The 2017 offseason is certainly going to be different in Bloomington, Ind. After all, there was an unexpected change at the top of the program and all. With Kevin Wilson ousted for “philispohical differences,” defensive coordinator Tom Allen has been elevated to the head coaching position.
Obviously change is afoot at the top of the program, but there are significant changes to the depth chart as well. Some of the biggest names in recent program history are off to potential NFL futures and that means recruiting will sink or swim Allen’s first year at the helm.
It also means 2017 could be a mystery for one of the most hard-to-read programs in the Big Ten.
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How does all of it add up for the 2017 Indiana Hoosiers football season?
Burning Question: Can Tom Allen Continue the Defensive Transformation?
The secret to Indiana’s success in 2016 was a vastly improved defense. Sure, some may be able to argue there was nowhere to go but up. The reality was, this program didn’t just go up defensively, it actually was able to win games because, not in spite of, the defense.
It is also likely the reason Tom Allen is now the Hoosiers head coach. However, 2017 is going to be a very different season than the first under Allen thanks to some key parts that will be gone for this upcoming season.
That means Allen must find some answers up the middle with the loss of tackle Ralph Green III and linebacker Marcus Oliver. It also means that some younger players who stepped up in 2016 must continue to play at that level or continue to rise.
In all, it may be asking a lot to expect this defense to continue its rise
Biggest Strength: Linebacker
Losing Marcus Oliver hurts, as he was one of the most productive tacklers in the Big Ten. But, the linebacker position is loaded with talent and Oliver’s loss may not be as big of a deal as some are making it out to be.
A lot of that comes from the fact that Tegray Scales decided to come back for his senior season in Bloomington. Scales has been as productive as Oliver, just in a different way throughout his career. After all, Scales led all Big Ten players with 126 tackles last season. He also put up a crazy 23.5 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks…not to mention an interception for a pick-six as well.
Scales comes in to the 2017 season as a favorite for Big Ten Linebacker of the Year, and in a 4-2-5 system like the one Allen plays, having one outstanding linebacker is huge.
However, the reason for this being Indiana’s biggest strength is the fact that fellow soon-to-be Senior, Chris Covington, will be next to him. In a limited role, Covington showed promise with 29 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks in 2016. His role will vastly expand in 2017 and that is a good thing.
So is the fact that Indiana has loaded up on linebackers period over the past few years thanks to a switch to the 3-4 defense just a few years ago. There is depth as well as top-line talent at linebacker for the first time in a long time in Bloomington.
Biggest Weakness: Running Back
If there is a reason to worry about the Hoosiers offense without Kevin Wilson it lies in a very uncertain future in the run game. With Devine Redding off to the NFL a year early, what should’ve been a great situation turns in to a complete unknown.
The Hoosiers rusher for 1,929 yards as a team last season and Redding accounted for 1,122 of those yards. Also gone is the second leading rusher, former quarterback Zander Diamont, who rushed for 244 yards. It leaves soon-to-be sophomore Tyler Natee as the leading returning rusher with just 237 yards and two touchdowns on the season.
In fact, he is the only returning running back with a touchdown to his name on the Hoosiers roster. But, come November, Natee was buried on the depth chart and is likely a situational running back at best given his stature.
We’ll more likely see soon-to-be junior Mike Majette and soon-to-be sophomore Devonte Williams battling it out in spring for the starting job. Are either of them ready to step up to the plate in 2017? The two combined for just 87 carries for just 347 yards last season.
After years of players like Tevin Coleman, D’Angelo Roberts and Jordan Howard in the mix, the 2017 season is certainly an unknown at a position that has been the secret to Indiana’s offensive success.
Let’s just say there are more questions than answers at running back heading in to 2017.
Players to Watch This Offseason:
Richard Lagow, QB:
Few players are as physically intriguing and hard for opposing defenses to prepare for as Lagow is. He’s tall and built like a brick house, but he can also scare you with his overall athletic ability.
However, his first season in Bloomington was an up and down one. He finished last season completing just 57.8 percent of his passes and threw 19 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. Lagow also threw for a ridiculous 3,362 yards despite those previous numbers.
That was likely a product of Wilson’s pass-happy offense, but the overall numbers suggest plenty of room for improvement for the senior quarterback. Can he take this offseason and become a deadly quarterback? He likely won’t have the steady run game he had last season to bail him out at times and he also needs to stay healthy.
Chris Covington, LB:
We talked a bit about Covington before, as he is likely to step in to a starting role for his final season in Bloomington. However, that isn’t a guarantee given the competition that existed at the position before. Let’s see if Covington can live up to expectations as a potential starter or if the competition will get to him. I’m guessing he’ll handle it just fine and emerge from the spring as one of the players everyone is talking about.
Simon Stepaniak, C: One of the areas that is of the biggest concern for the Hoosiers this offseason has to be its offensive line situation. Gone are stalwarts like Dan Feeney and Wes Rodgers. The latter will likely be replaced by soon-to-be sophomore Simon Stepaniak, who was his backup as a redshirt freshman last season. Can Indiana entrust a young offensive line to a player like Stepaniak? Answering that question is going to be a key point to this offseason on the offensive side of the football. Getting a solid anchor in the middle of the line is going to be needed with all the changes around the center as well. Stepaniak has a bright future if you believe the coaching staff from last season, let’s see if that solidifies in spring.
Indiana is coming off of back-to-back bowl game appearances. It is a huge milestone for a program that has struggled mightily to even make single bowl game appearances. However, everything is different for this team in 2017 given all that is gone.
Can this team find a running game given the losses at running back and up the middle of the offensive line? Will the secondary continue to grow and surprise people as a unit? Can Richard Lagow become more accurate of a passer with so many of his weapons from last season also gone?
If those questions aren’t all answered in the affirmative, it could be a dip below .500. Then again, getting Illinois and Purdue as cross-division games is certainly helpful.
Let’s just say there is a lot of unknown for a program that has historically struggled to maintain success.
Archie Miller not afraid to set aggressive tone at Indiana
There is no doubt that new Indiana Hoosiers men’s basketball head coach Archie Miller has high expectations to live up to. Athletic director Fred Glass’ firing of Tom Crean and rational for it made those expectations very clear.
Miller wasn’t afraid to set his own tone for how to meet said expectations. He did so in just one word — aggressive.
That aggressiveness should be easy to see the second Miller’s team steps on the floor for the first time in the 2017-18 season. He made that much clear in his introductory press conference.
“I think the more we’re on the run in the full court and the half court, which means a lot of movement and a lot of pace,” Miller said. “I think our teams at Dayton were known for great ball movement, unselfishness.
“But I told these guys, it’s going to be pace, it’s going to be player movement, flow, and it’s going to be an attacking, aggressive style.”
Miller will want his team to be aggressive, and so was the process of his hire.
A seven-year deal that will doll out $3.35 million a year certainly highlights just how serious Indiana is about getting back to being one of the bluebloods of college basketball.
“I see him as a 20-year guy that is our guy, and will create his own era here at Indiana University,” Glass said, via the Indianapolis Star. “The son of a coach, coaching family, brother at a big-time program … he sees the opportunity as I see it. He’s embracing high expectations.”
Miller’s words also indicate just how serious he is about that ideal as well.
It is also clear that Miller gets what it will take to be successful at Indiana, mainly everyone involved with the program pulling in one direction. From outreach to former players, to making current players feel comfortable in the new style, and making Bloomington, Ind. a destination for the best of the best of the future of basketball — Miller already has a plan in his mind.
Executing that plan will be key to any success Miller and Co. will have at the helm of the Hoosiers basketball program. It will start with the embrace of the former players.
“We’re going to approach our program — I think Fred and I discussed this probably more so than anything, we’re going to approach the program on three levels, and those three levels are going to really be embraced and attacked very hard,” said Miller in his introductory press conference.
“The first level is obviously our past. Every player, every former coach, every former manager that laid the groundwork for this place to be what it is today, we owe them a lot, and our effort level and our give-back has to be really unmatched, and they have to feel that they’re a part of everything that we do, and our players have to feel that power. That’s something we are going to really fight hard for.”
He also made it very clear how aggressive he is going to be in recruiting the state of Indiana and the Big Ten footprint. While others have talked about it, Miller is setting his sights on getting the best players the state has to offer to come on board like they haven’t been.
“The last part of the level, the third level, is the future,” said Miller. “And the future is the recruiting. And we’re going to have a great way about us, and the term that we’ll use is called inside-out. We have to start inside this state of Indiana, and we have to start moving outside very slowly, because the footprint is there.”
“The inside-out approach means that we have to dedicate ourselves to the high school coaches in this state, the high school talent in this state, the grass-roots programs in this state, and they must feel like they’re being dominated by Indiana University. You’re not going to get every player; you understand that.
“But if we want them, we should have a great chance of getting them because of the commitment level that we’re putting forth 24 hours a day at home.”
Betting against a coach with the success he has had and the pedigree of his coaching blood isn’t a smart move. At least he’s willing to embrace high expectations and not dampen the thirst for a national championship-caliber program once again.
Kevin Wilson speaks on being fired from Indiana Hoosiers for first time
2017 has to feel a little strange for Kevin Wilson. After all, he went from Indiana Hoosiers head coach to co-offensive coordinator at Ohio State. Same conference, same division, just a different color scheme.
However, up until this weekend, Wilson has stayed silent on his “resignation” from the Hoosiers head coaching position. Wilson finally opened up a bit following one of Ohio State’s spring practices.
After avoiding the questions about IU, Wilson finally cracked when asked about the treatment of players and rumors of what went on at Indiana.
“We wouldn’t be here doing this job if those things were true,” Wilson said, via CoachingSearch.com. “Anyone can have an opinion. I know the department looked at everything. I know this school’s looked at everything. I know we’re very comfortable with what we’re doing, where we’re at, and we’re excited moving forward.”
Ohio State certainly seemed comfortable, vetting Wilson and his background hard before making him the co-offensive coordinator in January.
It was a good six-year run in Bloomington for Wilson, who went 26-47 overall but led the team to back-to-back bowl berths the last two seasons.
One of the biggest questions surrounding Wilson’s firing was the rumor of intimidation of athletic trainers. Wilson was rather emphatic in his response to a question about that very topic.
“Those guys handled all the decisions. I used to get ridiculed when Tevin Coleman would come out of a game. Those guys ran the ship. They did a great job. You take a losing program and have that kind of success, that’s a great commitment from a lot of people. Those guys were awesome.”
Wilson also pointed out that his relationship with most players at IU was a good one. Any questions about that were put to rest with a story about one of his ex-players from Indiana.
“I got a message from (an IU) kid the other night who was going through a situation, just said, ‘Hey, I appreciate everything you did. You made me tough as nails, and I love you,’” Wilson said.
Indiana may not have been comfortable enough to move on with Wilson, but it certainly seems as if Ohio State is more than comfortable having him lead the offense this season.
Now that the questions have largely been answered, perhaps the media in Columbus can get on to the task of asking questions about the actual 2017 Buckeyes football team.
2017 talking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards Special
The Big Ten may have its awards, but what is the point of watching endless hours of Big Ten basketball without putting our two cents in, right?
Welcome to the 2017 taking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards special. Our hope is to educate you on the names that dominated our conversations and the hardwood across the Big Ten this season.
So, sit back and enjoy our special for your viewing pleasure.
Indiana Hoosiers to Host Ohio State To Open 2017 College Football Season
The Big Ten football conference has been all about tradition. It’s perhaps the biggest selling point along with the increased level of play today. Trophies matter, rivalries are real and hilarious at the same time and conference football is best in October and November.
However, the modern nature of college football is changing a lot of things. One of the biggest changes is the tradition of when the Big Ten season starts. No change will be bigger than the one announced by the Indiana Hoosiers today.
IU will play host to Ohio State to kick off not only Big Ten play, but also the 2017 season…
🚨 Thursday Night Football 🚨
🗓 Thursday, Aug. 31
🏈 #iufb vs. Ohio State
📍 Memorial Stadium
— Indiana Football (@IndianaFootball) December 13, 2016
Yes, the Big Ten will join the likes of the SEC and ACC and see conference football from start to finish for the 2017 season.
To say this is an oddity would be an understatement…after all, Indiana hasn’t opened a season against a Big Ten foe since 1982 (when this writer wasn’t even a year old). That’s how rare a season-opener featuring two Big Ten teams has been in the modern era of college football.
It is a move that also screams of genius on the part of both teams. After all, in a weekend that usually sees cupcake matchups galore, these two teams are likely to take center stage on the national landscape on the first day of the college football season.
Let’s just hope this isn’t a trend for the conference, unless it is Indiana doing the hosting on an annual basis. That would just be smart marketing for the Hoosiers football program, a program that could use any advantage it has.