The 2016 season has arrived for Kevin Wilson and his Indiana football team as they travel to Miami to take on Florida International tonight. There will be some interesting players and positions to keep an eye on for the Hoosiers in their match-up with the Panthers.
Quarterbacks are always heavily scrutinized, but that is especially the case when there is new guy under center trying to replace one of the most productive quarterbacks in school history. Lagow has been in the top spot for most of Fall Camp according to the coaches, and they are very confident he will do a great job leading the offense. What will be interesting to see is what kind of start he gets off to in his IU career, and how he responds when there is adversity because that will happen. IU does not need Lagow to be Nate Sudfeld, but they do need him to make some plays and take care of the ball.
Coach Wilson made a change at defensive coordinator in the off-season when he brought in Tom Allen, who was the D-coordinator at South Florida in 2015. Coach Allen made an immediate impact at USF and that is what Wilson is looking for this season. In Fall Camp there was a noticeable change in the mindset and culture on defense, and it looks like it will be an improved unit. There are some holes on the defensive line that will be something they have to overcome all year long, but the linebackers and secondary have a good deal of talent. The IU defense gets a tough first test for 2016 with FIU. The Panthers have an experienced offense and they are led by a QB that is a good player with quality skill guys around him so the IU defense will have their work cut out for them.
3) Left Tackle
With the graduation of Jason Spriggs the IU offense is looking for a new left tackle for the first time since the 2011 season. The Hoosier All-American is in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, and sophomore Brandon Knight and Coy Cronk are expected to replace him. Knight should get the first shot at left tackle, but Coach Wilson has made it clear that they will play Cronk this fall. Knight got some experience last fall for the Hoosiers but it was primarily as a blocking tight end. He was a little banged up early in Fall Camp, but he is healthy now and is listed as the starter. It is rare for a true freshman to play immediately on the offensive line, but Cronk has been impressive in camp and the staff is very confident that he is ready to play right away. This will be an important spot with a new QB under center. They need to protect his blindside and make sure he has time to throw.
After backing up NFL backs the last two years it is time for Devine Redding to show what he can do when he is the lead back. The IU junior actually got that chance the last few games of the 2015 season, but it is a little different when you are the man coming out of Fall Camp and the starter for game one of the season. Redding might not have the size of Jordan Howard or the speed of Tevin Coleman, but he is a very capable back as he displayed last fall when he ran for over 1,000 yards. With a new QB the Hoosiers could lean even more on their running game so it will be important for Redding and the other Indiana backs to do a solid job when they get their opportunity. There is no better friend for a QB and a defense than an effective rushing attack, and to start the 2016 season Redding is the leader of the IU running game.
Every season that Coach Wilson has been at IU the Hoosiers have had no problem playing freshmen, and not only playing them, but using them in critical roles. The Indiana head coach has mentioned that he expects that to be the case again this year. We have already mentioned Coy Cronk on the O-line, but other newcomers you could see are Marcelino Ball at Husky, A’Shon Riggins at corner, Khalil Bryant at safety, Allen Stallings and Jerome Johnson on the D-line, running backs Cole Gest and Tyler Natee, and wideouts Taysir Mack and Jonah Morris. There is no guarantee that all these freshmen play, but it is a safe bet that a good number of them will, and when they do get on the field it will be interesting to see if they have those first game jitters.