2009 Indiana Preview - Offense
Indiana WR Tandon Doss
Indiana WR Tandon Doss
Posted May 25, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Indiana Hoosier Offense

Indiana Hoosiers

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN Indiana Preview | 2009 Indiana Offense
- 2009 Indiana Defense | 2009 Indiana Depth Chart
- 2008 IU Preview | 2007 IU Preview | 2006 IU Preview 

What you need to know:
The IU spread offense has tried to change things up a bit over the last few seasons, and now it’ll incorporate more power running while relying a bit less on the passing game. With a huge, veteran offensive line that struggles in pass protection but can bowl over defenses, that’s a plus. The young receiving corps could grow into something special with several very big, very promising prospects waiting to break out, and now there’s a new playmaker in the mix. QB Kellen Lewis was going to move over to receiver, and he would’ve been used in a variety of ways, but he was kicked off the team. Now team has to hope for Ben Chappell to step up and become a steady passer and leader. The running backs should be fine, but they could be excellent is last year’s super-recruit, Darius Willis, lives up to the hype.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Ben Chappell
80-153, 1,001 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Bryan Payton
79 carries, 339 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Ray Fisher (now a CB)
42 catches, 373 yds, 5 TD

Star of the offense: Senior OT Rodger Saffold
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Ben Chappell
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Tandon Doss
Best pro prospect: Saffold
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Saffold, 2) WR Terrance Turner, 3) C Pete Saxon
Strength of the offense: Experience, size
Weakness of the offense:
Passing game, offensive line production


Projected Starter
Can Ben Chappell handle the work? The junior was given a tryout last offseason when Kellen Lewis had off-the-field problems, and he stepped in and was fine at times once Lewis got back into the fold completing 80-of-153 passes for 1,001 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions. While he’s not Lewis running the ball, he’s not immobile considering his 6-3, 235-pound size with 72 rushing yards and three scores. With a live arm, he should be able to push the ball deeper than Lewis did and now he has the experience to be a steady starter if he really does hold down the job.

Projected Top Reserves: While senior Kellen Lewis might have been the team’s most dangerous quarterback option, it was hard for the team to rely on him considering his injury issues and his inconsistencies. The long-time star for the Hoosier offense had 6,395 career passing yards with 48 touchdowns and 25 interceptions, but his real skill was running the ball with 1,677 yards and 17 career scores. Now he's gone, being kicked off the team for a violation of team rules. Had he been back, he would've been a wide receiver anyway.

Pushing hard for playing time, or at least the No. 2 spot to keep Lewis at receiver, is redshirt freshman Adam Follett, a 6-5, 227-pound bomber who has been a strong scout teamer and has good running skills for his size. He’s big, athletic, and has the skills to eventually be the quarterback the offense builds around. However, it might not happen until next year.

Watch Out For ... Chappell to be fine. Now that Lewis isn't an option anymore, it should free up Chappell to make a few mistakes here and there as he can take the quarterback job by the horns.
Strength: Decent talents.  Chappell is experienced enough and good enough to be the main man, but he’ll have to do it right away. Follett has the tools to be good once he gets a little bit of work.
James Hardy. It’s funny what losing an athletic 6-7 wideout will do to a passing game. It’s not fair to blame all of IU’s passing woes on the loss of Hardy to the Buffalo Bills, but there would’ve been far more than 11 touchdown passes had he returned for one more year.
Outlook: Call this a work in progress even though Chappell is fine and Follett is a nice-looking prospect. Will Follett be good enough to be ready to see time if Chappell struggles? Probably not, but if nothing else, this will be an extremely interesting situation to keep an eye on.
Rating: 6

Running Backs

Projected Starter
Senior Bryan Payton was the team’s third leading rusher last season with 339 yards and two touchdowns before missing the final three games of the season. While he doesn’t have anywhere near the speed of the starter he’s replacing, Marcus Thigpen, he brings a little bit of thump at 5-9 and 207 pounds. More of a serviceable back than a featured star, he can catch the ball a little bit and can run between the tackles.

Projected Top Reserves: It might be just a question of time before redshirt freshman Darius Willis takes over. The star recruit of last year, he was kept on the bench to preserve his eligibility even though he was the most talented back on the team and dominated on the scout team. At 6-0 and 219 pounds he brings good power and big-time flash.  A state-championship caliber sprinter, he's also tough banging out 1,728 yards and 28 touchdowns in his senior year at Franklin High in Indianapolis.

Looking to get more work is Demetrius McCray, a 5-11, 200-pound senior with 4.4 speed and decent power. Staying healthy has been a problem suffering a foot injury two years ago, but he was able to see time in every game last season and finished fourth on the team with 339 yards and two touchdowns. The star recruit of 2005 has the raw skills to be used more as a decent third option, but he’ll most likely see most of his work in garbage time.

Watch Out For ... Willis. He might be the key to the 2009 IU season. Just being decent isn’t enough; he has to be a difference maker. It might be tough to do behind a shaky line, but if he’s as good as his prep hype, he has to be a 1,000-yard back.
Strength: Speed. Payton isn’t lightning fast, but Willis is a sprinter and McCray can move. There weren’t too many big runs busted out last season, but that could change this year with more of a reliance on the backs.
Proven production. Payton and McCray have been fine, but they haven’t cranked out big numbers on a consistent basis. Willis has the potential and was great on the scout team, but now it has to translate as a starter.
Outlook: It all depends on whether or not Darius Willis is the real deal. The team finished a solid 42nd in the nation in rushing last year helped by the running of Kellen Lewis but he can’t be counted on now that he’s a receiver and Marcus Thigpen is gone. If Willis is the player he’s supposed to be, the ground game will be fine. However, Bryan Payton and Demetrius McCray can combine for over 600 yards and can be counted on from time to time if Willis doesn’t turn out to be the man. With more power running being added to the attack, the chances will be there for everyone.
Rating: 6


Projected Starters
With Ray Fisher moving over to cornerback and Andrew Means leaving to try to become a baseball player, the chance is there for junior Terrance Turner to become the team’s top receiver. The 6-3, 207-pounder is an amazing athlete with the speed to stretch the field now that he’s a full two years removed from a bad knee injury. He finished third on the team last season with 29 catches for 289 yards, and while he was a steady producer, he didn’t get into the end zone and didn’t come up with many big plays.

In his true freshman season, Tandon Doss showed excellent promise catching 14 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown highlighted by an eight-catch, 107-yard, one touchdown day in the upset win over Northwestern. At 6-3 and 197 pounds he has excellent size and big time upside. He could be a game-breaker with a bit more time.

Now that Kellen Lewis is gone, 6-3, 197-pound junior Mitchell Evans will be a part-time starter and a key reserve. He’s done a little of everything in practices being moved around from defensive back to quarterback and now to wide receiver, and while he has mostly been a key special teamer, he made nine catches for 129 yards last year.

Returning to his spot at tight end is tight end Troy Wagner, who at 6-5 and 271 pounds is more like a third tackle. He’s a good blocker, but he’s not involved at all in the passing game failing to catch a pass. It’ll mainly be his job to help the running game and protect the passer.

Projected Top Reserves: Looking to come back from a torn ACL is Charles Love, a redshirt freshman who’s one of the team’s best athletes when healthy. At 6-3 and 225 pounds he has excellent size, and he was an all-star triple jumper in high school. He’ll try to see time at one of the outside spots.

Working with Terrance Turner on the outside will be Damario Belcher, a 6-5, 209-pound scoring machine who should become all but unstoppable around the goal line. He was fourth on the team with 25 catches for 337 yards, and while he only caught two touchdown passes in his true freshman year, he’ll be used far more as a matchup nightmare from close range.

While Troy Wagner is the blocking tight end, 6-5, 233-pound sophomore Max Dedmond will be the receiver. He’s not a bad blocker, but he’s used for his good hands and route running ability. He only made six catches for 51 yards last year, but he has the talent and potential to do far more. He fights well for the ball and is the type who'll outmuscle his way for catches. While remains to be seen if he can be a field stretcher, he should be a reliable mid-range target.

Watch Out For ... far more production. There’s experience, size, speed. Damario Belcher, Terrance Turner, and Tandon Doss should all blossom now that they know what they’re doing.
Strength: Size. Turner is 6-3, Belcher is 65, Mitchell Evans is 6-3, Matt Ernest is 6-2, and Doss is 6-3. There will be times when this group gives shorter secondaries big-time problems.
A sure-thing No. 1 target. While there’s a ton of upside and the potential for this to be one of the team’s most improved areas, the move of Ray Fisher over to the defense takes away the team’s top target. With No. 2 receiver Andrew Means also gone, 76 of the team’s 193 catches from last year are gone.
Outlook: This could be one of the Big Ten’s breakout units. All the youth and inexperience of last year should translate into more overall production and more big plays this year. Considering the team only came up with 11 touchdown catches last year, there’s plenty of room for improvement.
Rating: 6.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: Despite being bothered by back and knee injuries, senior Rodger Saffold remained the star of the line. He was able to start in ten games, but he was out in early November when his knee started to become a big problem. The 6-5, 306-pound left tackle is a great athlete who can do a little of everything well. While he’s not a dominant blocker, he has all-star potential and will be the rock of the veteran front five.

The other possible all-star is center Pete Saxon, a starter at left guard for the first five games before moving to the middle. At 6-6 and 303 pounds, the senior is a huge presence on the inside and has been one of the few linemen able to stay on the field over the last few years. Extremely tough, he fought through a shoulder injury last year to start every game.

Also back at a starting spot is right guard Cody Faulkner, a 6-5, 308-pound junior who was one of the team’s top recruits a few years ago. While he hasn’t played up to his potential, and he hasn’t been the dominant run blocker he’s been expected to become by this point, he’s solid and reliable.

The biggest concern up front will be at right tackle where James Brewer will take over for Mike Stark, who will take a year off to try to heal up his injured back, but might be done for his career. Brewer is a massive 6-8, 339-pound junior who has had injuries of his own struggling through foot problems. While he’s not all that athletic, his size and his long arms make him a solid pass blocker.

6-5, 311-pound sophomore Justin Pagan will take over the left guard spot in a full-time role after getting a little bit of time at both guard and tackle late last year. While he struggled a bit in his true freshman season, he showed just enough athleticism to be decent at tackle even though he’s far better suited for guard.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Alex Perry started the first five games at center last season before getting moved out of the job by Pete Saxon. He saw time at tackle as a backup, but he’ll be limited at best this year after tearing his ACL this off-season. At 6-7 and 285 pounds, he has good size and has the experience to come back and be a part of the rotation later this year or even next year.

Senior Mike Reiter is one of the team’s most important backups with the ability to play any spot on the inside. The 6-2, 300-pound veteran will start out at right guard and could be a spot starter, like he was last year getting the nod against Northwestern, and he should once again be a decent run blocker.

On the rise is Will Matte, a 6-2, 284-pound redshirt freshman who dominated on the scout team last year. While he’s undersized, he should be a good backup at center, and could even see time at guard, with a full-time motor and a good mean streak.

Watch Out For ... more stability. Last year was about finding the right combination, lots of moving around, and lots of patching things up with so many injuries to deal with. This year, with so many returning veterans, there should be far less shuffling as long as there aren’t any major injuries.
Strength: Experience. Because there have been so many problems over the last few years there have been several players who saw starting time and got good work in as key backups. That means there are plenty of ready-to-roll blockers looking to form a more cohesive unit.
Production. The pass protection was non-existent last year and the run blocking was fine, but nothing special. In the new offense there should be more blasting for the running game, which should be a plus, but there will be problems against more athletic defensive fronts.
Outlook: The late Terry Hoeppner specifically went after big, strong offensive linemen to beef things up to a Big Ten level, and the efforts should pay off. There’s size, strength, and plenty of experience all across the board. Injures were a huge problem last year and they’ll be a part of this year, too, but there are more good blockers ready to step in where needed. There needs to be better pass protection with the spotlight on tackles Rodger Saffold and James Brewer, but with so much size there should be more done for the running game.
Rating: 6.5