FORT WAYNE – Indiana comes off a 4-8 season with its eyes on a bowl game. The Hoosiers return 10 starters on offense, eight on defense and have a talented group of freshmen who are expected to contribute immediately.
Here are five storylines as IU enters fall camp, and five things to keep an eye on as the Hoosiers prepare for their opener against Indiana State on Aug. 29 in Bloomington.
1. Quarterback competition remains intense: IU has a three-deep race for its starting signal caller.
Lawrence Central alum Tre Roberson had the job locked down at the start of the 2012 season, but he suffered a broken left leg during a game against Massachusetts that ended his season.
This year, he’ll have to fight for the starting spot, along with junior Cameron Coffman and sophomore Nate Sudfeld. Sudfeld and Coffman split time after Roberson’s injury.
They start on equal ground this time around.
2. Freshmen, sophomores become defensive leaders: The Hoosiers didn’t lose much in terms of starters from 2012 to 2013 – but they gained plenty of talent from one of the best defensive recruiting hauls in IU history.
Those players are highlighted by in-state newcomers Darius Latham, David Kenney and Antonio Allen, among others. And during Big Ten media days in Chicago, Wilson predicted many will wind up with starting jobs, or on the two-deep, by the end of camp.
3. O-Line, wideouts will be strengths: IU receiver Kofi Hughes said the Hoosiers have All-Americans on their offensive line multiple times during the media days.
It’s time to find out whether that’s true. The front five, which lost center Will Matte but returns four young starters, should be one of the better units in the Big Ten. Jason Spriggs, a sophomore left tackle, is one to watch, Wilson said.
Hughes’ unit shouldn’t be overlooked, either. Five players, including tight end Ted Bolser, have a shot at reaching 100 receptions and 1,000 career yards in 2013.
4. Experience could help Hoosiers: Although freshmen will make an impact, another year of experience under Wilson’s staff might be the biggest factor in IU’s success this season.
The Hoosiers were the youngest team in the country in 2012, and they return all of the players that helped IU average 30.8 points last year.
The defense benefits from another year with its scheme, and safety Greg Heban said his unit grew tremendously in the spring and summer.
5. Home games give IU an advantage: The Hoosiers’ first five games will be in Bloomington, which bodes well for setting some momentum as the season starts.
In all, IU has eight home games, including its games against Navy (Sept. 7), Missouri (Sept. 21) and its Big Ten opener against Penn State (Oct. 5).
Keep an eye on
1. Ewald could make history: IU kicker Mitch Ewald is tied for third all-time in field goals made, is fourth in extra points and sixth in overall points entering 2013.
2. One-two punch at running back: Tevin Coleman and Stephen Houston are a fearsome tandem in the backfield. They, coupled with the receiving corps, should make IU one of the best offenses in the Big Ten again.
3. IU prioritizes field position: Not that it wasn’t a focus before, but momentum-sapping special-teams play cost the Hoosiers last season. IU’s return game should be stronger this year, but for the defense to play to its ability, kickoffs – and especially punts – must improve dramatically.
4. Depth improves at tight end: Ted Bolser has been the end-all, be-all for IU the past two seasons. But if Hughes is to be believed, Anthony Coraso – a 6-foot-1, 250-pound sophomore – could bring more depth to the position.
5. Hoosiers must finish games: IU had shots in close games against Ohio State, Michigan State and Navy last season but squandered those chances. To make the jump this year, IU can’t lose those kinds of games.