Answering Your Questions - Part IV

Curious about who HoosierNation.com has been most impressed with on both sides of the ball? How about whether or not IU can maintain its top 10 national rankings in both rushing defense and sacks? HoosierNation.com answers your questions about the team...

Q: One question about the Western Michigan game that I haven't seen addressed anywhere was Mike Hines's punting. Don Fischer said that a couple of his punts hit and backed up. His punting average was several yards below his impressive performance in the ISU game. Was that due to weather conditions, did he have a bad evening or am I making something out of nothing?

A: The weather conditions weren't good, and that had an impact. But Hines did average 38.3 yards/punt on his first three kicks, all of which were downed inside the Broncos' 20-yard line. His last two kicks were only 26 and 27 yards, but the weather played a role in that.

Q: Who has impressed you most this season? You can pick an offensive and defensive guy if you want.

A: I'll preface my offensive pick by saying that I'm pretty well excluding the offensive linemen, simply because in the course of watching a game it's hard to really evaluate how they play. You'd pretty much have to watch film and focus on them individually, and I'll admit I haven't done that. So with that in mind…offensively I'm going to go with James Hardy for a couple of reasons. First of all, he's done so much to his frame in the off-season. Everyone talks about working hard in the weight room, but Hardy has really turned himself from a lanky, athletic wideout to someone who's capable of being physical as well. I've also liked the impact he's made on both games despite only catching three passes in each contest. In the first game he showed his ability to get deep, and then in week two he showed how he's an appealing target in the red zone because he can fade to the corner and go up and get the ball or break inside for scores.

Defensively, I'll go with defensive end Greg Middleton. I've also been impressed with linebackers Geno Johnson and Will Patterson, but Middleton has stepped in and recorded three sacks in his first two games and ran another fumble back for a touchdown. Those are game-changing plays, the type that Indiana hasn't been getting in recent years.

Q: Does Austin Starr have NFL potential?

A: He has the leg, so we'll just have to wait and see if he can maintain the accuracy. If he keeps up at the pace he's going, he's certainly the sort of kicker who get into someone's camp and get a look. Unless you're a truly elite kicker – i.e former OSU kicker Mike Nugent – that's about all you can hope for. Then it's up to producing in front of the coaches and finding the right situation.

Q: Do you think the staff will demote or bench James Bailey?

A: No. He hasn't gotten off to the greatest of starts, but he was very good in camp and is worthy of being a starter in my opinion. It's not as if the staff would just throw one of their slot receivers (Andrew Means, Ray Fisher) out there in his place. They like both of those players in the slot as opposed to out wide. Next up on the depth chart out wide is Terrance Turner, who has shown plenty of promise, but I don't think you'll see Bailey getting benched.

Q: Do you see our run defense continuing its strong start throughout the season? What about our sack totals?

A: I'll start with the sacks totals. Will Indiana average 6 ½ sacks per game? No. They opened against the worst team on their schedule (Indiana State) and followed that up with a Western Michigan team that dropped back to throw about 60 times. The Hoosiers' competition will get tougher and teams won't give them as many opportunities to get sacks in the future. With that said, I don't think IU will rank last in the Big Ten in sacks like they have for the last several years. Greg Middleton is a legitimate threat at defensive end, as is Ryan Marando on obvious passing downs. I think IU will wind up being a middle-of-the-pack team in the conference in sacks, which is a HUGE improvement from where they've been.

With the run defense, I'll echo the statement above. Is Indiana going to limit teams to 38 yards/game? No. But a deeper defensive line and a bigger, more physical stable of linebackers will make IU much improved over the 174.1 yards/game it yield a year ago.

Q: Any word on Austin Thomas?

A: The staff was hopeful he'd be ready to go this weekend, but he did suffer a concussion against Western Michigan so I'd suspect he's questionable at best.

Q: All training camp we heard how impressive Terrance Turner has been and how he has a chance to be a major contributor this season. So where has he been?

A: I'll dispute your claim to an extent…I don't think I was going over the top talking up Terrance Turner. There were times he did a very good job with the No. 1 offense because James Hardy was out with the broken finger and Bailey was sidelined with the elbow. But now they're both back, and that leaves Turner as the No. 3 out side. Also, keep in mind that they're not going to suddenly put Turner in the slot to get him on the field. He's a wide receiver not a slot, which means he's competing with Hardy and Bailey for playing time, not Means and Fisher.

Q: Will the RB situation ever get sorted out?

A: It is, in fact, sorted out. They're going to play multiple running backs. The staff isn't playing Marcus Thigpen, Demetrius McCray and Josiah Sears in an effort to settle on one. They are going to use all three. Just because a team plays more than one running back doesn't mean that they're unsettled at the spot, in my opinion. In the NFL you have the New Orleans Saints playing Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister. The Pittsburgh Steelers played Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis during their Super Bowl season. Other teams use goal line running backs to score touchdowns. The staff tries to utilize the strengths of each three.

Q: Are these enough questions for you to do another football article?!?!

A: Yes! Keep them coming!

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