Indiana, like Penn State, has found only disappointment in 2014, despite some sterling individual performances. Tevin Coleman has rebounded from an injury that cost him the tail end of last season to be, perhaps, the best offensive player in the country--but few others are picking up the slack. Penn State's been ravaged on the offensive line, but Indiana's down to their third-string QB, a true freshman who has struggled to fill Nate Sudfeld's shoes. Like Penn State, Indiana can boast a stirring performance against a vastly superior opponent--they actually beat Missouri, in Missouri--but since then, it's been all downhill, with just one win, against North Texas, in the past five games. What's gone wrong? Our friends over at Crimson Quarry tell all in this exclusive, one-part interview.
Somebody's going to get off the schneid on Saturday. Let's hope it's us.
On to the questions!
Black Shoe Diaries: Tevin Coleman was great last year before getting hurt, but he's seemed to find another gear in 2014. What makes him so good, and what can Penn State--or anyone--do to slow him down?
Crimson Quarry: Tevin Coleman is awesome, that's for sure, and we're all big fans of his at the site. I think what makes Coleman so dangerous is that he can break open a huge run at any time. He's great at finding open holes and juking around defenders, and has a lot of speed when he gets out into the open field. It's a shame - if he were on a better team right now, he'd be a Heisman contender for sure. Don't be surprised if he's drafted next spring either.
BSD: I don't think anyone expected Zander Diamont to be starting this game. Has the true freshman lived up to the hype, or is he more of a work in progress?
CQ: He's most definitely a work in progress. He's a true freshman whose redshirt was burned when starting QB Nate Sudfeld separated his shoulder and backup Chris Covington tore his ACL. Before his first start, there was a bit of excitement about Diamont, considering his background as the son of a soap opera star and the coaches talking him up like he had "a little Johnny football in him." Alas, this excitement has been tempered down after two straight subpar performances against the Michigan teams. The offense is very limited under him, and part of me wishes coach Kevin Wilson and OC Kevin Johns would let him air it out a bit.
BSD: Kevin Wilson's managed to build a team that's been more competitive than most would expect, but it looks like Indiana is in serious jeopardy of missing out on a bowl game for the 6th straight year. Given the realities of playing in the Big Ten East, what's a reasonable upside to expect for the program, moving forward?
CQ: This season has been a disappointment, and has been marred by injuries. At this point, I'm not expecting a bowl either. The B1G east has two very strong teams right now in MSU and OSU, but given how the other four non-IU teams have done this season, there was definitely some room for the Hoosiers to capitalize on a relatively weak division, but it didn't happen like I'd hoped. Moving forward, the Hoosiers need to get back to their strength, which is a potent and exciting offense, and hopefully the defense can improve under Brian Knorr, who was new to IU this year. I think Wilson should get another year considering what things have happened that are out of his control, but I think he's a lot more on the hot seat in Bloomington than ever before.
BSD: Indiana upset Missouri, who's now in the drivers seat in the SEC East. What did the Hoosiers do right that game, and why have they struggled to replicate the performance?
CQ: The Hoosiers had to play nearly perfect to pull off that upset at Mizzou, and they did. The defense consistently got pressure on Matty Mauk, something they've been unable to do as well against other QBs. In addition, the offense did their job, and were able to sustain some longer drives and stay on the field in a way that haven't done in other games. We thought it could be a program-changing performance, but the Hoosiers have gone 1-4 ever since.
BSD: Indiana's defense is ahead of only Illinois in both yardage and scoring. Where is that unit particularly vulnerable, and where will they be able to have success against a struggling Penn State offense?
CQ: I was hoping for an improvement on defense with a new coordinator this season, but for the most part it hasn't happened. There are signs of improvement in tackling and other fundamentals, and young players like Tegray Scales, T.J. Simmons, and Chase Dutra have shown promise; however, the defense has gotten gassed late in games, especially when the offense struggles and they have to stay on the field for longer than expected. IU's pass defense has been suspect this season (Devin Gardner went 22-for-29 against us last week), but I think we could have some success against the run, especially with the way the Nittany Lions have struggled.
BSD: Obviously, everyone knows about Tevin Coleman. But with Cody Latimer's graduation, what other skill players will Penn State have to watch out for on defense?
CQ: We have missed Latimer this season, and with the way Diamont has been playing, our WRs don't look to be huge threats, but Shane Wynn is probably our best receiver. D'Angelo Roberts has also been making noise in the backfield, and has been rotating in and out with Coleman as the tailback.
BSD: How do you see this one shaping up?
CQ: Unfortunately, I can't predict us to win until I see some serious improvement out of our stagnant offense. I think Penn State wins this one, 31-17, as Christian Hackenberg gets into a groove against IU's pass defense, and Tevin Coleman once again is unable to do it all for us.
Thanks again to the folks at Crimson Quarry for their enlightening look at Indiana football. Remember to read CQ all year long for your inside look on Indiana sports--and especially this week, for my answers to their questions. And trust me, there are some good ones.