Since then, the Hoosiers have struggled to move the ball offensively, especially through the air where they have yet to score a passing touchdown.
But no need to fear, Hoosier fans, there is still plenty to watch for as the final three games of the season approach. Development of the youth will be a key component to success as the season winds down, and there is plenty of talent to work with.
So, I have gathered five things to watch for as Indiana closes out its season, giving Hoosier fans a reason to stick with their team.
1. Tevin Coleman’s chase for the record
Before Sudfeld went down, it looked like Tevin Coleman breaking Vaughn Dunbar’s Indiana single-season rushing record of 1,805 rushing yards (1991) was a sure thing. Before the Iowa game, Coleman was on-pace to surpass the 2,000-yard mark, however teams have been able to pack the box and focus on Coleman in the last three contests. Coleman’s last two games have been his worst of the season, rushing for 108 yards against Michigan and 71 yards against Penn State.
Going into the final three games of the year, Coleman sits at 1,371 yards, which leaves him 434 yards shy of the record. This means Coleman would have to average 144 yards per game from here on out. While a month ago that would have seemed very possible for Coleman, the lack of a passing game hasn’t allowed for Coleman to find openings and break big plays like he did in the first half of the season.
In order to reach the milestone, Coleman will need a 200-yard outing against either Rutgers or Purdue. My prediction is that Coleman falls just shy of Dunbar’s mark after Ohio State is able to shut him down in two weeks. It will sure be fun to watch Coleman give it his all in a race for the record.
2. The development of Zander Diamont
Since Sudfeld dislocated his shoulder against Iowa, true freshman Zander Diamont has been taking snaps at quarterback. It hasn’t gone well for the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Los Angeles native, throwing for only 103 yards on 23-of-50 passing with zero touchdowns and two interceptions in three starts.
The development of Diamont through the end of this season is pivotal to the future of the Indiana program, especially after three-star quarterback Tommy Stevens flipped his commitment from the Hoosiers to Penn State on Monday. As of now, it looks like Diamont is the quarterback of the future, and displaying some improvement would go a long way toward the confidence of the youngster.
This situation could be for the best for Diamont, as it will give him some starting experience. He then will be able to sit out for a season behind a healthy Nate Sudfeld, when Diamont can sit back and learn the game from the sidelines. After Sudfeld graduates a junior Diamont could transform into a successful two-year starter.
3. Surplus of youth at receiver
Growth and maturity should be the focus of the receiver corps heading into the final quarter of the season. The three guys to look at are the true freshmen, J-Shun Harris, Dominique Booth and Simmie Cobbs.
Harris has shown flashes in his freshman season. Harris started the first six games and has caught 14 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns this season. At 5-foot-8, 162 pounds, Harris has a similar build to senior Shane Wynn, who has taken Harris under his wing since fall camp. Harris possesses a similar style of play to Wynn and projects to be the future every-down slot receiver, and possible punt returner, for the Hoosiers.
Booth is possibly the biggest sign in Kevin Wilson’s tenure as head coach. The four-star receiver stands at 6-foot-1 and weighs 206 pounds. Booth hasn’t seen too many targets in his freshman season, but has played a decent amount to spell Nick Stoner. Booth has six receptions for 52 yards, but he was at fault for an interception against Iowa due to poor route running. Booth still has a ways to go mentally, but the physical ability is certainly present. He has tremendous hands and good route running abilities, but he will have to get smarter in his route running before being a legitimate threat. Booth reminds me somewhat of former Hoosier receiver Kofi Hughes, and with a little experience, Booth has the potential to be as good, if not better.
Cobbs was a little under the radar coming in, but he impressed during fall camp. Size is what stands out with Cobbs, as the 6-foot-4, 209-pound receiver uses his height and leaping ability to get separation from receivers. He has caught seven passes for 114 yards this year, his biggest game coming in the season opener against Indiana State where he recorded three receptions for 57 yards. In that contest, Cobbs showed an ability to go get jump balls, and it looked like he might see significant playing time this season. However, we haven’t seen much from him since. Coach Wilson has mentioned a few times this season that the limited playing time is a result of a lack of consistency in practice. If Cobbs can get work in down the stretch and learn the importance of focus at practice, he will gain a lot of experience to help Sudfeld next season.
A true freshman, linebacker Tegray Scales could be the best tackler on the team. At Colerain High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, Scales was a three-time state-ranked wrestler, and he brings his wrestling abilities to the football field.
Playing behind starting linebacker T.J. Simmons, Scales has still managed to total 30 tackles, 18 solo tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and one sack.
I can’t even recall a missed tackle by Scales this season. He is an excellent form tackler and wraps up well, making open field tackling look easy. Scales has also displayed his coverage skills with two interceptions. He has shown he can play all three downs at linebacker, and he should have no problem stepping in as starter for senior linebacker David Cooper next season. Scales has NFL potential, and one day soon he will likely be one of the top linebackers in the Big Ten.
5. Darius Latham is going to be a beast
Sophomore defensive end Darius Latham has the potential to be a monster on the interior. At 6-foot-5, 318 pounds, the former Indianapolis North Central High School star has been very good in his second season at Indiana.
Latham has recorded 20 total tackles, 10 of them solo, along with 3.5 tackles for a loss and 0.5 sacks this year. While those numbers don’t necessarily jump off the page, it is what he does at the line of scrimmage that has helped make the Indiana defensive see success. Latham’s size helps fill up gaps and stuff ball carriers, but he also has solid feet and quickness for his size, which will give him the ability to make stops in the backfield as he continues to grow his game and see more playing time. Along with Scales, Latham is one of the most exciting young players in the conference, and the duo could help establish a legitimate Indiana defense over the next few years.
You can follow Ben Faunce at Twitter.com/ben_faunce