Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Quick and Uninformed Preview of The Indiana University Hoosiers

Next up, Indiana. The same Indiana that sits 5-5 in the Big Ten. The same Indiana that lost to D1-AA Southern Illinois, at home. The same Indiana that hung 46 on MSU then had 63 dropped on them by Minnesota.

The same Indiana.

But not really.

Indiana is on the outskirts of going to its first bowl since 1993. As hard as it may be to believe today, Indiana was a Bowl playing machine in the late 80's early 90's. From 1986-1993 the Hoosiers went to 6 Bowl games, capturing wins in the Copper and Liberty Bowls. While this is the same Indiana team that can give up 63 points to Minnesota, lose by 44 to Ohio State and blow the start of the season with a loss to a 1-AA school, there are signs that this same Indiana is changing. The Hoosiers have a true offensive weapon in wideout James Hardy. Their quarterback Kellen Lewis is only a freshman, yet already has a five TD pass game under his belt.

Indiana's coach beat cancer. Brain cancer. Terry Hoeppner has had tumors removed from his brain twice, returning to the sidelines to coach his team within TWO WEEKS of surgery. If he sold plastic bracelets I'd buy them by the thousands. The man's either an immortal fighting his fellow immortals for "the Prize," or he's a man with a heart stronger than a screwed up gene or two who's leading a revival at one of the Big Ten's outcast programs. Either way he and Indiana now command your respect.

Michigan and Ohio State got caught looking ahead last week against inferior opponents. Neither team will take their opponents so lightly this weekend. Michigan gets Indiana in Bloomington.

On With The Uninformed Preview!

A Quick and Uninformed Preview of The Indiana University Hoosiers

Football History

Not much. Mostly they've been very, very bad. They've been playing football since 1887 and have just two Big Ten crowns (1945 and 1967) to show for it. Further, Indiana's only been to 8 Bowl games in its history. Not the most storied program in college football, to say the least.

Coaching

Surprisingly good. Terry Hoeppner comes from the cradle of all midwest coaching, Miami University. Taking over the Red Hawks/Men in 1999 Hoeppner never once had a losing season. He posted 7 win seasons 3 times, one 6 win, and one 8 win season, and crowned his tenure with a 13-1 record, including a 49-28 whuppin' of Louisville in the GMAC Bowl in 2003. During that season the two lowest point totals for Miami's offense were 3 and then 33. they scored over 40 point 11 times that season.

Hoeppner can also recruit. Exhibit 1 is Kellen Lewis. 1826 yards, 13 TD and only 6 INTs. With the exception of 3 losses, this years Indiana team is putting up at least 3 TD's a game. While the defense hasn't improved yet, the offense has. It may take a while for Indiana to challenge the big boys of the Big Ten, but Hoeppner has certainly brought back respectability to the program.

QB

Freshman Kellen Lewis took the reigns of the Indiana offense after the first game of the season. Since then he's thrown at least 25 passes in each game (except against Connecticut) and racked up some fairly impressive numbers for a freshman. Against Michigan State he tossed 5 TD passes, and against Minnesota he posted his first 300+ yard passing day. What's most surprising about Lewis is how careful he's been with the ball (up until recently). He had a four game stretch against Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and OSU where he didn't throw a pick. While he has thrown 3 INTs during his last two games, he's 1-1 in those contests with 8 TD passes. Not a bad ratio.

Lewis is a mobile QB. In his last two games he's rushed for 150 yards and a TD. Troy Smith he's not, but he does possess an escapeability we haven't seen in a while. It'll be a good test to see if Michigan's D can keep him from scrambling when his receivers are covered.

Even though Lewis does have the physical tools to be a success, he's still a freshman. With a backup Left Tackle starting opposite LaMarr Woodley, expect some big mistakes from the kid.

RB

It's rumored that Indiana has a RB. In fact they've got two. Yet they're rarely seen carrying the ball past the line of scrimage. Running backs Marcus Thigpen and Demetrius McCray have combined for 158 carries and 577 yards rushing. They've each scored 2 TDs on the season. For those doing the math, that's 100 fewer carries and 700 yards less than Mike Hart has on the season so far. Power running is not something Indiana does well, or even attempts to try. The running game seems to be a distraction from Hoeppner's preferred method of transit, air travel.

However, a key factor not to miss is the fact that Kellen Lewis leads the team in rushing yards and attempts. Hoeppner has not been shy about putting the ball in the hands of his most talented player. Expect some options, quarterback draws, and a few QB delayed scrambles for yards. My guess is Crable will be eyeballing young Mr. Lewis in anticipation of his match-up across from Mr. Smith.

WR/TE

I mentioned this earlier, Indiana has a legit Big Ten weapon in James Hardy. 38 receptions, 534 yards and 9 TDs. His 9 TDs tie him with Mario Manningham for tops in the Big Ten. He's big, fast, and fun to watch. He is also Indiana's only vertical threat. Teams that have been successful against Indiana have taken him away.

However, don't think that hardy is Lewis' only target. A quick perusal of the Indiana roster reveals that Jahkeen Gilmore has 26 catches and 400 yards, James Bailey has 31 catches and 335, and finally Nick Polk has 29 catches almost 300 yards. That's pretty good ball distribution. Against Indiana you'll likely see three and four wide-out sets. While this will be fun for our D-line, it will require our nickel and dime packages to be awake. These are competent receivers. While none of them are shake-your-head-fast, they will eat up yards when given free space. Skill and speed-wise, our corners are better than their WRs. However, failure to play them tight will allow Indiana to rack up the yards on dink and dunk plays. It'll be interesting to see how English plays the wide outs.

O-Line

They exist. They've only given up 14 sacks this year, but I suspect in large part that is due to Lewis evading people. He was sacked three times against Ohio State. The running game is kind of a joke, gaining only 800 yards so far this season with two different backs and a QB.

This isn't a necessarily horrid line, but it's by no means a good one. They'll stand tall for a quarter before depth and Alan Branch consumes their souls.

Defense

Porous. They gave up 44 points to Ohio State. 63 to Minnesota. Even Illinois put up more than 30. In the Big Ten Indiana ranks 9th in Pass Defense and Rushing Defense, giving up over 230 in the air and over 170 on the ground per game. They rank last in sacks with 11. They're also 9th in red zone defense. Not good.

In Summary

A work in progress, but not an offense to take lightly.

2 Comments:

At 11:25 AM, Anonymous Matt K said...

Here's something I don't get, and maybe you can help me. Why isn't Hoeppner a candidate for other head coaching positions, specifically MSU? I know that when Hoep left Miami, they were all depressed and stuff. He said at the time that the only job he would have left for was Indiana because he's from there. That's a real head-scratcher to me, yet I digress. Doesn't it make more sense to go after a guy who's a proven winner and is widely credited with having a horrible program on the verge of being a bowl competitor? Is MSU really so inept that they wouldn't consider this guy? Am I making any sense here?

 
At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An Indiana fan here. As to the question above, you already gave the answer: Hep's dream job is Indiana, for whatever reason that is. Aside from being passionate about football, he also loves this university and is committed to its growth in all areas. Even if MSU threw bales of money at him, I don't think he would leave.

As a side note, just a little perspective for UM fans here....even if we lose our next two games, I think most Indiana fans would consider this season an astounding success. I can't remember the last time IU won 5 games, including 3 in the Big Ten. 3 in the Big Ten!!!! The fact that we still care about football in November is astonishing to say the least. Win lose or draw, IU fans rest happily in the knowledge that, all things considered, things can only go up or sideways (when you've been down this long, there's little other way to go), and they look to be heading upward at a relatively fast pace. We've been living in the basement for years, and we have finally found the stairwell to the upper floors.

Long story short: we love our coach, and neither wild horses nor cancer nor rival ADs will take him away from us. Best of luck to the Blue on Saturday, and better luck to the Hoosiers (let's be honest, they need it more)

 

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