2011 Indiana Preview – Offense
Indiana WR Damarlo Belcher
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Indiana Hoosier Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Last year the plan was to do more power running and rely less on the passing, and it didn’t happen. Now, the strength of offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s attack will be a tremendous group of receivers that could be the best in the Big Ten, and a veteran passer in QB Ben Chappell who knows how to spread the ball around and knows how to spot the mismatches. The O line that was among the best in the league in pass protection will be fine even with a few key replacements, but there needs to be more of a push, and more of a commitment, to the ground game. Darius Willis is a big-time talent in the backfield, but he has to prove he can be a workhorse and he has to be consistent after a good, but not great year.
Star of the offense: Senior WR Damarlo Belcher
Passing: Edward Wright-Baker
5-12, 80 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Darius Willis
64 carries, 278 yards, 4 TD
Receiving: Damarlo Belcher
78 receptions, 832 yards, 4 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star:
Sophomore QB Dusty Kiel
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Kofi Hughes
Best pro prospect: Belcher
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Belcher, 2) Kiel, 3) Hughes
Strength of the offense: Receivers, Coaching Staff
Weakness of the offense: Offensive Line, Running Back Health
State of the Unit: The passing game was impressive at
times last year finishing 14th in the nation and
leading the Big Ten averaging 287 yards per game,
but that’s because the offense had to keep bombing
away to try to make up for the problems with the
mediocre defense. Ben Chappell was a warrior, but
he’s gone after throwing for 3,295 yards and 24
scores with just nine picks.
The battle for the starting job is still on between
sophomores Edward Wright-Baker
and Dusty Kiel, with
neither one taking the position by the horns this
offseason. The 6-2, 216-pound Kiel has the slight
edge, but there’s no job security whatsoever. He
didn’t look promising in his few opportunities last
season, completing only 4-of-17 passes for 71 yards
and two interceptions, but he has the arm and the
ability to lead Wilson’s offense. Son of former
Notre Dame star, Blair Kiel, he’s very smart, very
accurate, and he has the potential and skills to
grow into the job.
Wright-Baker, a 6-1, 217-pound dual-threat
playmaker, has the athleticism and the smarts, but
he has yet to show much this offseason. The
Jeffersonville, Ind. native was impressive at times
in 2010, but his style doesn’t seem to fit Wilson’s
system. Not just a runner, he was one of the better
dual-threat quarterback prospects coming into the
Big Ten a few years ago. He has a good arm and can
push the ball down the field, and while he’s not
tremendously accurate, he’s good enough considering
his quickness and rushing skills. Thrown into the
fire, he saw a little time completing 5-of-12 passes
for 80 yards with a touchdown and a pick.
Junior Adam Follett had a solid
spring and should be a good third option. The 6-5,
226-pound Michigan native threw a game-winning
touchdown pass in Indiana’s spring game last month,
and he’s the type of big bomber who can step in and
push the ball down the field like Wilson likes.
Watch Out For … Kiel to grow into the job. Nobody
expects him to put up Ben Chappell-like numbers
right away, but Kiel is the type of player that
should become more and more consistent as the season
goes along. He’s a smart quarterback who wants to
desperately succeed, and he’ll do the work needed.
Strength: Arms. Wright-Baker, Kiel and Follett all
have strong arms, but all three struggle with
accuracy at times. Kiel threw two interceptions in
the spring game, but he missed his target by a small
margin. The other prospects are a bit wild, but they
can wing it.
Weakness: A proven starter. Since Chappell took the
majority of the snaps over the last two seasons,
Wright-Baker and Kiel have seen little playing time.
They’re not exactly starting from scratch, but
they’re not going to be seasoned going into the
opener and they’re going to make plenty of mistakes.
Outlook: A great wide-receiving corps should help
the new starter develop quickly in the offense, but
there will also be major growing pains along the
way. The loser of the starting quarterback battle
could potentially see time if and when the starter
struggles, and the starter will struggle. There
might end up being a two-man system somewhat like
what Michigan had with Tate Forcier and Denard
Robinson, but the coaching staff wants one guy, and
it’ll probably be Kiel, to be the main man from the
Unit Rating: 6
State of the Unit: It all depends on health. It didn’t just seem like all the IU running backs had knee injuries; all the IU running backs really did have knee injuries, at least the good backs. The ground game was the worst in the Big Ten averaging just 100 yards per game and finishing with 13 scores, but there’s talent returning. That talent, though, has to stay healthy.
Junior Darius Willis is healthy again, but for how long? He missed the majority of games in his first two seasons at Indiana due to a variety of injuries, including a knee injury last season after running for 278 yards and four scores, and now he’s overdue to start producing. While he’s suspended for the season opener against Ball State for conduct detrimental to the team, but still figures to be Wilson’s starter when he returns he’s the team’s best rushing weapon by far. The 6-0, 220-pounder has an excellent combination of speed, power, and home-run hitting ability with three big games (152 yards against Michigan, 103 against Northwestern, and 142 against Purdue) two years ago. However, that’s been about it for the superstar recruit. Health will always be a problem, and he hasn’t gotten enough of the workload, but now he has to live up to his potential.
Sophomores Nick Turner and Antonio Banks will be a big part of the mix whether or not Willis is 100%. Turner was one of Indiana’s only healthy backs in the spring and he proved he can be an every-down back and not just a home-run hitter. The 6-0, 187-pounder ran for 157 yards on 28 carries last season, and if nothing else, he’ll be used as a possible gamebreaker to get his speed into the open field. Banks ran for just 90 yards and a score in his limited time before suffering a knee injury of his own. The 5-10, 207-pound speed back is slippery with good cut-back skills.
5-11, 228-pound redshirt freshman Matt Perez, who tore his ACL in practice last season, looked strong in the spring game and could earn some touches in 2011. The former Parade All-American ran for 3,393 yards and 56 touchdowns in two years as the starter at Maine South in Chicago. A tough player who could also move to linebacker, there will be a spot for him somewhere with sprinter’s speed, good power, and phenomenal high school production.
Watch Out For … The emergence of Turner. There’s no reason to believe Willis will be able to play the entire season with his injury history, and Turner should get a valuable opportunities to show his value. The Indianapolis native was used primarily as a speed back last year, but has gotten bigger and is more prepared to take hits. He’s a great fit for the new offense.
Strength: Depth. There might not be a great player in this group – unless Willis stays healthy – but there also isn’t a weak one in the bunch. Wilson could feel comfortable giving Willis, Turner, Banks or Perez 10-to-15 carries a game.
Weakness: Health. Willis missed most of last season, Banks and Perez barely played, and even Turner battled with small injuries. With Wilson’s new training programs, the backs should be more prepared to stay healthy, but the history doesn’t look promising. There’s a big prove-it factor with this bunch.
Outlook: Indiana desperately needs some sort of running game to bail out a young quarterback, and Willis will be it if he can stay on the field. The Hoosiers relied on Ben Chappell’s arm far too much last season because they simply couldn’t run the ball, but that’s about to change. Even if they have to use a running back by committee approach, the coaches want a more balanced attack in 2011. A lot of that will be dictated by the score and the defense, but the idea will be to mix it up.
Unit Rating: 6.5
State of the Unit: The passing game was stellar at times last season, but two of the key parts are gone. Terrance turner finished second on the team with 67 catches for 681 yards and three scores, while Tandon Doss was terrific catching 63 balls for 706 yards with a team-leading seven touchdowns. On the plus side, six of the top eight receivers are back and some new stars are quickly emerging.
The Hoosier receiving corps caught a big break when senior Damarlo Belcher chose to return for a final year. The 6-5, 214-pound veteran led the Big Ten with 78 catches for 832 yards and four touchdowns, and now he’ll be the No. 1 target the entire offense works around. Others will be in the mix, and the passing game will be spread around, but he’s going to be the go-to guy. At his size, he’s a tough matchup for smaller defensive backs and he has just enough speed to get deep from time to time. Even though he has terrific hands, he’s known mostly for the play he didn’t make. He dropped a potential game-winning touchdown pass against Iowa last season, and now he seems motivated to make up for it. He has started eating better – he cut out fast food – and he’s working out harder now than he did in his first three off-seasons.
Sophomore Kofi Hughes had a great offseason and was one of the stars of spring ball. While Belcher is the main man, Hughes showed he’s ready to be a strong second option. Over the wrist injury that bothered him last year, and well past the transition from a high school quarterback to a college wide receiver, he has 6-2, 204-pound size and terrific athleticism with great speed.
Sophomore Duwyce Wilson is a perfect complement to Hughes and Belcher. While Hughes likes to go over the middle and work the sidelines, Wilson is a deep threat with the athleticism to go up and get the ball in traffic. A thin 6-3 and 197 pounds, he’s not all that physical, but he makes himself bigger with his leaping ability. The 2008 Indiana Mr. Football in caught 49 passes for 1,258 yards and 14 touchdowns in his senior season, and after a tremendous offseason he appears ready to be a good third receiver.
The tight ends played a huge role in the offense last year, and two good ones are back to become a big part of the new attack. 6-6, 240-pound sophomore
Ted Bolser emerged as a key target, earning the nickname “Touchdown Ted” after hauling in five touchdown passes on his 27 grabs. A good field stretcher, he averaged 15.1 yards per catch. He’ll work in a rotation with 6-5, 242-pound senior
Max Dedmond, who came up with five catches for 37 yards and two short scores. He has the size to be a decent blocker, but he’s more of a short-range receiver. He fights well for the ball and outmuscles his way for catches, but he’s not going to get down the field.
6-1, 206-pound sophomore Jamonne Chester was used sparingly during his freshman season, but he will be expected to do a lot more for with his decent size and great potential. A fantastic athlete who spent time as a quarterback in high school, he’s a tough, quick player who should be the type of player who takes short passes a long way. Now he needs work in the rotation as the main backup behind Belcher.
Junior Connor Creevey is a 6-2, 204-pound former quarterback who moved over to receiver last year, but he didn’t catch any passes. Now he’ll be one of the main backups working behind Wilson, while 5-10, 182-pound senior
Dre Muhammad saw a little time, but he’s mostly been a special teamer so far. He’s the cousin of former Hoosier receiver star James Hardy.
Watch Out For … Hughes. His potential is limitless and he could emerge as more than just a No. 2 receiver. He’s still young, but he successfully made the position change from quarterback to receiver and had as good a spring as any Hoosier.
Strength: The new offense. With Belcher returning, the receiving corps – and the entire offense – has a guy to look to for guidance if and when things go awry. Wilson’s attack will spread the ball around and get all the targets involved, and offensive coordinators Kevin Johns and Rod Smith will put the ball in places where the receivers can do something with it.
Weakness: Depth. The top three are strong, but there isn’t a lot to count on after them. No one after Belcher, Hughes and Wilson has proven they can put up numbers, and if Wilson wants to use a four and five-wide look, he’ll have to find a couple more reliable players.
Outlook: The potential is there for this to be the strength of the team if the starters shine as expected and if the backups can step up and produce. Belcher is Indiana’s best player, and Hughes may be one of its most talented. The receivers may not put up numbers as big as last year, but that will have more to do with the quarterback play.
Unit Rating: 7
State of the Unit: The new coaching staff got on the line right away. After one spring practice, Kevin Wilson called out two of his offensive linemen for being “slow and lazy,” and said all of the starting spots are open even though three decent starters are back. The IU line didn’t do anything for the running game, but it was decent, at least statistically, for the passing game allowing just 12 sacks on the year. Part of the reason was because QB Ben Chappell hung in the pocket until the last possible second and took a beating rather than eat the ball. Now the protection has to be better and more consistent.
Center Will Matte has been the Hoosiers most durable lineman for the last couple years, starting all 12 games in the middle last season and allowing three sacks. He has twice been voted captain, emerging as a leader up front, and now the 6-2, 283-pound junior has to provide a constant for an offense going through such a massive change. While he’s not a devastating run blocker, he has decent strength and does a good job in pass protection and in line calls. He’ll be an all-star before his career is done either at center or guard.
Senior Justin Pagan has become a media favorite off the field for his humor in interviews and press conferences, and he has turned into a strong player on it. The 6-5, 312-pound veteran started ten games last season and played in all 12, seeing time at left tackle, left guard, right guard and right tackle due to injuries. For his size, he’s just good enough an athlete to be useful on the move, not allowing a sack last year, and he has just enough experience to help pick up the slack in several spots. He’ll likely start out at right tackle.
6-6, 295-pound Andrew McDonald started 11 games at left tackle and allowed just a half-sack in his first season as a starter. While he showed promise last year, he was one of the linemen Wilson called out this offseason, and while he’s the starter at left tackle, he still has to produce. He has the size and he should know what he’s doing, but now he has to live up to his prep hype and become the steady all-around blocker the new coaching staff thinks he can be.
The big question for Indiana is how to replace James Brewer, who graduated and is off to the NFL. Freshmen
Cody Evers and Ralston Evans both saw considerable time in the spring game and will get every shot for starting jobs. When asked about Evers and Evans, Wilson said: “They haven’t been here long enough to learn how to play soft. They’re playing hard. We are rewarding them for working hard.” The 6-4, 317-pound Evers, a redshirt freshman, will get the first look at right guard, while the 6-4, 280-pound Evans, a true freshman, will push hard for the left guard job.
6-7, 307-pound junior Marc Damisch isn’t giving away the left guard quite yet. He started six times last year working both at right tackle and both guard spots, but he’s at his best on the inside. He has excellent size and is versatile enough to continue to play either guard spot, but he’ll spend this year as an understudy. The potential is there to grow into one of the team’s better run blockers.
Watch Out For … The freshmen. Will Wilson play Evans and Evers right away on the inside? If he does, it’s not necessarily because they’re tremendous, it’s because there aren’t other options. Wilson might feel more comfortable molding kids from the start rather than trying to change veteran players.
Strength: Experience on the outside and center. McDonald and Pagan should be ready to show what they can do with the jobs all to themselves. Matte is a good leader in the middle and he should be a strong quarterback for two more years.
Weakness: Run blocking. There hasn’t been any for years. Can the new coaching staff help change that? Probably not right away, but it speaks volumes that the coaching staff is screaming and yelling to get the front five to be more physical. If the Hoosiers can’t run the ball, the new quarterback will have all of the pressure placed on his shoulders.
Outlook: Gone is Brewer, who grew into a good NFL-caliber blocker, and also gone is Aaron Price, who left the team after starting most of last season at guard, and now the line has to rely on a slew of extremely young players to fill in the gaps. The veteran tackles have to be strong from the start, and Matte is a good center to work around, but the season will depend on how Evans and Evers progress on the inside.
Unit Rating: 6
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2011 Indiana Defense |
Indiana Depth Chart