2009 CFN Indiana Preview
Indiana QB Ben Chappell
Indiana QB Ben Chappell
Posted May 25, 2009

Can Indiana rebound and be closer to the 2007 team that got to a bowl game? There are major changes being made, mostly on the offense with Ben Chappell taking over the reigns at quarterback. Check out the CFN Indiana Preview.

Indiana Hoosiers

Preview 2009

By Pete Fiutak

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

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Head coach: Bill Lynch
17th year overall: 91-82-3
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 23, Def. 25, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best Hoosier Players
1. DE Jammie Kirlew, Sr.
2. DE Greg Middleton, Sr.
3. LB Matt Mayberry, Sr.
4. LB Will Patterson, Sr.
5. OT Rodger Saffold, Sr.
6. WR Terrance Turner, Jr.
7. SS Austin Thomas, Sr.
8. FS Nick Polk, Sr.
9. C Pete Saxon, Sr.
10. QB Ben Chappell, Jr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2009 Record:

9/3 Eastern Kentucky
9/12 Western Michigan
9/19 at Akron
9/26 at Michigan
10/3 Ohio State
10/10 at Virginia
10/17 Illinois
10/24 at Northwestern
10/31 at Iowa
11/7 Wisconsin
11/14 at Penn State
11/21 Purdue

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record:

8/30 Western Kent. W 31-13
9/6 Murray State W 45-3
9/20 Ball State L 42-20
9/27 Michigan St L 42-29
10/4 at Minnesota L 16-7
10/11 Iowa L 45-9
10/18 at Illinois L 55-13
10/25 Northwestern W 21-19
11/1 Central Mich L 37-34
11/8 Wisconsin L 55-20
11/15 at Penn St L 34-7
11/22 at Purdue L 62-10

After an emotion-filled 2007 with the tragic death of head coach Terry Hoeppner and the inspired run to a bowl game there was bound to be a little bit of a letdown. But with so many returning players in so many key positions, there wasn’t supposed to be much of a step back.


Indiana didn’t just regress last season; it went back to being the doormat of the Big Ten with little to no improvement in almost all areas. The pass rush was fantastic, but the big front seven got shoved around by a soft breeze. The secondary got torched short, long, and everywhere in between, PK Austin Starr, the Lou Groza-caliber star of 2007, was merely average, and the offense couldn’t seem to complete a forward pass after losing WR James Hardy early to the NFL.

The vibe on the 2008 season just never felt right. Star QB Kellen Lewis missed most of the offseason with academic/team issues, the defense had injury problems, and the secondary had a hard time finding the right corners to take over the open spots. This year, the team is far different with depth, experience, and real, live talent in most of the key positions. However, the team still has a long way to go to make up the stagger with the rest of the Big Ten.

Indiana went 1-9 against FBS teams last year and was blown out in eight of them. Minnesota and its suspect defense held the Hoosiers to seven points, and Purdue went ballistic in a 62-10 season-ending win. Wisconsin ran for over 400 yards, Ball State did whatever it wanted to do offensively, and Iowa and Illinois beat IU by a combined score of 100-22 in back-to-back weeks. Even so, if everyone is healthy, the potential is there for a big-time turnaround.

The defensive line, at least on the ends, has the potential to be special with Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton two NFL-caliber playmakers on the outside. The linebacking corps should be the best the program has had in several years with Matt Mayberry a star in the middle and Will Patterson, once he returns from a wrist injury, a top playmaker on the outside.

The offense has several very big, very talented young wide receivers who should instantly upgrade the position. With Lewis moving to wideout, the position is so loaded that last year’s leading receiver, Ray Fisher, will move to corner. The offensive line has two good anchors in OT Rodger Saffold and C Pete Saxon, and Darius Willis has all the makings of a franchise running back.

No, it’s not time to book tickets to Pasadena even with all the returning talent. There are still major problems in the secondary, the O line has to prove it can pass protect for two plays in a row, and Ben Chappell has to prove he can be a steady, productive quarterback, but this is a good enough team to surprise and get back to a bowl game.

What to watch for on offense: QB Ben Chappell. The coaching staff wants to power the ball using more of the Pistol offense that’s been so successful at Nevada. However, the option of the team’s top running quarterback, Kellen Lewis, is gone after he was dismissed from the team, and if he was on it, he was going to be a receiver, anyway. Now it’s up to Chappell to be the man to lead the offense, and he won’t have to look over his shoulder at Lewis. There isn’t a thumper at running back, but if Indiana wants to be Nevada (who finished third in the nation in rushing and fifth in total offense), it has the speed backs to break off big runs. Chappell will have to make things happen through the air on a consistent basis.

What to watch for on defense: The injury report. The defense will try to incorporate some more Cover-2 schemes, but there’s one problem with that: the defensive backs. The Cover-2 only works if the safeties are fantastic, and Nick Polk and Austin Thomas are really good. However, they’re both coming off ACL injuries and might not be 100% all year. With WR Ray Fisher being used at one corner and Chris Adkins still learning on the fly on the other side, the key to the season could be the health of the safeties. Throw in LB Will Patterson’s wrist injury and DT Deonte Mack’s hip, and the injury report will need to be monitored all fall.

The team will be far better if … the defense can find something it does well. Even with a ton of returning experience and plenty of potential the defense was miserable in all areas last season. The biggest issue was being physical up front. Teams that could power the ball did it at will as games wore on, and spread offenses were mostly able to do whatever they wanted to. The IU offense will be better, but it won’t be good enough to win a lot of shootouts.

The Schedule: It’s not a plus when you’re considered the 11th best team in a down year for the Big Ten, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good opportunities for some key upsets. Forget about winning on the road at Iowa or Penn State, but early in the year, IU’s experience will count for something in the Big Ten opener at Michigan. Ohio State isn’t the Ohio State of the last few seasons, but that’s still not going to an upset possibility, even in Bloomington. However, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Purdue are all winnable home games. The non-conference schedule isn’t going to be as breezy as it appears. Eastern Kentucky is a win, but Western Michigan will be one of the MAC’s best teams, going to Akron isn’t a sure-thing, and going to Virginia won’t be easy.

Best Offensive Player: Senior OT Rodger Saffold. It was going to be Kellen Lewis, but he’s gone now. Saffold isn’t a special blocker, but he’s steady and solid as the leader of a veteran front five. He could be the key to the offense early on since he’ll be a primary pass protector for Chappell and the passing game. It Saffold has a bad year, the line and the offense will struggle.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DEs Greg Middleton and Jammie Kirlew. Middleton was the star of the team two years ago with a nation-leading 16 sacks, but he struggled last season to find the same groove. He didn’t have the same burst and he had problems being the marked man. All the attention paid to Middleton allowed Kirlew to flourish on the other side. Both ends are big, quick, and bound for an NFL camp near you very soon. 

Key player to a successful season: Chappell. If he flounders, Lewis won’t be there to fall back on anymore. Chappell is a big, strong passer who got his feet wet over the last few years and now has to make the offense more explosive. He has good weapons around him and a nice line in front of him, and now he has to produce.

The season will be a success if ... the Hoosiers go to a bowl. They’re not likely to be favored in any of their final nine games of the year, but if they can win their first three games, pull off a few upsets, and beat Purdue in the regular season finale, they could go to their second post-season game in three years. There’s way too much experience to expect anything less.

Key game: September 12 vs. Western Michigan. Indiana needs to prove early on that it can win. Last year, Ball State came into Bloomington and won in a blowout. This year, another MAC team, Western Michigan, has the firepower to do the same thing. With a winnable game at Akron to follow and a date with Eastern Kentucky to start the season, IU can be 3-0 going into the trip to Michigan if it can beat WMU.

2008 Fun Stats: 
- Sacks: Indiana 31 for 199 yards – Opponents 28 for 166 yards
- Interception return average: Opponents 12.7 yards on 11 picks – Indiana 2.5 yards on six picks
- Fourth down conversions: Opponents 8-of-11 (73%) – Indiana 6-of-23 (26%)