2011 Indiana Preview
Indiana LB Jeff Thomas
Indiana LB Jeff Thomas
Posted Jul 25, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Indiana Hoosiers

Indiana Hoosiers

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Kevin Wilson
1st Year
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 23, Def. 21, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 23
Ten Best Indiana Players
1. WR Demarlo Belcher, Sr.
2. DT Adam Replogle, Jr.
3. DE Darius Johnson, Sr.
4. RB Darius Willis, Jr.
5. WR Kofi Hughes, Soph.
6. LB Jeff Thomas, Sr.
7. LB Leon Beckum, Sr.
8. C Will Matte, Jr.
9. DT Larry Black, Jr.
10. QB Dusty Kel, Soph.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 3 at Ball State
Sep. 10 Virginia
Sep. 17 South Carolina State
Sep. 24 North Texas
Oct. 1 Penn State
Oct. 8 Illinois
Oct. 15 at Wisconsin
Oct. 22 at Iowa
Oct. 29 Northwestern
Nov. 5 at Ohio State
Nov. 19 at Michigan State
Nov. 26 Purdue

To turn around a woeful program, a new head coach has to be both a true believer and a big-time butt-kicker. He has to be crazy enough to think that he can be the one who'll succeed when everyone else failed, and he also has to be harsh enough and honest enough to know what he needs to get the job done.

Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald eats, drinks, and sleeps purple and white. He's not joking; he honestly thinks the Wildcats should contend for the Rose Bowl each and every year. The same goes for Art Briles at Baylor, who never flinches in his unwavering belief that the program that until last year didn't get to a bowl game since joining the Big 12, could become a major player.

Barry Alvarez showed up at Wisconsin in 1989 and turned around one of the nation's worst football programs by bullying the team into a powerhouse. Jim Harbaugh had both the zealot belief and the jerkweed streak to make Stanford worth of a BCS game.

And now Kevin Wilson has to have the right mix to turn Indiana into something more than a punching bag.

Terry Hoeppner was just crazy enough to think it could happen, and his non-stop motor and tremendous energy almost pulled it off. Before his tragic death, he had IU on the right track to becoming just good enough to be a regular on the bowl scene, and Bill Lynch almost kept it going. He got the inspired Hoosiers to the Insight Bowl in 2007, and he would've taken the to a bowl game last year had Damarlo Belcher been able to hang on to a late touchdown pass against Iowa. Wilson has to be the missing piece to take the program one step further.

The former Oklahoma offensive coordinator knows a bit about what it's like to work with coaches who know how to succeed in impossible situations. Not only did he work at Northwestern as the offensive coordinator under Randy Walker, but he also worked with Hoeppner at Miami University. He knows how to get an offense going, he knows what it takes to get a program working, and he knows that the 2011 Indiana Hoosiers aren't where they need to be.

He hasn't pulled any punches in his brutally honest assessment of the talent level, the lack of success, and the need to do far, far more to become a power in the new Big Ten Leaders division. However, he's putting the pieces in place the way he wants them, and while this year might not always be pretty, or consistent, it'll be part of a bigger, loftier goal.

The offensive line has a few decent upperclassmen to work around, but Wilson, who handled the offensive line for the Sooners for four seasons, knows he needs some young players to become factors right away so they can take their lumps. He won't be afraid to stick in freshmen in key spots, and that goes for everywhere else, too. Wilson has good receivers in place to work with, led by Belcher and rising star Kofi Hughes, and he has a strong back in Darius Willis and a speed back in Nick Turner to hand the ball to, if they can stay healthy. But the key will be the quarterback situation with Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker needing to each show that they can grow in the offense over the next three seasons.

The defense that has been so awful over the last bazillion seasons isn't going to be night-and-day better, the athleticism and skill just isn't there, but there are some nice pluggers in tackle Adam Replogle and linebackers Jeff Thomas and Leon Beckum to work around. The secondary might have been lousy last year, and it's hardly going to be special this season, but there's decent-looking depth and good potential if the line helps with the pass rush.

Wilson is a great head coaching prospect and he seems to have the right attitude and temperament needed for a job like this. He'll also need a little patience, at least this season.

What to watch for on offense: A more effective passing game … in time. Wilson was at the helm of some of the greatest attacks in recent college football history, most notably the Oklahoma offense of 2008, and while he doesn't have a Sam Bradford as the triggerman, he has two decent sophomores to work with in Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker. The two bring something different to the table, with Kiel the passer who'll eventually be the full-time guy to wig the ball all over the yard, and Wright-Baker the dual-threat option who could throw a wrench into opposing defenses. The attack will be faster, and the tempo will be upped, but the passing attack that was good at coming up with bulk yards last year will eventually be more efficient and far steadier.

What to watch for on defense: The defensive line. Jeff Thomas and Leon Beckum will make a ton of tackles, but the veteran linebackers need a clean path in front of them. The line has the potential to be the team's biggest strength, and Wilson and defensive coordinators Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler are hoping to generate a steady pass rush from the outside while needing the rotation on the inside to be strong. There weren't enough plays in the backfield last season, but that should change early on, while tackles Adam Replogle, Larry Black, and Mick Mentzer need to gum things up against the run.

The team will be far better if … it scores more points than it gives up. Yeah, of course; that's the whole idea to outscore the opponent, but Indiana has given up more points than it scored in eight of the last nine seasons and 14 of the last 16 seasons. The last time it happened was 2007, and that just so happened to be the team's only bowl year since 1993. The defense can't keep giving up points in chunks, and while the 83 against Wisconsin was brutally ugly, the 34 given up to Arkansas State and the 41 allowed to a mediocre Penn State attack were indicative of the problems. The offense has to be more explosive and the D can't be such a pushover. Again, it all sounds obvious, but it's a must.

The schedule: Wilson's first season should start out well with Ball State in the opener, and South Carolina State and North Texas should help the record, but the second game of the year against Virginia should be a good indicator to see exactly where the program is at. Two home games against Penn State and Illinois to start out the Big Ten season is offset by a brutal, BRUTAL run of three road games in four weeks going to Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio State. Making things worse, after an off-week the Hoosiers go to Michigan State making it four road games in five before closing out against Purdue. IU gets an awful schedule break facing Iowa and Michigan State on the road from the Legends. Northwestern is the other game against the other division.

Best offensive player: Senior WR Damarlo Belcher. It's not fair that his great 2010 season will mostly be remembered for The Drop against Iowa, but that might have been a blessing in disguise. Fueled by the error, the team's leading receiver appears to be more determined, more focused, and more ready to become the team's star to work the passing game around. He caught 78 passes last year, and now he should be more of a big-play threat after scoring just four times.

Best defensive player: Junior DT Adam Replogle. His brother, Tyler, led the team in tackles last season and was the team's leader. Now it'll be up to Adam to hold down the fort for the defensive front seven – occasionally six – and he has to be the anchor. A strong, hard-working 6-3 and 292 pounds, he has good size and the type of motor to get into the backfield once in a while, but more than anything else, he needs to be the focal point who takes on the brunt of the attention for the decent line.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Dusty Kiel. Wright-Baker will have a shot at playing time and he'll get every chance to take the starting job, but Kiel is the better fit for the offense. The receiving corps is good enough to win with, the running backs should be good if they can stay healthy, and the line isn't going to be totally miserable. None of it will matter if Kiel isn't strong, and while no one is expecting him to put up the numbers that Ben Chappell did last season, he needs to make the offense go.

The season will be a success if … the Hoosiers get to a bowl game. Considering there's been one bowl appearance in the last 17 years, getting to six wins and getting a 13th game would be a remarkable accomplishment for a team with so many problems and holes. Starting out 4-0 against Ball State, Virginia, South Carolina State, and at North Texas is a must, and then it'll take just two more wins to get the job done. Illinois at home? Northwestern at home? Purdue at home? Win at least two of those three games and the bowl bid should come.

Key game: Oct. 1 vs. Penn State. 0-14. That's Indiana's record against Penn State with all the losses coming since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten. There have been some close calls, but more often than not the series has been one-sided, including last year's 41-24 cash-grab game with IU moving the game to Landover, MD. It's impossible to overstate just how huge a win would be for Wilson and the new era of Hoosier football, and with a home game against Illinois coming up the week after the Big Ten opener, an upset of JoePa's squad could mean a hot start to the Big Ten season.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Penalties: Opponents 82 for 785 yards – Indiana 52 for 476 yards
- Fourth Quarter Scoring: Opponents 114 – Indiana 65
- Average Yards Per Carry: Opponents 5.1 – Indiana 3.5

- 2011 Indiana Preview | 2011 Indiana Offense
- 2011 Indiana Defense | 2011 Indiana Depth Chart