2014 CFN Preview - Indiana Hoosiers
Indiana RB Tevin Coleman
Indiana RB Tevin Coleman
Posted Jun 28, 2014

CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2014 - IU has an offense, can the defense do enough to help the cause? (Getty Images)

Indiana Hoosiers

Preview 2014

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By Pete Fiutak 

- 2014 Indiana Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players
- VOD: College football breakdowns on Campus Insiders

Head coach: Kevin Wilson
4th year: 10-26
16th year overall: 87-94
Returning Lettermen
Off. 27, Def. 22. ST 4
Letterment Lost: 9
Ten Best IU Players
1. RB Tevin Coleman, Jr
2. CB Tim Bennett, Sr.
3. QB Nate Sudfeld, Jr.
4. OT Jason Spriggs, Jr.
4. WR Shane Wynn, Sr.
6. S Antonio Allen, Soph.
7. LB David Cooper, Sr.
8. S Mark Murphy, Sr.
9. C Collin Rahrig, Sr.
10. DE Nick Mangieri, Jr.
2014 Schedule

Aug. 30 Indiana State
Sep. 13 at Bowling Green
Sep. 20at Missouri
Sep. 27 Maryland
Oct. 4 North Texas
Oct. 11 at Iowa
Oct. 18 Michigan State
Nov. 1 at Michigan
Nov. 8 Penn State
Nov. 15 at Rutgers
Nov. 22 at Ohio State
Nov. 29 Purdue

It seems like the Kevin Wilson plan is just this close to starting to really work, and now Indiana is positioning itself in a fun spot.

Welcome to Indiana – the team no one really wants to face.

There are two ways to look at the Hoosiers and what they do. On the one side, if you can figure out how to get the IU offense off the field right away – like Wisconsin did in the 51-3 blasting - there's a chance to come up with a nice and easy win. The warp speed, up-tempo style that tries to move things a million miles per hour also can go three-and-out in a hiccup. On the other side, if you're not fully prepared for it – like Penn State and Michigan - you could have a slew of big problems.

It's almost like trying to face a curveball like Georgia Tech or a Navy – it's a different sort of offensive style that defenses have to focus on, and considering the typical college football work week, there are basically two practices to try to simulate exactly what the Hoosiers do. The talent level still isn't there like it is at Ohio State, Michigan State or Michigan, but if the offense works, it can be an equalizer.

But Wilson is trying to make Indiana into more than just a gimmick. He came in and said from the start that the skill level and talent weren't up to snuff, and while recruiting to Bloomington isn't necessarily easy, he's doing a decent job of getting the right players to fit what he needs to do. He's trying to get fast on offense, fast on defense, and make everything move. Now in his fourth year, he appears to have just enough experience in place to start coming up with a few more big boy wins.

Eight starters are back on the nation's ninth-ranked offense, and if you think that going 5-7 with a big-time offense might not be scary and might not be a big deal, look at what Baylor has been able to do once it figured out how to play a little bit of defense. There's a chance that IU goes BU and just starts to flash mob points on the board. Go get a hot dog, come back to your seat, and it might be 21-0 Hoosiers. Now that the experience and timing and talent are all starting to come together in one shot, this really might work.

And then there's the defense. Baylor didn't play D for years, but it was still able to rise up and become a player in the Big 12. Once the D came around, then the team became conference title-good – Indiana isn't there quite yet. However, there's a new defensive coordinator, a new style, and ten returning starters to hope for an improvement after finishing 120th in the nation in total defense.

Wilson is trying to do more, and he's trying to make Indiana into a football school, but two more wins and a 7-5 record would be fantastic. And along the way, upsetting the pecking order in the new Big Ten East might be fun, too.

What to watch for on offense: More running than you might think. While the passing game gets all the attention and puts on the bigger show, the Hoosiers can run the ball, too. Remember, up-tempo teams like Baylor and Oregon crank out big production on the ground as part of the home run-hitting mix. IU will continue to be dangerous through the air, but Tevin Coleman is a terrific back with the talent and ability to crank out yards in chunks, averaging 7.3 yards per carry last season with 12 scores. Behind a line that returns everyone of note, expect the balance to continue after throwing it 470 times and running 458.

What to watch for on defense: More of a 3-4 alignment. New defensive coordinator Brian Knorr has to try to do something to slow down the run, and while IU is loaded with bid bodies to rotate through up front, it hasn't mattered too much in the Wilson era. It's going to take some tinkering, but the idea will be to really beef up inside and use more athleticism to swarm around the ball. The key will be generating pressure from several sides, and it'll be important to come up with a star pass rusher who can fulfill a sort of hybrid role. After allowing 2,853 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns, any adjustments should be an improvement.

The team will be far better if… it understands that keeping the ball for a while is actually a good thing. Time of possession is never a big deal for the up-tempo teams. Oregon was just fine despite finishing second-to-last in the nation in the stat, keeping it just 25:29, but there was a problem when games sometimes turned into a grind – like the Stanford loss. Baylor was 112th in the nation in time of possession, Texas A&M was 115th, and Oklahoma State was 116th. But the big problem and the big difference is that Indiana couldn't handle it when the team went three-and-out. The Hoosiers were able to convert third down chances and move the chains, for the most part, but when they didn't, it was uh-oh time for the D. The problem with the IU attack is that when it's not working, it painfully bogs down. There have to be some adjustments from time to time, and yeah, sometimes it's okay to slowwwwww things down a bit.

The Schedule: Opening up against Indiana State and with a week off to follow eases the way into the season, but then it's on the road to face a strong Bowling Green team and deal with Missouri. North Texas isn't a layup of a non-conference team – the Mean Green can run the ball.

IU starts out its Big Ten season against newcomer Maryland, and it could be a must-win with the hard part of the schedule coming. After dealing with the Big Ten champs, Michigan State, there's a week off before going on the road for three games in four weeks with dates at Michigan, Rutgers and Ohio State around a game with Penn State. The battle for the Old Oaken Bucket against Purdue could be for a bowl bid.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Tevin Coleman. With running quarterback Tre Roberson gone and Stephen Houston done, more of the workload will fall on Coleman and senior D'Angelo Roberts. It'll be Coleman, though, who handles the workload, and while he might not have to pound too much, he has to take advantage of the opportunities and he has to stay healthy. He ran for 958 yards despite missing the last three games of the year with an ankle injury, and now he should be in for a big breakout year if he can stay in one piece.

Best defensive player: Senior CB Tim Bennett. A pass breakup machine, the senior busted up 20 passes last year with an interception, and he showed he could handle himself well in the open field with 61 solo stops. Great when challenged, he's the best pass defender in a veteran secondary that returns safety Mark Murphy and corner Michael Hunter. As long as the line does its part and starts to hit the quarterback more, the defensive backfield will be fine. More and more, though, expect teams to stop going at Bennett.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Nate Sudfeld. It's your world now, son. It was supposed to be a dead heat between Sudfield and Tre Roberson, a more dangerous all-around option with great running skills and a knack for making things happen, but all that changed in a hurry. Roberson has decided to transfer, and now it's Sudfeld's offense to run – he can handle it. The defense needs to unearth more playmakers up front, and a No. 1 target has to come through after the passing game lost Cody Latimer and Kofi Hughes, but if Sudfeld isn't outstanding, IU will sputter.

The season will be a success if ... the Hoosiers come up with a winning season. 2007 was the last bowl appearance, and that was the last winning season since 1994. After winning five games last year, and with so much experience returning, it's time to be a wee bit better, even in the tougher of the two Big Ten divisions. Beat Indiana State, Bowling Green, North Texas, Penn State and Purdue and there's the base of five wins. Take on Maryland at home, maybe Rutgers on the road, and pull off an upset over a Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa or Ohio State, and it'll be a big season. But for IU, if it can just go 6-6 and win a bowl game, it'll be a massive success.

Key game: Sept. 27 vs. Maryland. It's the Big Ten opener and it's a huge home game for the Hoosiers. With road games at Iowa, Michigan, Rutgers and Ohio State, there's lots and lots of work to do, and it's asking too much to beat Michigan State at home. Beating the Terps could be the difference between a winning season and possible bottom spot in the tough Big Ten East.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Time of Possession: Opponents 34:11 – Indiana 25:49
- Total Offense: Opponents 6,335 yards – Indiana 6,102 yards
- Kickoff Return Average: Indiana 21 yards – Opponents 17.7 yards
- 2014 Indiana Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players