore campaign.
Breakout player of the year
PRESS: Perhaps an underrated member of Indiana’s revamped receiving core is redshirt freshman Kamryn Perry. Though buried behind a stable of capable veteran wideouts in senior Clemson University transfer E.J. Williams Jr., senior Cam Camper and senior Fordham University transfer DeQuece Carter, Perry offers a unique skillset as a shifty receiver with home run speed. Bearing a similar short and compact frame to that of sophomore running back Jaylin Lucas, Perry possesses some of the same big play ability with the ball in his hands. Though he only made one appearance in 2022, offensive coordinator Walt Bell raved about the former 3-star recruit’s potential during the spring. I think he will be able to receive a solid chunk of snaps out of the slot in the Hoosiers’ rotation and be able to make an impact. Perry is a name Indiana fans should grow accustomed to heading into the season.
FLICK: Indiana’s pass rush wasn’t a strong suit last season, as the Hoosiers tallied just 20 sacks in 2022, which ranked third-to-last in the Big Ten. Their two most productive pass rushers — Lance Bryant and Dasan McCullough — are both gone, with the former graduating and the latter transferring to Oklahoma. As such, there’s a big opportunity ahead for Myles Jackson at the “bull” position, and he has the feeling of a player poised for a breakthrough. Jackson, who transferred from UCLA to Indiana prior to last season, played in all 12 games for the Hoosiers, recording 18 tackles, two tackles for loss and half a sack while creating three takeaways. With more snaps available this season, the Atlanta native has a chance to drastically improve upon those numbers and carry the Hoosiers’ defense along with him.
JAMES: While Matt named a wide receiver in Kamryn Perry as his breakout player of the year, I’m going to go with a different wideout. Entering last season, then-sophomore wide receiver Donaven McCulley was preparing to make his debut as a receiver. McCulley was initially recruited to Indiana as a standout four-star quarterback out of Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis and saw action in seven games during his freshman season in 2021. Prior to last season, it was announced that he would change positions to become a wide receiver. In 2022, McCulley tallied just 16 receptions for 169 yards alongside a touchdown that came in a 56-14 blowout loss against Ohio State. Last season was a rather underwhelming one for the 6-foot-5-inch receiver as a position change is a difficult undertaking, but McCulley has grown in his confidence over the offseason and has become a playmaker according to head coach Tom Allen. Not only will he make more of an impact this season, but he’s a player to keep an eye on as one that is poised for a breakout junior season.
Newcomer of the year
PRESS: Andre Carter probably makes the most sense here, but in the spirit of switching things up I’ll go with junior cornerback Jamier Johnson. Johnson was a highly touted recruit in the class of 2021, and he spent his last couple of seasons with the University of Texas, albeit playing sparingly throughout. With former Hoosier standouts Tiawan Mullen and Jaylin Williams now in the NFL, Indiana’s secondary is starving for experience and talent. Johnson played limited snaps in the Big 12, but he’s displayed some solid range and has impressive length and size at 6 feet tall and 171 pounds. He’ll likely start week one, potentially opposite redshirt junior Kobee Minor, and he’ll have his work cut out for him against Ohio State’s formidable receiving core. Still, I like Johnson as a consistent and reliable cornerback this season. He’s my newcomer of the year.
FLICK: It’s tempting to go bold and lean the quarterback route with Tayven Jackson, but defensive end Andre Carter arrives in Bloomington fresh off earning second-team All-MAC honors at Western Michigan last season and fills a similarly important area of need. The Hoosiers are hoping to move beyond their aforementioned pass rush difficulties this fall. Carter, who had 13.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks during a breakout redshirt senior season for the Broncos, has a chance to play a big part in doing exactly that. Recently named to the Bednarik Award Watch List given annually to the best player in college football, the 6-foot-5-inch, 273-pound Carter is facing lofty expectations, and his track record of production inspires confidence that he can live up to the hype.
JAMES: While Andre Carter will likely be the newcomer of the year, he has just one season of eligibility remaining, so, I have decided to go with another player who has an opportunity to be a mainstay on the defensive unit in Bloomington. Although he played in just two games during his only season at the University of Oregon in 2022, Anthony Jones is one to watch for Indiana’s defense this season. The redshirt freshman outside linebacker received high praise from special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach Kasey Teegardin since joining the program in the offseason. Teegardin mentioned his physicality along with his “attack mindset” that will allow him to play several defensive positions this season. While he may not have the impact that I foresee Andre Carter having, I think Jones has an opportunity to make an instant impact when he sees the field.
Game to watch
PRESS: Indiana isn’t exactly in the same stratosphere as Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, so this is difficult. I’ll go with the week 7 homecoming game versus Rutgers as it may be one of the only conference games the Hoosiers can come away with this season, although the Scarlet Knights have won the last two contests. By this point in the season, Indiana should still have its sights set on bowl contention, so this game could prove important. Rutgers had a pitiful 2022, finishing dead last in the Big Ten East behind the Hoosiers. For what it’s worth, a showdown of teams like Rutgers and Indiana could be wacky enough to circle on the calendar.
FLICK: Indiana’s first two games come at home against Ohio State and Indiana State, with oddsmakers projecting a blowout loss to the Buckeyes and most expecting a similarly large victory over the Sycamores. In essence, neither game should show where the Hoosiers stand, for better or worse, which creates an intriguing week 3 contest against Louisville inside Lucas Oil Stadium. The Cardinals are coming off an 8-5 season but will be led by a new face on the sideline, with former Purdue coach Jeff Brohm taking over for Scott Satterfield, who left for Cincinnati. Louisville should once again be in the mix for bowl contention, but will Indiana? The Sept. 16 showdown is poised to provide an early indication of just how high the ceiling can be for this year’s Hoosiers.
JAMES: Opening up the season with three home games and a neutral site game against Louisville in Indianapolis, the Hoosiers’ first true road game is set for Sept. 30 against Maryland. When the Terrapins made the trip to Bloomington in 2022, they narrowly escaped with a 38-33 victory over Indiana. Last season’s contest saw Maryland’s then-redshirt junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa leave the game due to injury, but he enters this season healthy and poised for a solid season. While I envision the Hoosiers entering the matchup with a record of 2-2 after a pair of losses against Ohio State and Louisville, the week 5 matchup in College Park, Maryland could be a sign of how successful Indiana may be this season.
PRESS: Indiana’s season will likely be determined by its quarterback and offensive line play — arguably the two biggest question marks on the team. I’m going to say the Hoosiers finish shy of their 2022 win total and go 3-9 overall and 1-8 within the conference. Without Northwestern on the schedule, there’s truthfully not a single Big Ten team I feel Indiana can comfortably beat. Regardless, they should be able to snatch at least one win from foes such as Rutgers or Purdue and maybe a surprise over Illinois or Michigan State. The Hoosiers should handle Indiana State University and the University of Akron in the out-of-conference slate, but I’m not sure they’ll be able to topple the University of Louisville. Indiana faces a tough schedule in 2023, and I believe there are simply too many unknowns at key spots to bill them as a bowl-eligible team.
FLICK: On paper, the Hoosiers have one of the most difficult schedules not only in the Big Ten but across all of college football. As was mentioned already, Indiana State and Akron feel like the only two truly safe bets, but I get the feeling that Indiana finds a way to sneak a few wins here and there and matches last year’s 4-8 record. If the quarterback situation ends up being resolved, there’s a level of untapped potential here, especially with a manageable closing slate that includes road games against Illinois and Purdue and a home game versus Michigan State sandwiched in between. So, is a bowl game entirely out of the cards? Not necessarily — but as things stand, the odds aren’t in the Hoosiers’ favor.
JAMES: With the uncertainty of quarterback position to enter the season, I see Indiana likely finishing with a record of 4-8 overall and 2-7 in the Big Ten. After firing Darren Hiller midway through last season, the Hoosiers enter this season with a new offensive line coach in Bob Bostad. Bostad brings 33 years of coaching experience to Bloomington with his most recent stop being at Wisconsin. At the end of the day, the success of this season’s Hoosiers will be determined by the offensive line play. The unit composed of mostly veteran lineman will be tasked with protecting an inexperienced quarterback behind them, but if the offseason coaching from Bostad and the praise from Tom Allen come to fruition, Indiana could play teams closer than we think.