Indiana opens their 2016 season on Thursday when they travel to Miami to play the Florida International Panthers at 7:30 p.m. Here are 10 takeaways from today's press conference with head coach Kevin Wilson, and assistant coaches Kevin Johns and Tom Allen.
1. THE DETAILS: Indiana kicks off its 132nd year of football Thursday night when they travel to Miami to take on the Florida International Panthers at Ocean Bank Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. EDT and ESPNU will broadcast the game. The play-by-play announcer will be Mike Couzens and the color analyst will be Rene Ingoglia.
2. NOTES: Indiana returns 17 starters from 2015 with eight returning on offense, eight returning on defense and one returning on special teams. FIU returns 17 starters from 2015 with nine returning on offense, five returning on defense and three returning on special teams.
The Hoosiers are 4-1 in season openers under Kevin Wilson. Indiana is opening on a Thursday night for the fourth time in eight years. IU has won 12 of their last 13 season openers.
3. SIX WALK-ONS AWARDED SCHOLARSHIPS: Coach Wilson announced today that six walk-ons have earned a scholarship for the 2016 season. Those six players are kicker Griffin Oakes, wide receiver Mitchell Paige, long snapper Dan Godsil, defensive back Ben Bach, wide receiver/running back Ricky Brookins, and running back Alex Rodriguez.
4. INJURY UPDATE: Indiana is a pretty healthy team as they head into their season opener at FIU. Coach Wilson talked about the injury situation today. “Coming out of camp, I think we've gained a lot with the toughness and the depth that you need,” Wilson said. “So we've practiced hard, but we're also very, very healthy. We've had a few nick-ups and a guy might be held out, you know, gets an ankle sprain, but he's back three, four days later or whatever, so we're very healthy. No updates, injuries. I think J-Shun is waiting to do surgery, and Camion Patrick and Robert McCray will miss the first handful of games, so that's nothing new there.”
5. WILSON LIKES HIS QB GROUP: It was announced today that Richard Lagow will be the starting quarterback, but Wilson said he has been pleased with how all the quarterbacks have practiced in Fall Camp. “I appreciate the way all of them are playing because you’ve got to be ready with more than one every week and for the year,” Wilson said. “You’ve got to have more than one I think we’ve got a couple.”
6. WILSON’S THOUGHTS ON TWO-WAY PLAYERS: Coach Wilson mentioned that running back Clyde Newton could still play some defense this fall. He gave his thoughts on using players on both sides of the ball. “You’ve got guys that are doing it,” Wilson said. “Michigan has a great player that’s doing it. It’s just that we’ve got limited time with them so it’s like playing two sports, you’ve got to budget your time and you’ve got to study on your own because there is not enough meeting time. You’ve got to take care of your body do there is some mental overload. We have a lot of guys that could play both ways, it’s just mentally can they handle it.”
7. JOHNS TALKS DEALING WITH WEATHER: When Indiana plays FIU on Thursday night there is no telling what kind of weather conditions they will have to do with. This time of year it will definitely be hot in South Florida, but it could also be raining and that is something the staff has tried to prepare for. “As a wide receiver coach one of the things that you put on your list every year during pre-season is let’s make sure we get some wet ball drills,” Johns said. “A lot of time that means carrying out a bucket of water and dumping the ball in the bucket and throwing the ball to your receivers to make sure they catch it. But we’ve actually had two, three or four practices where we went out purposely and played in the rain to make those guys feel it and learn how to deal with it. So I do feel as comfortable as I’ve ever been going into a first game that we’ve at least had those experiences. It doesn’t mean it will be perfect, but we’ve at least felt it and dealt with it and had to manage it in a practice situation.”
8. JOHNS IMPRESSED WITH IU DEFENSE: When it comes to evaluating the new Indiana defense there is probably who has gotten a better look than Coach Johns has. After going against it every day in Fall Camp he feels confident it will be a much improved unit. “I see a different mindset and a different attitude really more than anything else,” Johns said. “Coach Allen has his own scheme and tweaks of the scheme, but to me it’s not about the scheme. I just think they have bought in with everything Coach Allen is trying to get these guys to do. They’re playing harder and they’re playing with more focus. Their eyes are a lot more disciplined than they were a year ago.”
9. ALLEN HAS HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR LINEBACKERS: In the 4-2-5 defense that Tom Allen runs he places a great deal of responsibility on his linebackers. “Leadership and production,” Allen said when asked what he needs from his linebackers. “From day one I’ve challenged those guys to run the defense, and that will never change. That position demands leadership on and off the field.”
10. ALLEN COMPARES SEC AND BIG TEN: Coach Allen has experience in the SEC as an assistant at Ole Miss, and he has watched hours of tape on Indiana’s opponents this season and he has noticed the differences in the two leagues. “I think it is a little bit of a different style in some ways,” Allen said. “I have watched tape on all our opponents that we’re playing this season. There is no question that the SEC is known for its speed, and that part of the country from high school on up is the same way. The line play on the offensive side of the ball in the Big Ten is pretty impressive, and I think its better. Now the D-line in the SEC is maybe where they separate themselves. At receiver I’ve noticed a bigger receiver here watching them on film, and maybe not as many small, twitch guys. But they still can run so it’s not like they’re not fast. I’ve done this enough that you really win up front, and the O-lines in the Big Ten are second to none.”