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2008 CFN Indiana Preview
Indiana QB Kellen Lewis
Indiana QB Kellen Lewis
Posted Apr 28, 2008 2008 Preview - Indiana Hoosiers

Indiana Hoosiers

Preview 2008

By Pete Fiutak

- 2008 CFN Indiana Preview | 2008 Indiana Offense
- 2008 Indiana Defense | 2008 Indiana Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Indiana Preview | 2006 CFN Indiana Preview 

The goal for the 2007 Indiana team, following the sad passing of head coach Terry Hoeppner to a brain tumor, was to get to a 13th game. For most teams, a bowl game is a given, but after not going to the post-season since 1993, the trip to the Insight Bowl turned out to be great end to a nice season.

That the Hoosiers got blasted by Oklahoma State 49-33 showed two things. 1) Indiana still has room to grow and improve, and 2) just getting to a bowl game wasn't good enough.

Head coach: Bill Lynch
16th year: 88-73-3
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 22, Def. 26, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Hoosier Players
1. DE Greg Middleton, Jr.
2. QB Kellen Lewis, Jr.
3. DT Greg Brown, Sr.
4. PK Austin Starr, Sr.
5. LB Will Patterson, Jr.
6. LB Geno Johnson, Sr.
7. DE Jammie Kirlew, Jr.
8. OT Rodger Saffold, Jr.
9. RB/KR Marcus Thigpen, Jr.
10. CB Chris Phillips, Sr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 5-7
2008 Results: 0-0

Aug. 30 Western Kentucky
Sept. 6 Murray State
Sept. 13 OPEN DATE
Sept. 20 Ball State
Sept. 27 Michigan State
Oct. 4 at Minnesota
Oct. 11 Iowa
Oct. 18 at Illinois
Oct. 25 Northwestern
Nov. 1 Central Michigan
Nov. 8 Wisconsin
Nov. 15 at Penn State
Nov. 22 at Purdue

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 5-7
2007 Results: 7-6

Sept. 1 Indiana State W 55-7
Sept. 8 at West Mich W 37-27
Sept. 15 Akron W 41-24
Sept. 22 Illinois L 27-14
Sept. 29 at Iowa W 38-20
Oct. 6 Minnesota W 40-20
Oct. 13
at Michigan St L 52-27
Oct. 20 Penn State L 36-31
Oct. 27 at Wisconsin
 L 33-3
Nov. 3 Ball State W 38-20
Nov. 10 at Nwestern L 31-28
Nov. 17 Purdue W 27-24
Insight Bowl
Dec. 31 Oklahoma State L 49-33

With all the emotion and all the focus on taking a positive step forward, now the program has to show that it plans to be around the bowl world on a consistent basis and that 2007 wasn't some sort of a fluke. To do that and become more of a player in the Big Ten race, and to start shooting for a bigger bowl game, the team has to keep on improving in several key areas.

The defense made great strides after struggling for so many years, and now the tremendous pass rushing line has to do even more with players like ends Greg Middleton and Jammie Kirlew, along with anchor-tackle Greg Brown, back in the fold. The back seven should be fine, but it won't be anything special, especially at corner, compared to the rest of the Big Ten.

Offensively, Kellen Lewis is back at quarterback after being suspended all spring, and now he has to prove he can run a no-huddle, hurry-up attack without star receiver James Hardy, who left early to be a Buffalo Bill. The line has talent, but it needs to get healthy across the board, the fast running backs have to be used more, and the receivers have to combine to improve despite not having a true No. 1 target.

Basically, the team is fine up and down, and is helped by the special teams and All-America kicker, Austin Starr, but it has to show it can beat the better teams. The home win over Purdue to end the regular season could be chalked up to the emotion of the moment and the rivalry, but beyond that, the second best win was over a mediocre Iowa team. Against the better teams, and Northwestern, the Hoosiers couldn't get the job done.

This should be another decent year with a shot at a bowl game, and there's just enough talent to come up with an upset or two. The legacy of Hoeppner wasn't just to get good for one year, but to be consistently above-average. the program isn't there yet, but it's still on the way up.

What to watch for on offense: Can Lewis run the offense? The idea of the new no-huddle attack is to get the ball out of the quarterback's hands and dink and dunk the ball down the field. While Lewis is hardly a bomber, this isn't exactly the offense for him. His game is about improvisation, running, and connecting on the plays there are there. He's not a pocket passer, and the coaching staff might not ask him to be, but he'll have to do more of it if the offense is going to run the way it's supposed to.

What to watch for on defense: The second cornerback spot. Losing Hardy from the offense was the team's biggest hit, but a close second was the loss of starting corners Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors. Chris Phillips will get burned, but he's a more physical corner than Porter and Majors and he should be fine. Now the question is whether or not there's a second corner who can step up. The pass defense wasn't great last year even with one of the nation's best pass rushes to help out, and it should be worse unless someone like Donnell Jones or Adrian Burks can be a new star.

The team will be far better if … stops the better running teams. The run defense was decent overall last year, but it got ripped up by the teams that could run the ball. The IU D line got destroyed by the good offensive lines, but with more bulk and experience, that shouldn't always be the case. It's no coincidence that the six biggest rushing days allowed last year were the team's six losses. IU was 0-6 when it gave up 165 yards or more, and 7-0 when it was under, allowing 120 yards or fewer in the seven wins.

The Schedule: It doesn't get too much better than starting off with five home games and a trip to Minnesota by mid-October, and while the dates with Michigan State and Iowa will be tough, the Hoosiers should be good enough to get at least a split. There are only four road games, all in Big Ten play, going to Illinois after dealing with the Hawkeyes and closing out at Penn State and at Purdue. Beating Wisconsin might be tough, but the showdown with the Badgers comes after getting Northwestern and Central Michigan at home. How much of a break does IU get in the schedule? There's no Michigan or Ohio State.

Best Offensive Player: Junior QB Kellen Lewis. With Hardy gone, the IU offense is woefully devoid of stars and top talents. There are decent players, like OT Rodger Saffold and RB Marcus Thigpen, at least as a kick returner, but it needs someone who can take things to another level. QB Ben Chappell isn't it, even if he's a good fit for the new offensive scheme. Lewis can't be just good, he has to be special for the Hoosier offense on a weekly basis. If he's off, IU can't win.

Best Defensive Player: Junior DE Greg Middleton. The All-America end bulked up to 275 pounds and is now in a salary drive. After leading the nation with 16 sacks, and with his size, the NFL scouts are all going to keep an eye on Bloomington to see if last year was a fluke. Able to play inside or out, Middleton can play at the next level in a 3-4 or a 4-3, and if does what he did last year, considering the spotlight will be on, he'll make a lot of money very soon.    

Key player to a successful season: Redshirt freshman CB Donnell Jones ... or sophomore Richard Council, or sophomore Adrian Burks. The pass defense gave up 244 yards per game last year despite getting help from a front seven that finished eighth in the nation in sacks. Chris Phillips might not be an All-American, but he's a good No. 1 corner who'll need help from someone on the other side, and while Jones is likely the most talented option of the bunch, it'll be an on-going fight for the job.

The season will be a success if ... the Hoosiers go to a bowl again. It's not going to be easy, but with no Ohio State or Michigan on the schedule, there's no reason not to get to six or seven wins again. A second bowl game, considering all the question marks and concerns, would be a major feat, and it would be the first time since 1990-1991 that the team made back-to-back trips.

Key game: Oct. 11 vs. Iowa. The last month of the season is a potential bear, and there's a tough date at Illinois in mid-October after the Hawkeyes come to town, so a win here might be a must to have any hopes of a bowl game. Beating the two star MAC teams, Ball State and Central Michigan, is also a must, and holding serve against Michigan State and Northwestern at home would be nice, but a win over an improved Iowa would be strong.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Punt return average: Indiana 11 yards – Opponents 5.9 yards
- Fumbles: Indiana 38 (lost 18) – Opponents 22 (lost 12)
- Fourth down conversions: Opponents 16 of 23 (70%) – Indiana 10 of 17 (42%)