10. Austin Thomas – It's crowded at safety with the likes of Troy Grosfield, Will Meyers and Eric McClurg, among others, but the 6-2, 192-pound Thomas is a player who worked his way onto the No. 1 unit in the spring. He's also someone IU co-defensive coordinator Joe Palcic said has to be on the field this fall. Thomas has excellent size and good speed, and he's someone whose development has prompted the IU staff to move to a 4-2-5 alignment to get three safeties on the field.
9. Cody Faulkner – It's a tall order for a true freshman to start at the college level, let alone on the offensive line. But with the question marks IU has up front, there's plenty of speculation Faulkner could wind up starting as a true freshman. Faulkner has the size (6-5, 306 pounds) to play, but more importantly he's much further along in the strength department than most freshman linemen are. That's while the Hamilton Heights H.S. standout has a solid chance to start at guard early on.
8. Demetrius McCray – This redshirt freshman tailback is currently No. 2 on the depth chart behind Marcus Thigpen, but don't be surprised to see this Florida native wrestle the starting job away at some point this season. McCray is a natural, someone who can make the initial tackler miss and then produce a big play in the running game. At 5-11 and 189 pounds he'll be hard pressed to handle 20-25 carries a game at this point in his college career, but he has a chance to be a special talent down the road, and a big-play producer as a redshirt freshman.
7. Kevin Trulock – Indications are the walk-on from Indianapolis' Roncalli H.S. will handle the team's placekicking duties, an area IU was miserable in a season ago. The Hoosiers were just 3-of-6 on field goals in 2005, easily to lowest total in the Big Ten. The 50 percent conversion rate, meanwhile, doesn't begin to explain the team's lack of confidence in its field goal kicking. IU Coach Terry Hoeppner often opted to try to convert fourth downs instead of attempt a field goal, and IU didn't attempt a field goal in six of its last seven games.
6. Kenny Kendal – With the departure of Victor Adeyanju to the NFL, Indiana lacks a proven pass rushing threat on the edge. While both Neal Jones and Jammie Kirlew are intriguing candidates to provide such a threat, both are redshirt freshmen. Kendal is a fifth-year senior who needs to be a lot better than his 17-tackle, 3 ½ tackle-for-loss season from a year ago. He had a couple of sacks in IU's spring game, and he'll need to keep that up for IU's pass defense to be effective this fall. While IU's cornerbacks have been criticized in recent years for giving up too many big plays, a big reason behind that is the lack of a consistent pass rush. Kendal needs help IU address that.
5. James Bailey – Indiana has stuck by Bailey through a couple of off-the-field issues that had some wondering if his days in Bloomington were numbered. With those issues seemingly behind him, it's now time for the gifted 6-2, 199-pound wideout to reward the staff for their loyalty. While 6-7 sophomore James Hardy is IU's No. 1 threat, Bailey has a chance for a big season in his own right. He'll usually be matched up one-on-one, and he is extremely dangerous once he gets in the open field. His four-catch, 165-yard effort in the spring game showed the sort of big-play capabilities he possesses.
4. Jammie Kirlew – Kirlew is one of four redshirt freshmen on the defensive line who could make an impact. Along with fellow defensive end Neal Jones and defensive tackles Emile Bass and Todd Newman, this group forms the nucleus of what should be a very good IU defensive front in the years to come. The issue, though, is that some of these players need to be factors this year. IU lost three starters Adeyanju, Russ Richardson and Ben Ishola, leaving very little depth for '06. Kirlew has the sort of speed and athleticism to at least be a pass rushing threat on third downs this season – an absolute must for IU's defense to be improved.
3. Greg Brown – There's no questioning the fact the Indiana defense is undersized, but one player who does have the measurables of others around the conference is the 6-2, 303-pound Brown. A very good athlete for size, Brown needs to anchor the Hoosiers defensive front from his defensive tackle position. If he can create problems for opposing offensive lines and command double teams, he will free up IU's fleet-footed but undersized linebackers to fly to the ball and make plays. If he can't do that, Indiana's defense will once again be bullied by the league's big boys.
2. Chauncey Incarnato – There's no bigger question mark this season than the offensive line, and there's no player fans are more excited to see than the Notre Dame-transfer Incarnato. The 6-5, 283-pound sophomore-to-be not only brings impressive credentials to the table, but also a mean streak that will be welcomed by offensive line coach Bobby Johnson. Incarnato is a tough guy who won't back down in the trenches, a trait that needs to rub off on the other young, unproven offensive linemen.
1. Blake Powers – While the defense looks to be improved from where it was a year ago, the bottom line is if the Hoosiers are going to be successful, they are going to need to put points on the board. In Terry Hoeppner's wide-open aerial attack, that means Powers is going to need to have a big season. A year ago Powers broke the school's single-season touchdown record with 22 TDs, but struggled down the stretch. In IU's seven losses Powers had just seven touchdowns compared to 12 interceptions, and he'll need to be much better in big games if IU is to be markedly improved.
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