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BREAKING: The Indiana offense will be good again in 2016. So ... what about the defense?

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Kevin Wilson took Indiana to a bowl game! But if he wants to do more, he better hope his latest defensive changes produce results. This is Bill C.'s 128-team run through college football.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.

1. Urgency and missed opportunities

It feels different when you don't know if you're going to get another shot.

Indiana's 2015 season was, by Indiana's historical standards, a rousing success. The Hoosiers bowled for just the second time in 22 years and the 10th time ever. That alone made it somewhat special. They ranked in the S&P+ top 60 for the second time in three years, and unlike the other strong performance (2013), this one included a sixth win. As part of a long rebuild, that's unquestionably a good thing.

But there was probably more than a twinge of regret involved, too.

After a 4-0 start that included a win over WKU that was more impressive than we maybe realized at the time, Indiana lost six games in a row, through varying degrees of heartbreak and late frustration.

  • After a 79-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Zander Diamont, the Hoosiers trailed defending national champion Ohio State by just seven points in the fourth quarter. They got the ball back with a chance to tie and had first-and-goal from the OSU 6 with under a minute left. But a false start penalty, two short rushes, and two incompletions ended the comeback seven points short.
  • They took a 52-27 lead over Rutgers with 5:25 left in the third quarter, then got outscored 28-0 over the last 20 minutes.
  • They trailed eventual Big Ten champion Michigan State by only a 28-26 margin heading into the fourth quarter in East Lansing, then got outscored 24-0 the rest of the way.
  • They trailed eventual Big Ten West champion Iowa 21-20 with 13 minutes left, then gave up two touchdowns in seven minutes and fell, 35-27.
  • Against Michigan, they took a seven-point lead with just under three minutes left but allowed a 41-yard bomb on third down, then gave up a five-yard TD pass on fourth-and-goal with two seconds left and lost in overtime.

That the Hoosiers rallied from this stretch to dominate in their final two games to finish bowl-eligible was impressive, even if it only led to more heartbreak -- in the Pinstripe Bowl, Duke tied the game with under a minute left, then won in overtime when an Indiana field goal attempt went just wide (maybe).

Success or not, this was a season rife with what-ifs. And when you're at a school that hasn't been historically successful, what-ifs ache a little bit longer. You're not guaranteed another shot at beating Michigan and Ohio State in the same season anytime soon. And when you haven't won a bowl in 25 years, losing one hurts quite a bit.

That said, Indiana's progress under Kevin Wilson over the last few years has been undeniable. Over 11 years from 2002-12, the Hoosiers' average S&P+ ranking was 86.9; over the last three years, however, it's been 58.7. 2015 proved that Indiana is not yet deep enough to consistently challenge good teams for a full 60 minutes (instead of just 45), but progress is progress.

Whether Indiana progresses further will depend on the defense. The Hoosiers ranked sixth in Off. S&P+ in 2013 and 19th in 2015; you can't rise too much further than that. But in Wilson's five seasons in charge, they have never ranked better than 91st in Def. S&P+. And after three years with Doug Mallory as his defensive coordinator and two more with Brian Knorr, he's now put former Ole Miss assistant and USF DC Tom Allen in charge of his defense. If the changes take, IU will keep rising. But it's clear what is still holding the Hoosiers back at this point.

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 6-7 | Adj. Record: 8-5 | Final F/+ Rk: 61 | Final S&P+ Rk: 60
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
5-Sep Southern Illinois N/A 48-47 W 50% 66% -8.6
12-Sep Florida International 112 36-22 W 67% 81% +5.4 +6.5
19-Sep Western Kentucky 15 38-35 W 71% 44% +6.0 +1.5
26-Sep at Wake Forest 92 31-24 W 68% 87% +10.1 +3.5
3-Oct Ohio State 3 27-34 L 43% 4% +12.2 +14.0
10-Oct at Penn State 47 7-29 L 31% 8% -10.2 -15.5
17-Oct Rutgers 101 52-55 L 57% 74% -23.1 -3.0
24-Oct at Michigan State 9 26-52 L 46% 21% -13.2 -9.5
7-Nov Iowa 38 27-35 L 50% 23% +2.4 -1.0
14-Nov Michigan 8 41-48 L 52% 12% +10.1 +6.0
21-Nov at Maryland 76 47-28 W 76% 94% +19.9 +21.5
28-Nov at Purdue 93 54-36 W 70% 90% +14.8 +11.0
26-Dec vs. Duke 74 41-44 L 72% 71% -6.3 -5.0

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 38.5 19 34.5 105
Points Per Game 36.5 24 37.6 117

2. One hell of a salvage job

The rebound following the six-game losing streak was indeed impressive. When you've suffered as many setbacks as the Hoosiers, it's easy to fall into a downward spiral. Though one fourth-quarter collapse begot another, IU rarely let a collapse affect the next week's play.

  • First 4 games:
    Record: 4-0 | 63% (~top 45) | Yards per play: IU 6.8, Opp 6.4 (+0.4)
  • Next 6 games:
    Record: 0-6 | 47% (~top 70) | Yards per play: Opp 6.8, IU 5.5 (-1.3)
  • Last 3 games:
    Record: 2-1 | 73% (~top 35) | Yards per play: IU 7.1, Opp 5.6 (+1.5)

An offense that briefly fell apart with Nate Sudfeld hurt, rebounded nicely. (Even with the way Michigan's defense was fading, scoring 41 points and averaging 5.9 yards per play is impressive against that unit.) Meanwhile, a defense hurt by non-stop shuffling in the secondary actually showed occasional hints of gelling.

Adjusting for opponent (per these percentile performances) puts these shifts into perspective. They weren't as dramatic as the plot twists other teams have to deal with, but they were just enough to flip IU from winning close games to losing them.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.32 36 IsoPPP+ 117.9 22
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 44.7% 29 Succ. Rt. + 111.6 28
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 29.0 49 Def. FP+ 26.7 13
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.7 44 Redzone S&P+ 109.8 36
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 20.3 ACTUAL 14 -6.3
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 14 22 28 22
RUSHING 26 39 48 37
PASSING 22 14 15 14
Standard Downs 25 34 24
Passing Downs 22 25 22
Q1 Rk 62 1st Down Rk 24
Q2 Rk 11 2nd Down Rk 20
Q3 Rk 21 3rd Down Rk 26
Q4 Rk 47

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Nate Sudfeld 247 412 3573 27 7 60.0% 9 2.1% 8.3
Zander Diamont 6'1, 174 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7917 15 31 166 0 0 48.4% 3 8.8% 4.4
Danny Cameron 6'1, 210 So. NR 0.8400 6 16 65 0 1 37.5%
Donavan Hale 6'4, 217 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8229
Austin King 6'2, 201 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8535
Richard Lagow 6'6, 240 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8252
Peyton Ramsey 6'2, 190 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8386

3. A QB-friendly offense

Kevin Wilson has been at the helm of a lot of successful offenses. Teams with Wilson as either a head coach or offensive coordinator (Miami (Ohio), Northwestern, Oklahoma, Indiana) have averaged at least 30 points per game 14 times. He's scored points with blue-chippers, and he's done so without them.

With a full offseason to move on from the loss of quarterback Nate Sudfeld, I'm going to assume IU will be just fine. There's a red flag in the way the Hoosiers played when he was hurt -- the Hoosiers scored just seven points with him out against Penn State in 2015 and averaged just 17.8 PPG when he missed the final six games of 2014. But the replacement in 2014 was an extremely young Zander Diamont, and after Diamont did reasonably well against Ohio State last year, he himself was knocked out of the Penn State game, leaving third-stringer Danny Cameron to get knocked around by the Nittany Lions.

There appears to be no shortage of applicants when it comes to replacing Sudfeld this fall. Diamont is back and far more seasoned than he was two falls ago. Of course, he also missed spring ball with injury, which gave JUCO transfer and one-time Oklahoma State signee Richard Lagow a chance to prove himself. Lagow didn't ace his test, but it sounded like he got a solid B+.

It appears Lagow, Diamont, and Cameron will all have a shot at the job when fall camp begins. If Lagow wins the job, I figure there's a chance that Diamont, with his excellent mobility, will have a chance to carve out a niche in short-yardage. But despite the lackluster non-Sudfeld results over the last couple of years, I really struggle to doubt Wilson when it comes to QB play.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Devine Redding RB 5'10, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8478 226 1012 9 4.5 6.5 28.3% 0 0
Jordan Howard RB 197 1213 9 6.2 4.8 47.2% 1 0
Mike Majette RB 5'11, 204 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8517 37 181 0 4.9 4.9 37.8% 1 0
Nate Sudfeld QB 37 125 5 3.4 3.5 32.4% 5 2
Andrew Wilson RB 24 73 1 3.0 2.5 25.0% 0 0
Zander Diamont QB 6'1, 174 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7917 15 151 2 10.1 13.0 46.7% 1 0
Alex Rodriguez RB 5'10, 225 So. NR NR 12 35 1 2.9 2.9 16.7% 0 0
Ricky Brookins RB 5'8, 193 So. NR NR 10 72 0 7.2 11.1 40.0% 1 1
Camion Patrick RB 6'2, 223 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8644
Devonte Williams RB 5'10, 181 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8488
Kiante Enis RB 6'2, 205 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8640







Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Simmie Cobbs, Jr. WR 6'4, 220 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8256 110 60 1035 54.5% 24.7% 9.4 55.5% 48.2% 1.80
Ricky Jones WR 5'10, 184 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7800 95 54 906 56.8% 21.3% 9.5 66.3% 50.5% 1.72
Mitchell Paige SLOT 5'7, 175 Sr. NR NR 80 57 684 71.3% 18.0% 8.6 71.3% 56.2% 1.45
J-Shun Harris II
(2014)
SLOT 5'8, 170 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7733 30 18 168 60.0% 10.1% 5.6 70.0% N/A N/A
Anthony Corsaro TE 23 10 142 43.5% 5.2% 6.2 47.8% 34.8% 1.51
Michael Cooper TE 22 17 205 77.3% 4.9% 9.3 59.1% 59.1% 1.45
Damon Graham WR 18 10 102 55.6% 4.0% 5.7 55.6% 38.9% 1.26
Devine Redding RB 5'10, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8478 18 12 85 66.7% 4.0% 4.7 38.9% 33.3% 1.33
Jordan Howard RB 16 11 106 68.8% 3.6% 6.6 56.3% 43.8% 1.36
Andre Booker WR 14 9 198 64.3% 3.1% 14.1 64.3% 42.9% 3.39
Nick Westbrook WR 6'3, 213 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8347 11 6 69 54.5% 2.5% 6.3 45.5% 45.5% 1.36
Mike Majette RB 5'11, 204 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8517 7 5 44 71.4% 1.6% 6.3 57.1% 28.6% 2.33
Jordan Fuchs TE 6'6, 230 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8248 7 4 38 57.1% 1.6% 5.4 71.4% 57.1% 0.89
Isaac Griffith WR 6'0, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8222 6 5 54 83.3% 1.3% 9.0 66.7% 83.3% 1.05
Danny Friend TE 6'5, 260 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8425 3 3 39 100.0% 0.7% 13.0 33.3% 100.0% 0.96
Luke Timian WR 6'0, 190 So. 2 stars (5.4) NR 2 2 51 100.0% 0.4% 25.5 50.0% 100.0% 2.93
Marqui Hawkins WR 6'2, 216 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8707
Isaac James SLOT 5'11, 194 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8563
Austin Dorris TE 6'5, 247 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8320
Ian Thomas TE 6'5, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8138
Jonah Morris WR 6'4, 200 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8813
Taysir Mack WR 6'2, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8311

4. The only thing missing: run efficiency

If quarterback isn't an issue for Indiana, I can't imagine anything else will. The receiving corps returns last year's top three targets; Simmie Cobbs Jr., Ricky Jones, and Mitchell Paige combined to gain 2,265 receiving yards last year at 9.2 yards per target, and bouncy slot receiver J-Shun Harris II returns after missing 2015 as well. The ranks have thinned at tight end, but that only matters so much in this offense.

Meanwhile, though UAB refugee Jordan Hoawrd is gone after a one-year Indiana career, but the duo of Devine Redding and Mike Majette returns, and at some point, JUCO running back Camion Patrick might join them.

A onetime Tennessee commit, Patrick was ineligible last season, but Wilson raved about him during bowl practices. He then proceeded to tear his ACL in spring ball and will likely miss at least half of the season. But his injury would be a lot worse for IU if the Hoosiers didn't have Redding.

It's not always smart to base too much of a conclusion off of three games, but after struggling with efficiency for most of the season (10 games in, Redding had 511 yards at 3.5 yards per carry), Redding erupted late. He carried 24 times for 130 yards against Maryland, then 22 for 144 against Purdue, then 35 for 227 against Duke in New York. In three games, he nearly doubled his season yardage total.

Redding looks like a high-efficiency bowling ball, but his season numbers last year gave the impression of a lithe speedster. He was dreadfully inefficient -- his opportunity rate improved late but only to a still-awful 28 percent (the national average is 39 percent) -- but showed nice explosiveness. Howard and Majette, meanwhile, were basically the opposite: far more efficient (Howard in particular) but less explosive.

If Redding can at least drag his opportunity rate into the mid-30s, his explosiveness will play. But an inefficient run game will lead to a new quarterback throwing a lot of passes on second- or third-and-long. Not optimal, even with a tremendous receiving corps.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 108.2 3 3.05 36.3% 69.8% 19.1% 237.4 1.5% 4.3%
Rank 35 47 83 97 38 59 8 7 13
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Jason Spriggs LT 13 47 2015 All-American, 2015 2nd All-Big Ten
Dan Feeney RG 6'4, 310 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8444 13 37 2015 All-American, 2015 2nd All-Big Ten
Jake Reed C 13 24
Dimitric Camiel RT 6'7, 310 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7900 13 17
Jacob Bailey LG 6'5, 295 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8342 7 12
Wes Martin LG 6'3, 310 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8060 6 6
Wes Rogers C 6'4, 305 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8631 0 3
Brandon Knight LT 6'5, 290 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8600 0 0
Delroy Baker LT 6'6, 305 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8409 0 0
Tim Gardner RT NR 0 0
DeAndre Herron RT NR 0 0
Hunter Littlejohn C 6'3, 295 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8513

Simon Stepaniak RG 6'4, 305 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8442

DaVondre Love RT 6'7, 310 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8094

Coy Cronk OL 6'5, 278 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8644

Mackenzie Nworah OL 6'4, 305 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8472

Grayson Stover OL 6'6, 295 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8458

5. One All-American gone, one All-American back

The offensive line did a good job of protecting Sudfeld, and Sudfeld helped his own cause with a quick release. Meanwhile, the run stats were ... okay. They weren't terrible, but with two All-Americans (tackle Jason Spriggs, guard Dan Feeney), you might have expected a little better.

Spriggs is gone, but Feeney and four others with starting experience return. The passing game should remain strong, but again, inefficient running could doom Indiana against better defenses, and the line might not be any better than it was last year. It might even be worse without Spriggs.

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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.40 113 IsoPPP+ 86.1 112
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 43.4% 87 Succ. Rt. + 97.7 70
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 29.4 76 Off. FP+ 31.4 32
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.9 108 Redzone S&P+ 87.6 113
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 26.2 ACTUAL 22.0 -4.2
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 121 97 70 112
RUSHING 96 109 67 122
PASSING 127 89 76 93
Standard Downs 98 72 109
Passing Downs 101 90 103
Q1 Rk 108 1st Down Rk 99
Q2 Rk 122 2nd Down Rk 94
Q3 Rk 30 3rd Down Rk 119
Q4 Rk 113

6. Another defensive reinvention

"I do need that defensive leader to be kind of strong. Sometimes it's your talent -- it's taken us some time to build that. But we've had better talent and depth on offense. If I could go back and do something different, I would have wanted to have had a higher defensive standard." [...]

"I set what's tolerated and what's not, and while we've created an offensive culture, we haven't created a defensive culture. If we can get the defense to start helping the offense, think of how good the offense could be."

-- Kevin Wilson, Blueprint for a Rebuild (2014)

116th, 110th, 95th, 91st, 105th. That's IU's Def. S&P+ ranking for each year Wilson has been in charge. He inherited a unit that ranked 111th the year before his arrival and has engineered only the slightest of improvement. It's why, in two seasons with a top-20 offense (2013, 2015), Indiana went only 11-14.

Former defensive coordinator Brian Knorr attempted to get aggressive with the IU defense, and the approach occasionally paid off. The line produced three players with at least 10 tackles for loss, the linebacking corps had three with at least six, and the top five tacklers in the secondary combined for 8.5 TFLs and 35 passes defensed. But the Hoosiers also gave up 87 gains of 20-plus yards, third-most in FBS.

It's one thing to risk some big plays in the name of efficiency. Its another to achieve only moderate efficiency while giving up more big plays than almost anybody in the country. Injuries played a role in these breakdowns -- only two of the top six tacklers on the line played in all 13 games, and thanks to injuries and shuffling, 15 different defensive backs recorded at least 5 tackles. Fifteen!

Still, Wilson felt the need to make another change. Knorr is out, and Tom Allen is in.

Allen was Dave Wommack's right-hand man at Ole Miss when Wommack was implementing his aggressive, thrilling 4-2-5 defense for Hugh Freeze. The Rebels immediately improved from 55th to 25th in Def. S&P+ in 2012 when Freeze, Wommack, Allen, and company arrived. Two years later, when star recruits were taking over, the defense improved to No. 1 and created a nickname: the Land Sharks.

In 2015, Allen took the USF defensive coordinator job; the results were again immediate: The Bulls improved from 96th in Def. S&P+ to 46th.

Allen is an aggressive coach, preferring for his defense to take the fight to the offense. He inherits a defense that returns almost every member of the linebacking corps and secondary, and with so many defensive back injuries last year, IU now boasts one of the most experienced DB units in the country. But the Hoosiers have to rebuild up front, and while having a good line is important for any defense, it's particularly important for a defense that willingly sacrifices size (extra linebacker) for speed (extra DB) in the back.

I love this hire. But I thought the Knorr hire made sense, too. We'll see what Allen can do with a thin line.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 101 2.83 3.68 37.3% 67.3% 19.9% 94.9 3.9% 7.2%
Rank 56 57 110 55 76 66 74 101 69
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Zack Shaw DE 13 45.0 5.8% 11.5 4.0 0 4 0 0
Nick Mangieri DE 13 42.0 5.4% 12.0 9.5 0 6 2 0
Darius Latham DT 11 24.5 3.1% 10.0 4.0 1 1 0 0
Robert McCray III DE 6'2, 274 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 11 14.0 1.8% 5.5 1.5 0 1 0 0
Ralph Green III DT 6'5, 320 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8003 12 13.0 1.7% 3.5 1.0 0 6 0 0
Shawn Heffern DE
12 11.5 1.5% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Adarius Rayner NT 13 11.0 1.4% 3.0 0.0 0 2 0 0
Greg Gooch DE 6'2, 257 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8422 12 10.5 1.3% 1.0 1.0 0 0 1 0
Jacob Robinson DE 6'4, 277 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8432 13 5.0 0.6% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Nile Sykes DE 6'2, 252 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8722 12 4.5 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Nate Hoff NT 6'2, 302 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7500 13 4.0 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Patrick Dougherty DT 6'5, 290 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7947
Mike Barwick, Jr. NT 6'0, 300 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8482
Ja'merez Bowen DT 6'4, 310 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8300
Derrian Meminger DE 6'4, 281 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000
Brandon Wilson DE 6'3, 265 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8473
Omari Stringer DE 6'4, 219 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8271
Joe Belden NT 6'2, 260 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8317

7. A rebuild up front

All three of last year's 10-TFL linemen are gone, but IU does have at least a couple of experienced pieces. Ralph Green III is enormous and as good as anybody at batting down passes at the line, while end Robert McCray III did manage 5.5 TFLs for himself. They are keepers, and at the least, junior end Greg Gooch isn't totally green.

This line has to hold up if the IU defense is going to improve, and that will mean at least a couple of redshirt freshmen or sophomores playing at a high level. Sophomre end Nile Sykes was well touted in high school, and Jacob Robinson is athletic. There might be a little bit of potential here. But it has to be tapped, post haste.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Marcus Oliver MLB 6'1, 236 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8009 13 88.5 11.3% 6.5 1.0 2 4 4 0
T.J. Simmons MLB 6'0, 229 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8104 13 53.5 6.8% 6.0 3.0 0 1 0 0
Tegray Scales STINGER 6'0, 227 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8766 11 52.0 6.6% 5.5 3.0 2 4 0 0
Clyde Newton STINGER 6'1, 227 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8182 13 39.0 5.0% 2.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Dameon Willis, Jr. MLB 6'1, 229 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8342 13 12.0 1.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Chris Covington STINGER 6'2, 232 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 8 2.5 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Reakwon Jones MLB 6'2, 226 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8057
Jayme Thompson HUSKY 6'2, 188 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8585








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Jonathan Crawford SS 6'2, 194 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8482 13 62.0 7.9% 1 1 4 1 1 0
Rashard Fant CB 5'10, 174 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8862 13 50.0 6.4% 1.5 0 1 22 0 0
Chase Dutra FS 6'1, 199 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8356 8 49.5 6.3% 4 0 0 2 1 0
Andre Brown Jr. SS 6'0, 196 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8282 9 31.0 4.0% 0 0 0 4 0 0
Dawson Fletcher HUSKY 6'0, 218 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7933 13 21.0 2.7% 2 0 0 1 0 0
Tony Fields SS 5'11, 198 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8435 13 17.0 2.2% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Tyler Green CB 6'3, 193 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8668 8 15.0 1.9% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Will Dawkins FS
9 14.5 1.9% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Jameel Cook Jr. FS 6'1, 196 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8327 8 13.5 1.7% 0 0 1 1 0 0
Kiante Walton HUSKY 6'2, 215 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8056 2 11.5 1.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ben Bach CB 6'1, 195 Jr. NR NR 13 10.0 1.3% 1 0 0 1 0 0
Leon Thornton III CB 6'1, 200 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8622 12 8.5 1.1% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Zeke Walker HUSKY 6'2, 222 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8155 4 6.5 0.8% 1 0 0 0 1 0
Mario Swann FS 6'1, 205 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 13 6.0 0.8% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Noel Padmore CB 5'11, 178 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8218 13 5.0 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wesley Green
(South Carolina)
CB 5'10, 183 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9279
Kahlil Bryant DB 5'10, 200 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8435
Brandon Drayton DB 6'2, 170 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8432

8. One of the most improved units in the country

It feels odd being this confident in a unit that got torched a lot last season, but here I am. I really think the Indiana secondary will improve dramatically this fall. Rarely does a team have to deal with this many personnel issue in-season, and the resulting experience could pay off. And with this many experienced pieces coming back, this was unintentionally the perfect time to move to a five-DB system!

Corner Rashard Fant is one of the most active corners in the country; he was third in FBS in passes defensed, even if he was only able to hold onto one interception. Meanwhile, Jonathan Crawford picked off four passes as a freshman, Chase Dutra made four TFLs in eight games as a sophomore, and lots of other freshmen and sophomores got their feet wet, too.

South Carolina transfer and former four-star recruit Wesley Green joins the mix as well. The secondary appears deeper at safety than corner, but I'm just not very concerned. If the front line holds up, the back of the defense will do well. (Spoiler: The front line might not hold up.)

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Erich Toth 63 41.7 5 14 17 49.2%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Griffin Oakes 5'10, 200 Jr. 91 62.9 52 2 57.1%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Griffin Oakes 5'10, 200 Jr. 53-57 18-20 90.0% 6-9 66.7%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Damon Graham KR 24 21.1 0
Devonte Williams KR 5'10, 180 So. 10 20.4 0
Mitchell Paige PR 5'7, 176 Sr. 18 11.1 2
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 42
Field Goal Efficiency 31
Punt Return Success Rate 58
Kick Return Success Rate 116
Punt Success Rate 74
Kickoff Success Rate 33

9. Returning your strengths

IU was good at place-kicking, kickoffs, and punt returns and less than good at kick returns and punts. The Hoosiers return their place-kicker (Griffin Oakes), their kickoffs guy (Oakes), and their punt returner (Mitchell Paige) while losing their kick returner and punter.

Perfect! Oakes has a huge leg that he sometimes loses control of, but he makes IU a scoring threat as soon as the Hoosiers cross the opponent's 35. Paige, meanwhile, was a little bit boom-or-bust, but that's not the worst thing in the world when you've got enough booms.

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
1-Sep at Florida International 113 13.0 77%
10-Sep Ball State 101 15.4 81%
24-Sep Wake Forest 74 6.8 65%
1-Oct Michigan State 22 -6.2 36%
8-Oct at Ohio State 14 -16.0 18%
15-Oct Nebraska 26 -4.2 40%
22-Oct at Northwestern 46 -4.8 39%
29-Oct Maryland 62 4.4 60%
5-Nov at Rutgers 87 3.5 58%
12-Nov Penn State 28 -3.9 41%
19-Nov at Michigan 6 -18.9 14%
26-Nov Purdue 88 10.5 73%
Projected wins: 6.0
Five-Year F/+ Rk -9.2% (80)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 55 / 55
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 8 / 5.9
2015 TO Luck/Game +0.9
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 66% (47%, 84%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 6.8 (-0.8)

10. All on the defense

The offense replaces quite a bit of production, but a Kevin Wilson offense is rarely bad. The defense returns a ton of production, especially in the back, but a Wilson defense has yet to be good. IU is in a bit of a weird place this year, and quite a range of outcomes is possible. If the new defensive leadership takes hold and the offense holds steady, then IU could win eight or more games this fall. Only trips to Ohio State and Michigan are true, likely losses. But if the offense struggles with turnover, and the defense remains the same, then ... well, there are only about three true, likely wins.

Wilson was one of the best offensive coordinators in football in the 2000s. As Indiana head coach, he's once again proven himself a bright offensive mind. But the defense will define his ceiling, and the length of his tenure, moving forward.