2007 Indiana Preview - Offense

Posted Jun 17, 2007

Preview 2007 Indiana Hoosier Offense

Indiana Hoosiers

Preview 2007 - Offense

- 2007 Indiana Preview | 2007 Indiana Defense Preview
2007 Indiana Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Indiana Preview 

What you need to know:
The IU spread offense has the pieces in place with rising star quarterback Kellen Lewis about to come into his own as a leader, and a good receiving corps to put up big numbers, led by James Hardy. There's speed at running back, but Marcus Thigpen and Demetrius McCray have to be more productive. The X factor is the line, which the late Terry Hoeppner did a great job of putting together in the 2006 recruiting class. Rodger Saffold and Pete Saxon are just two who should upgrade the front.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Kellen Lewis
190-346, 2,221 yds, 14 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Kellen Lewis
124 carries, 441 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: James Hardy
51 catches, 722 yds, 10 TD

Star of the offense: Junior WR James Hardy
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior RB Marcus Thigpen
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman WR Terrance Turner
Best pro prospect: Hardy
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hardy, 2) QB Kellen Lewis, 3) Thigpen
Strength of the offense: Wide receiver, Lewis
Weakness of the offense:
Offensive line production, backup quarterback


Projected Starter
Sophomore Kellen Lewis took over the starting job for good in the fourth game of the season and breathed life into the offense with a team-leading 441 rushing yards while completing 55% of his passes for 2,221 yards and 14 touchdowns with seven interceptions. While he's only 6-1 and 177 pounds, he's a tough all-around player with a good enough arm to get the passing game moving, as Michigan State found out after getting tagged for 261 yards and five touchdown passes.

Projected Top Reserve: 6-3, 233-pound redshirt freshman Ben Chappell doesn't exactly fit the mold of what IU wants for its spread attack, but he's a big passer with a live arm that can get the ball deep. He grew into the number two role this off-season, and won't be challenged much for the job with Blake Powers moving to tight end.

Watch Out For ... Lewis to become one of the Big Ten's most dangerous quarterbacks. Juice Williams of Illinois will get plenty of publicity as the league's hot new star, but Lewis is the better player. He's a far better passer with just enough speed to come up with big runs here and there.
Strength: Lewis. There was supposed to be a battle for the starting job in spring ball, but Lewis put an end to that in a hurry. He'll be the face of the program for the next three years.
Proven backup. With Blake Powers making the permanent move to tight end, it'll be up to Chappell to grow into a reliable reserve right away. Sophomore Dustin Hass is a good passer, but the offense will be in big trouble if Lewis gets hurt.
It's all up to Lewis to carry the offense. When he's off, there's not enough talent around him to carry things. If he's on, Indiana all of a sudden becomes a dangerous team. Developing the depth will be vital, since Lewis will take more than his share of shots.
Rating: 7

Running Backs

Projected Starter
Junior Marcus Thigpen has been one of the nation's elite kick returners, and now he has to become a major player for the running game. He was the team's leading running back, and second on the team behind Kellen Lewis, rushing for 387 yards with two touchdowns, and caught 18 passes for 180 pounds and two scores. Now the 5-9, 190-pound speedster has to prove he can hold up with a bigger role.

Projected Top Reserves: 5-11, 195-pound sophomore Demetrius McCray ran for 320 yards and two touchdowns last season, and he has the talent to do a whole bunch more. The star recruit of 2005 has 4.4 speed and great hands, but he's not just a speed back. With decent power, he can bang the ball a bit between the tackles. He was the rushing star in the upset win over Iowa, and he'll split time with Thigpen as part of a rotation.

The team's power back will once again be 6-0, 247-pound senior Josiah Sears, who ran for 232 yards ad four scores. Not a fullback, Sears is a big tailback who ran for 100 yards and a score against Wisconsin and scored twice the following week against Illinois.

Watch Out For ... Thigpen to play a bigger role. The ground game can't flourish if Kellen Lewis is the team's leading rusher again, and there needs to be more of a home run element. Thigpen provides it.
Strength: Veterans. The team's top three running backs return with a nice blend of speed (Thigpen and McCray) and power (Sears). There will be enough work to go around.
Production. Thigpen, McCray and Sears combined for a total of 939 yards and eight scores. The production has to double from these three.
Outlook: There's good potential if Thigpen can become a consistent threat and if the line does a better job of opening things up. McCray was too be a recruit to not be doing more, while Sears provides a tough change of pace.
Rating: 6


Projected Starters
Is James Hardy ready to be consistent? After an off the field issue almost kept him off the team, he went on to lead the way with 51 catches for 722 yards and ten touchdowns. While seven of his scores came against Iowa and Michigan States, he became a steadier target over the second half of the year with five or more grabs in six of his final seven games. At 6-7 and 220 pounds with fantastic speed and athleticism, he's a matchup nightmare. Staying healthy, something he wasn't able to do in his first two seasons, is a must.

Also back is the team's number two receiver, 6-2, 205-pound junior James Bailey, who caught 40 passes for 401 yards but failed to get into the end zone. One of the top recruits in the old Garry DiNardo era, he overcame a horrendous car accident early in his career. He's a clutch, consistent receiver with good size and decent speed. He should flourish with everyone worrying about Hardy.

Sophomore Andrew Means grew into a decent reserve, consistently catching at least one pass in every game but one, finishing with 20 catches for 163 yards and a score. A two-sport athlete, also seeing time on the baseball team, he should be a good third target once he gets more of a role.

Mostly a special teamer so far, 6-5, 258-pound senior Nick Sexton has see a few starts serving mostly as a blocker. He didn't catch any passes last year, but he made two grabs for two scores as a sophomore.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Nick Polk will likely pull a double dip, serving as a key third receiver while also seeing time at safety. He was third on the team with 32 catches for 326 yards and a touchdown, and was one of the stars of this year's spring game even though he played exclusively on defense throughout most of the off-season. He'll start at free safety, taking over for leading tackler Will Meyers.

An interesting big prospect behind Hardy is 6-3, 200-pound redshirt freshman Terrance Turner, an amazing athlete with the speed to stretch the field. He'll have a hard time getting time with Hardy the team's most dangerous weapon, but he has excellent potential. He caught seven passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game. He's too good to keep off the field.

One of the team's fastest players, junior Brandon Walker-Roby has to do more field stretching and has to show off his sub-4.4 wheels after catching just five passes for 40 yards. The brother of former IU star, Courtney, will start out behind Bailey.

Backing up Sexton at tight end will be 6-4, 236-pound senior Blake Powers, the former starting quarterback who's thrown for 2,789 career yards with 23 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He knows the offense and is a decent enough athlete to grow into a receiver, but he won't be much of a blocker.

Watch Out For ... Hardy vs. Iowa on September 29th and Michigan State on October 13th. The top target has lit up the Hawkeyes over the last two seasons with 20 catches for 207 yards and four scores. Against the Spartans over the last two years he caught 14 passes for 160 yards and six touchdowns.
Strength: Veterans. With the top three receivers returning, even if Polk is likely going to spend more time on defense, there's good experience to count on, and a few speedsters. The receiving corps will be one of the team's biggest strengths.
Consistency. The big problem is the quarterbacking, which was erratic thanks to Kellen Lewis trying to get his feet wet. Now the corps has to make everyone else look better.
Outlook: Hardy is a star who's as good a number one receiver as any in the Big Ten, and when he's on, there aren't any better. Now he has to rip up everyone on a weekly basis, while Bailey has to do more damage as a number two. The emergence of someone like Turner or Walker-Roby is a must so Polk can spend all his time on D.
Rating: 6.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: In the push to upgrade the line with the 2006 recruiting class, two gems have emerged on the left side in 6-5, 280-pound sophomore Rodger Saffold and 6-6, 315-pound sophomore Pete Saxon. Saxon took over in the second half of his true freshman season with five starts. While he played like a first year player, he showed great promise and then dominated at times this spring. He appears to be ready to blossom into an all-star. Saffold is a good athlete who's physical enough to grow into an anchor on the outside. While he's not that big, he an emerging star.

The right side gets back two veteran starters, but they'll be pushed. 6-2, 295-pound senior John Sandberg can play either guard spot, and will start out on the right side after getting the call in the first ten games. While not athletic enough to be a tackle, he's built like one and could play there if needed.

Starting again at right tackle will be 6-5, 280-pound senior Charlie Emerson, a former defensive end who turned into a decent offensive lineman. While he struggled with his consistency in pass protection. He made 23 tackles as a sophomore, beefed up, and now should be more consistent.

The one big question mark is at center, where 6-1, 280-pound Ben Wyss, a career reserve, now is the quarterback up front. He'll be pushed hard
for the starting job, but the former walk-on has paid his dues, and now will get his shot at more playing time. While he's not big and he's not talented, he'll be tough to get off the field.

Projected Top Reserves: Wyss might be a decent veteran who knows what he's doing, but it'll be redshirt freshman Alex Perry who'll likely come in and take over at some point. A 6-7, 285-pound athlete, he's a bit too tall and doesn't have any experience, but he's a talent.

Also a part of the star recruiting class of last year are redshirt freshmen Mike Stark and Cody Faulkner. The 6-5, 300-pound Faulkner will push for time behind Sandberg and should be a starter sooner than later. The 6-7, 282-pound Stark is a physical tackle who'll start out behind Emerson on the right side.

6-4, 287-pound junior Kyle Thomas started the first seven games of last year after moving over from the defensive side early in his career. He struggled, but is an experienced enough blocker to be a part of the rotation on the left side behind Saxon.

Watch Out For ... the 2006ers. The coaching staff had been saying all throughout last year that things would eventually be better up front. While it might take another year for the big recruiting class of two years ago to shine, the potential is there for an overall upgrade this year.
Strength: Potential. There hasn't been this much promise up front for the Hoosiers in several years. Prospects like Saxon and Saffold are blocks to build around.
Blocking. The line hasn't done much of it over the last two years, and while there's hope for immediate improvement with the emergence of all the young players, it still should take a wile to blossom.
Outlook: In all the ways Terry Hoeppner left his mark on the program, position-wise, the line will be one of his most interesting legacies. He and his staff went heavy on the line last year, and it should pay off over the next few years as the young talent matures and grows. In the meantime, this will continue to be one of the Big Ten's most inconsistent lines. It needs to do at least one thing well, and that might take a little time.
Rating: 6


Related Stories
2007 Indiana Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 17, 2007
2007 Indiana Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 17, 2007
2007 Indiana Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 17, 2007

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