Aug. 23, 2010
By Larry Watts
Seven points separated Indiana from a 4-8 season rather than a 7-5 finish and possible bowl berth in 2009. Throw in a 24-14 lead over Iowa after three quarters that turned into a 42-24 defeat and that was enough incentive for fourth-year head man Bill Lynch to have the word "FINISH" emblazoned on the Hoosiers' T-shirts for their 2010 offseason workouts.
With eight starters returning on offense, there's no question the Hoosiers have the potential to put points on the board. However, graduation hit the defense hard, where only four starters return, and it was ranked 113th nationally in third down conversions last fall.
OFFENSE: In fifth-year senior Ben Chappell (6-foot-3, 239 pounds), the Hoosiers have one of the premier passers in the Big Ten. Last year, Chappell threw for 2,941 yards and 17 touchdowns, but 15 of his passes landed in the hands of the wrong uniform, a stat the Hoosier coaching staff would like to see come down. Chappell is surrounded by one of the top receiving corps in the conference. First-team All-Big Ten pick Tandon Doss, a junior, led the way in 2009 with 77 catches for 962 yards and five touchdowns. Junior Damario Belcher (61 catches, 770 yards, 5 TDs) and fifth-year senior Terrance Turner (46 receptions, 443 yards) are potential game-breakers. Redshirt freshmen Duwyce Wilson and Jamonne Chester will be pushing all three of the veterans hard for playing time. Junior Max Dedmond (18, 141) made eight starts at tight end last year and proved he can hurt the defense underneath. The big question on the offense is the health of sophomore running back Darius Willis. Plagued by an assortment of injuries last year, Willis (607 yards, 6 TDs) was limited to six starts. He missed the spring game with ankle problems and the early part of fall camp with a hamstring issue. Fifth-year senior Trea Burgess and true freshman Antonio Banks should be in line for plenty of carries. Adding stability to the line with Dedmond will be returning starters Will Matte (6-2, 295) at center, Justin Pagan (6-5, 332) at left guard and James Brewer (6-8, 335) at right tackle. Junior Andrew McDonald (6-6, 304) and fifth-year senior Cody Faulkner (6-5, 315) are in line to take over at left tackle and right guard, respectively.
DEFENSE: Not only did Indiana graduate stalwart defensive ends in Jammie Kirlwe and Greg Middleton along with middle linebacker Matt Mayberry, but also gone are eight of the team's top tackles from 2009. Recognizing the need for immediate help, three skill players have moved over from offense to provide depth in the secondary and Lynch has brought in three solid players from the junior college ranks. Senior linebacker Tyler Replogle (6-2, 238) is the top returning hitter (80 tackles in 2009) for the Hoosiers. His brother, Adam (6-3, 290), and Larry Black Jr. (6-2, 309), both sophomores, are back in the tackle slots. The coaching staff is high on junior Darius Johnson (6-0, 255) and sophomore Kevin Bush (6-3, 252) to fill the need at defensive end. Bush, a transfer from Toledo, may be lean on playing experience, but the experience from serving three-and-half years in the U.S. Army, including a tour of Iraq, will add maturity to the line. Terrence Thomas (6-1, 268) and Deonte Mack (6-3, 285), both seniors, along with junior Fred Jones (6-4, 270) are also expected to be in the mix. Joining the elder Replogle along the second line of defense will be junior Jeff Thomas (6-1, 249) in the middle and sophomore Chad Sherer (6-0, 225) on the weak side. Thomas was a first team junior college All-American last season at Foothill (Calif.) Community College. In the secondary, junior Chris Adkins, who had a season-ending elbow injury in the sixth game last year, is back to challenge returning starter Donnell Jones at free safety. After one year at wide receiver, where he caught 33 passes for 366 yards, senior Mitchell Evans is back on defense where he has the inside track at strong safety. Evans missed the spring game with a hip injury. Cornerback figures to be an interesting battle in fall camp where jucos Lynyatta Kiles and Andre Kates would be challenging junior Matt Ernest and redshirt freshman Lawrence Barnett. Hopefully, the competition will make the Hoosiers better in an area where they yielded 241.9 yards per game last year (ranked 95th nationally).
SPECIAL TEAMS: Punter Chris Hagerup, a junior, and placekicker Nick Freeland, a sophomore, both return to their respective roles in 2010. Hagerup punted for a 40.5-yard average last year and the Hoosiers are counting on a big spike in his average since he was coming off ACL surgery in 2009. Freeland was inconsistent in his first season, making only 14 of 25 field goals, so redshirt freshman Mitch Ewald could offer a strong challenge. The return game should again be in solid hands, where Doss handled both kickoffs (21.3 average) and punts (11.0) last year. Willis is also expected to be back on kickoffs.
MISCELLANEOUS: Hoping to take advantage of increased speed and cut down on big plays, the Hoosier defense is expected to be showing more 3-4 alignments in 2010. A September nonconference schedule of Towson, Western Kentucky and Akron (combined 5-30 in 2009) bodes well for the Hoosiers in building confidence heading into their Big Ten home opener with Michigan on Oct. 2. The home opener with Towson on Sept. 2 marks the second straight year the Hoosiers kick off the season on a Thursday night in Memorial Stadium. The Hoosiers could be in position for a bowl bid by the time they take on Penn State at FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, on Nov. 20. One of the most successful high school coaches in Indiana history, Myron Moriarity, is back for a second stint with the Hoosiers. Moriarity, who served as Gary DiNardo's tight ends coach (2002-04), posted a 241-56 record and won three state titles during 25 years in the prep ranks.