Indiana may end up being a bottom feeder in the Big 10 this season, but it won't be without a fight. New coach Kevin Wilson has the Hoosiers playing hard and fast; they haven't embarrassed themselves in any game this year. Their hard-fought 16-10 loss last week to Penn State proved to them and Illinois they are a team capable of an upset any week.
Yes, they are playing many inexperienced youngsters. But they also have a lot of redshirt upperclassmen as well. Yes, they have one of the smallest offensive lines in college football, but they have learned to compensate. Yes, their secondary is young, but they are second in the conference in takeaways and red zone defense. The Illini have a challenge facing them in their first road game of the year.
The Hoosiers have employed two quarterbacks, and both have shown flashes of brilliance. Sophomores Edward Wright-Baker (6'-1", 220), a lefty, and Dusty Kiel (6'-2", 216) are listed either/or at the position this week. Wright-Baker didn't play against PSU last week due to injury, but Kiel played admirably in his stead.
Wright-Baker is the better runner of the two, rushing for 88 yards while completing 80 of 129 passes for 925 yards and four touchdowns with only two interceptions. Kiel replaced him at North Texas and brought the Hoosiers back with three unanswered TDs. He is 33 for 63 for 356 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
The IU receiver corps is formidable. Senior Damarlo Belcher (6'-5", 213) has caught 20 passes for 250 yards and one TD despite missing a game with injury. He is the Big 10's active leader in career receptions with 184 and is second in career yardage with 2189. He caught 78 passes for 832 yards last year and is on the Biletnikoff Award watch list.
Sophomore Duwyce Wilson (6'-3", 196) led all Big 10 freshmen last season with 32 receptions. So far this year, he has 12 grabs for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore Kofi Hughes (6'-2", 205) leads the team with 14 catches for 212 yards and 2 scores. He has also rushed three times on reverses for 53 yards.
Senior Dre Muhammad (5'-10", 180) plays behind Hughes but is tied with Wilson with 12 receptions. He is also their leading punt returner.
IU spreads the ball around, so backups figure prominently in the attack. Sophomore Jamonne Chester (6'-2", 199) caught 8 passes against North Texas and has 10 on the season. True freshmen Shane Wynn (5'-7", 153) and Cody Latimer (6'-3", 208) have 9 and six catches respectively. Wynn is also the primary kick returner.
Sophomore tight end Ted Bolser (6'-6", 245) was on the Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-America team last year and is already on the John Mackey Award watch list. He has 7 receptions for 85 yards and one score so far. Fifth year senior tight end Max Dedmond (6'-5", 250) is used primarily as a blocker.
The running game has not been highly productive thus far, but there is talent at the position. The starter is sophomore Stephen Houston (6'-0", 228). He has 151 yards in five games but is especially good at moving the pile in short yardage. Freshman D'Angelo Roberts (5'-10", 187) leads the team with 187 yards and is the most explosive back. He should play but was injured last week. 230 pound Matt Perez is not listed in the two deep, but he squats 700 pounds and has scored four touchdowns near the goal line.
The offensive line may be the lightest in the conference, but three of their players have vast experience. Left tackle Andrew McDonald (6'-6", 285) is a 5th year senior. Junior center Will Matte (6'-2", 282) has many games under his belt, and right tackle Justin Pagan (6'-5", 294) is a senior with the most starts. They are joined by left guard Bernard Taylor (6'-2", 278), a true frosh, and redshirt freshman Collin Rahrig (6'-2", 263). True freshman Peyton Eckert (6'-6", 295) has seen time at tackle.
The defense is led by MIKE linebacker Jeff Thomas (6'-1", 239), a redshirt senior. Thomas is 8th in the Big 10 in tackles and is the clear IU leader with 39 stops, including 7 tackles for loss. Redshirt senior Brandon McGhee (6'-1", 226) is the WILL backer, and redshirt freshman Chase Hoobler (6'-2", 232) plays SAM. Freshmen Mark Murphy (6'-2", 202) and Mike Replogle (6'-2", 221) also see the field.
The Hoosiers brag they are four deep in defensive tackle. Juniors Larry Black (6'-2", 305) and Adam Replogle (6'-3", 290) start, backed by fellow juniors Mick Mentzer (6'-4", 305) and Nicholas Sliger (6'-3", 291). Black has 21 tackles on the season.
IU has only two sacks this year, but true freshman defensive end Bobby Richardson (6'-3", 263) shares one of them. The other end boast two redshirt seniors, starter Darius Johnson (6'-0", 243) and backup Fred Jones (6'-4", 265).
Brothers man the two safety spots, redshirt freshman Drew Hardin (6'-0", 200) and true freshman Forisse 'Flo' Hardin (6'-1", 198). The latter has an interception to his credit. The secondary leader is fifth year senior Greg Heban (6'-1", 186). He has 30 tackles and 2 interceptions. He is joined by sophomore corner Lawrence Barnett (5'-10", 190).
Sophomore Mitch Ewald is an established place kicker. He has hit 5 of 7 field goals on the season, his longest 49 yards. He is also a perfect 15 of 15 on extra points. Junior Adam Pines averages 37.5 on punts.
If Illinois takes this game seriously, it should be too strong for the young Hoosiers. But if it looks forward to Ohio State or is still celebrating the big Northwestern win, it could become vulnerable.