BLOOMINGTON, IN - OCTOBER 08: Tre Roberson #5 of the Indiana Hoosiers runs with the ball against the Illinois Illini during the game at Memorial Stadium on October 8, 2011 in Bloomington, Indiana. Illinois won 41-20. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
ITBUUS rolls on with a look at all things Indiana courtesy of John M, manager of the SB Nation Indiana blog, The Crimson Quarry. Where can hapless IU football fans find glimmers of hope for this season? What parallels can be drawn from the sanction-laden situation that befell IU basketball and the current situation with Penn State football? Which players would comprise of an all-time IU football team that would have a legit shot at winning the Big Ten? These answers and more, if you'll read on...
Record-wise, there wasn't a whole lot of positive about Kevin Wilson's debut as IU football's head coach. However, given that none of us outside the Indiana blogosphere pay close attention to the Hoosiers football team, what were some silver linings from last year that give you some relative optimism for this season?
The main silver linings from the awful 2011 season were in the offensive backfield. First, true freshman quarterback Tre Roberson played very well after landing the starting job in the middle of the season. I'm a big fan of dual threat quarterbacks as a field-leveler for a program like IU (I don't think it's a coincidence that IU's only flirtations with respectability in the past 15 years have come with Antwaan Randle El and then Kellen Lewis at quarterback), although I'm sure he will have to improve as a passer to satisfy the coaching staff.
The other glimmer of hope was Stephen Houston, a sophomore junior college transfer (meaning he has two years of eligibility remaining) who ran for 802 yards and 5.3 yards per carry. Also, as bad as IU's defense was, some of the younger players forced into action, particularly true freshman safety Mark Murphy and redshirt freshman linebacker Chase Hoobler, showed some promise.
I realize football recruiting isn't something Indiana fans really get excited about, but what are some of the new faces the staff hauled in this past year that will potentially help them make a serious push for a bowl bid in the near future?
Not excited about recruiting? I'm excited whenever we sign someone with another Big Ten offer, which does happen sometimes. The class that signed in 2012 included seven junior college transfers, and six of them were defensive players. Of those six, two are listed as starters in IU's first two-deep depth chart (linebackers Jacarri Alexander and David Cooper) and two are listed as backups (DT Justin Rayside, S Ryan Thompson). I expect that IU will be an offense-oriented team for the near future, but making the defense passable is a very important step. It's nice to see that Wilson, despite his offensive background, was very focused on defense during recruiting.
One last football question (I promise): If you could field a 'dream team' of Hoosier football players from any era that would give them the best shot at winning the Big Ten, which names would it include?
Unquestionably, the foundation of such a dream team would be (running back) Anthony Thompson, the 1989 Heisman runner-up who graduated as the NCAA's all-time touchdown leader. Give me Antwaan Randle El at quarterback, James Hardy and Ernie Jones at WR, and any of Bill Mallory's better defense, and I think that IU would be in business.
It looks like IU basketball is finally back to the upper echelon of the Big Ten where they belong. What are the expectations for this upcoming season coming off the program's return to national relevancy?
For the first time in a long time, expectations are very high. Most preseason prognostications I have seen list IU as the preseason number one, and everyone has IU in the top five. I believe that anything short of a Big Ten title and a Final Four appearance will be considered something of a disappointment (barring injuries). That's not to say that anything short of that would be a failure.
I'm very comfortable with the direction of the program even if the 2012-13 Hoosiers don't quite live up to top five expectations. But everyone assumes that Cody Zeller will be going pro after this season, so this does appear to be IU's best chance at a title for a while. It's dizzying, really. At this time last year, I was wondering if IU had the fortitude to win a road game against Evansville. Now, I'm talking about a possible NCAA title with a straight face.
One could draw some parallels between PSU football and IU basketball of the past decade (i.e. mostly mediocrity with a couple of awesome seasons thrown in before the NCAA sanctions storm hit). Aside from having a capable coaching staff that could develop players and recruit well, what was the key for the Indiana fan base being able to weather the rough years for their beloved program?
I do believe there are some strong parallels between IU basketball and Penn State football. Each program is strongly identified with a very powerful and iconic coach, and both programs had strong reputations for integrity before things came crashing down spectacularly. I believe that IU fans stood by the program during the rough years because of a belief that IU had departed from doing things the right way during the Kelvin Sampson era and that starting from scratch was the way to restore IU's tradition.
Frankly, I think the Penn State situation is more difficult because, while IU fans could blame an outsider who didn't understand IU (Sampson), Penn State fans have to grapple with a scandal that arose while the program still was under the watch of its all-time legendary coach. IU fans haven't lowered their expectations (that will be very clear if this season doesn't pan out), but there was a willingness to "take our medicine" that surprised me.
Bill Mallory - Wish he could have had one more year.
Bob Knight - Wish he would come back for a curtain call.
Tom Crean - We're in good hands.
Anthony Thompson - Andre Ware has his trophy.
Bismarck - North Dakota is cold.
Steve Alford - Both Steve and IU are better off now that he's in New Mexico.
And Finally…Give us your prediction on how this year's IU-PSU showdown will play out.
I think this one will pan out about as anyone would have expected a month or a year ago. I realize that there has been some attrition, but IU is still a rebuilding program and Penn State still has a bunch of blue-chippers who wouldn't have given IU a second look. As you know, despite IU's 0-for-forever record against Penn State, the games played in Bloomington (and in Indy in 2000) have been fairly competitive, but this one is on your turf. Let's call it 42-17. I won't be surprised if IU finally gets into the win column against Penn State in the next four years, when IU hopefully has improved and when the sanctions probably will be having a more profound impact, but I'll be very surprised if it happens this year.
Thanks to John once again for his participation. Be sure to check out The Crimson Quarry for all things Indiana-related.