Bloomington, Indiana is the site for another edition of our “Big Ten Tour” series which will be highlighting the Indiana Hoosiers.
The purpose of BTT is to interview writers who are closely connected with their respective programs from around the conference. It’s always good to know your opponent and what people who cover them have to say.
Adam Johnson, managing editor of SB Nation’s Crimson Quarry, took some time to answer some questions about the upcoming season for the Hoosiers.
JH: Talk a little about the current quarterback battle that’s happening right now in camp. A lot of noise is being made about redshirt sophomore Tre Roberson and his abilities. Do you feel that he has a legitimate shot to start? If not, who do you feel the winner is going to be?
Johnson: Tre Roberson is the favorite to be the starter in my opinion. He had the spot last year and is incredibly dynamic player. He’s got a big arm and is fast as all get out. Without the injury he would have likely held that starter spot for quite some time. That being said, he did get hurt and the two guys that stepped in to fill his shoes did so quite admirably. We’re only a week away from game one of the season and it still hasn’t been decided. Cam Coffman has the poise to lead the team to big wins, Nate Sudfeld has the arm and skill of a more traditional pocket passer. I could see either of the three starting, but I’d put Roberson at 1a.
JH: The Hoosiers are faced with two key looses on the defensive line with tackles Adam Replogle and Larry Black no longer with the program. How will the team bounce back and perform on the line?
Johnson: This isn’t a knock on Replogle or Black, but I think Indiana is better off this year than last. Replogle and Black were great guys for us as seniors, but they were both relatively undersized. Their replacements are bigger and in the long run more talented. The ends will also be an improvement from last year which means that the DTs won’t be asked to do nearly as much as in the past. Black and Replogle were a bit victims of circumstance in a way. That shouldn’t be as much the case this year. The D-Line will be better, though still not likely world beaters in their youth and inexperience.
JH: Considering Indiana had a one-win season in 2011 and improved to a four-win team in 2012 and nearly knocked off Ohio State. Is it reasonable to assume the Hoosiers will make strides again this season?
Johnson: It’s a real disappointment if they don’t. Vegas has their over/under at 5.5 wins this year and I think most of Hoosier Nation would take the over on that. A soft, Alabama-like 8 game home schedule where all of the easy ones come to town puts Indiana in a great position to succeed and make a bowl game. Indiana State, Bowling Green, Navy, Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue don’t really strike fear into the hearts of any college football team. I think most of us expect to get at least 6 of those 7 games in the win column.
JH: Talk about the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Who are expected to step up and have big years for the Hoosiers?
Johnson: I don’t think it would be too insane of a statement to say Indiana will have one of the best offenses in the conference this year. They’re a very dynamic squad that contains the most of our veteran talent. We also know what Kevin Wilson is capable as an offensive guy, so I’d look for Cody Latimer at WR getting himself into the early rounds of the NFL draft conversation. He’s big, he’s fast and he’s your prototype for a red zone receiver. Also look for Stephen Houston running the ball. If he gets the opportunities most traditional offenses get to run the ball, he has potential for a very good 1000 yard season. On defense, things aren’t as rosy. Though I don’t expect them to be historically bad like they’ve been the last couple of years, but no one would actually say that they are going to be good either. If they fall in the spectrum of very bad to average, then the offense can take care of the rest. As far as standouts, look for former walk-on Greg Heban to get a lot of buzz in the conference. Once a outfielder for the baseball team, he led the defense in tackles last year from the safety spot. Not the most athletically gifted, he has a real sixth sense for where the ball is going to be. He’s a smart, motor player that will get a little more respect as the defense improves around him.
JH: Are there any incoming freshman that come to mind who could have an impact on the program day one?
Johnson: The biggest question for Indiana’s defense is right here. David Kenney has apparently been incredibly impressive at defensive end this summer. Rashard Fant is likely a big minutes getter at cornerback due to depth issues and his athleticism. Top 250 DT recruit Darius Latham is massive, but is very quick for his 6’6″ 300 lbs frame. He’s been getting reps at DE as well, so he may be able to provide a mismatch with his size and speed on the outside as well as holding the anchor in the interior. A lot of this year’s defensive improvements will depend on some highly rated freshmen being able to contribute by October.
JH: What are some major concerns you have with this team so far?
Johnson: The secondary is a very big question mark for Indiana. The CBs have traditionally been a very weak position for Indiana and it’s traditionally one of the hardest positions to transition to from high school. All the inexperience in the CB corps means that we’re probably going to see some poor guys victimized over and over. Add to that a thin LB corps getting thinner with the loss of Chase Hoobler and we could see some passing games running amok on Indiana at times through the season. Especially Navy’s evil triple option.
JH: What are your expectations for the Hoosiers this season?
Johnson: Get better and make a bowl. We want Indiana and it’s young talent to grow up to be good so fast, that I think a lot of Hoosier Nation is overlooking the fact that Indiana is still very young and inexperienced in key positions. That being said, I think Vegas is spot on with 5.5 wins. If Indiana achieves the over and makes a bowl game, that’s a successful season. Get to 7 wins and we may light a couch on fire. Play upset specialist and knock off Michigan, Penn State or Michigan State in route to 8 games and we’ll probably fold the program up and call it a franchise while we can still go out on a high note.