Big Ten Team Previews: Indiana


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It’s been a series of baby steps for Kevin Wilson and the Indiana football team.

In Wilson’s first year, 2011, the Hoosiers turned in an abysmal 1-11 record. But in his second year, the team took a step forward and went 4-8. His third year, 2013, Indiana went 5-7, and narrowly missed out on bowl eligibility.

Now, in 2014, the expectations are high for the Hoosiers. This is the year, Wilson said, that they will take the next step and reach a postseason bowl game.

“I think it’s noted; our deal is always constant, consistent daily improvement,” Wilson said at the Big Ten media days in Chicago in July. “As we went through winter, into spring, and now summer, I feel very comfortable. I really like the direction the team’s going.”

The Hoosiers have made their biggest strides offensively during the Wilson Era. In 2012, Indiana led the Big Ten with 311.2 passing yards per game.

Last year, the Hoosiers’ offense was, again, one of the more explosive units in the conference. Indiana featured the Big Ten’s second-best offense (38.4 points per game), behind only Ohio State (45.5).

All of this makes sense, too, given that Wilson was formerly the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma before accepting the job at Indiana.

What really hindered Indiana — both in 2012 and 2013 — was the defense. The Hoosiers finished dead last in the conference both years in scoring and total defense.

Wilson responded by firing then-defensive coordinator Doug Mallory and then-defensive line coach Jon Fabris, and he replaced them with Brian Knorr, the longtime defensive coordinator at Wake Forest.

“Brian’s numbers coming out of Wake Forest had been top 40 defense for a couple of years in a row. Of course, I knew him and was very comfortable with him,” Wilson said. “But what I was looking for, again, wasn’t an unproven guy, but someone I thought that had played solid, competitive defense.
“Because I think if we could just be competitive and get a few stops, everybody — I always kind of almost laugh, they say, you know, your offense versus your defense going fast, if we get a couple of stops and get the ball back, think how much better the offense could be.”

The change quickly sparked excitement from Indiana’s players early in the preseason.

“I love the blitz packages,” linebacker Flo Hardin said. “I asked [quarterback] Nate [Sudfeld] in the spring about them, and he said he could never tell where the guys were going to come from.”

The defense will also rely heavily on experience in 2014. Of the players listed on Indiana’s most recent two deeps, five are seniors, and another three are juniors.

Most of the older guys have shown that they want to get better, Knorr said at Indiana’s football media day, noting that they are tired of losing.

"I’ve been very pleased,” he told IUHoosiers.com. “As far as a want to, our guys want to get better. They want to win. They want to be successful. From a want to, I’ve been very pleased. We need to continue to develop.

“We need to keep that bar raised higher and higher and continue to develop through the preseason process.”

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