Team Preview: Indiana Hoosiers

An in-depth preview of Maryland's next opponent, Indiana.

After dropping their seventh game in a row to Michigan State, 24-7, the Terps (2-8) return to College Park, Md., for a bout against another floundering squad, Indiana (4-6). After starting the season 4-0 and then playing Ohio State tough at home, the Hoosiers have petered out the last month-and-a-half, dropping six straight. Last week, IU couldn’t overcome Michigan in Bloomington, Ind., falling in double overtime, 48-41.

Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson is in his fifth year and has a record of 18-40. The Hoosiers have yet to have a winning campaign or make a bowl game during his tenure, and will need to win out to become postseason eligible this year.

Offense

While IU has had its struggles of late, the offense hasn’t been the issue in most games. Under Wilson, who basically runs the show, the Hoosiers employ an up-tempo spread that closely resembles the headman’s distinguished offense at Oklahoma several years ago. Considered one of the foremost offensive minds in the country, Wilson’s typically-balanced, quick-hitter attacks routinely churn out yards and points.

Granted, this season IU has relied a bit more heavily on the run with its starting quarterback injured for a couple outings, but when the signal caller’s healthy the Hoosiers can pick apart a defense in a variety of ways. Look for Indiana to jumpstart its 'O' by getting its backs involved as both runners and receivers before hitting the wideouts in stride in the short/intermediate range, allowing them to create after the catch. If the defense sucks in, the Hoosiers aren’t afraid to take a chance up top, either.

Usually, Indiana uses three receivers, a single back, a tight end and a quarterback lined up in shotgun. Play-action is a staple, and occasionally the Hoosiers will shift the signal caller under center; employ two-tight-end sets; or even go with four wide receivers.

Through 10 games, IU is averaging 33.3 points per game (41st in the FBS) and 467.5 yards per game (28th in the FBS), including 5.9 yards per play. The Hoosiers are racking up 197.9 rushing yards per (37th in the FBS) and 269.6 passing yards per (32nd in the FBS).

But IU hasn’t routinely executed like it’s capable of as too many drives have been short-circuited by penalties (61.5 yards per game; 89th in the FBS); failed third-down conversions (37.9-percent conversion rate; 81st in the FBS); and sometimes turnovers (nine total). Since the Hoosiers do move quickly their time of possession will be lower than some (28:00; 87th in the FBS), but IU could still stand to a better job sustaining drives.

Another area the Hoosiers would like to improve is their redzone proficiency. While Indiana normally comes away with points deep in enemy territory (90.5 percent of the time; 17th in the FBS), it has put the ball in the endzone 25 times on 42 attempts.

Quarterbacks

When veteran Nate Sudfeld (Sr., 6-6, 240) has been healthy, he’s been relatively reliable this season. Sudfeld tweaked his ankle earlier during the year and missed a couple games, but other than that he’s mostly been the offense’s bulwark. Granted, Sudfeld has been struggling prior to the last week, though team media have suggested it’s an uncharacteristic cold streak not indicative of the campaign he’s having.

The senior has one of the strongest arms in the Big Ten and can make almost every throw, while he has enough precision to thread the needle and lead his wideouts. Sudfeld’s typically poised in the pocket, goes through his progressions, gets the ball out quickly, and delivers clean, catchable passes. Moreover, he’s more mobile than he looks, proving he can throw on the run or even scramble for yards when a play breaks down.

But Sudfeld does tend to have a mental mishap or two each game, some of which have cost IU late. He can adopt a swashbuckler mentality, leading to ill-advised throws. Sudfeld’s also been known to force passes when Indiana is playing catch-up, resulting in drive-killing interceptions.

For the season, Sudfeld has completed 178-of-297 throws (60 percent) for 2,449 yards and 16 touchdowns, against five picks. Against Michigan, Sudfeld finished 20-for-34 for 220 yards and a score.

Indiana’s No. 2, Zander Diamont (So., 6-1, 180), has seen action in two games this season. He doesn’t have the arm or accuracy Sudfeld does, but can make plays with his feet. The Hoosiers haven’t been known to use a Wildcat, but Diamont is a threat to run if/when he enters the game. He has 18 attempts for 136 yards and two touchdowns this season, including a 79-yard jaunt.

Running Backs

At one point this season, Jordan Howard (Jr. 6-1, 230) actually led the nation in rushing, ahead of studs like Leonard Fornette, Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry. But Howard tapered off after several weeks and then missed two games with a hurt ankle suffered against Ohio State. When Howard returned, he obviously was not 100 percent as his cuts lacked crispness and his burst was noticeably absent.

But Howard’s shown signs of busting out recently, his decisiveness; power; and quickness returning. When healthy, Howard is a reliable downhill runner who can consistently churn out three- and four-yard chunks. He runs hard, can break through arm tackles and falls forward after contact. Howard is not really a home-run threat or one to turn the corner, but he can push to the second level and beat linebackers in the open.

In eight games, Howard’s generated 1,199 yards on 193 attempts (6.2 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns. He’s coming off an 35-carry, 240-yard, two-touchdown effort. He also caught a seven-yard touchdown pass.

The change-of-pace runner, Devine Redding (So., 5-10, 202), also gets numerous touches each game. Redding has a little more shake than Howard and is effective flaring out for passes, flashing make-you-miss moves in space. And while he is not a 4.3 track star, Redding has decent enough downfield acceleration. That said, Redding isn’t the most potent between-the-tackles runner and can be caught dancing in the backfield. 

For the season, Redding has 145 carries for 511 yards (3.5 yards per carry) and seven scores. He’s caught 10 balls for 82 yards. Last week, Redding had 48 yards on 11 attempts.

Another running back to account for is Mike Majette (Fr., 5-10, 201), who was a one-time Terps’ commit. A converted receiver, Majette has more burst and pure wheels than either Howard or Redding. Majette is still learning how to read blocks and anticipate openings (and hang onto the football), but he gives the offense an added dimension.

Majette has 24 carries for 118 yards (4.9 yards per carry) in 2015.

Receivers

After an injury-riddled first few seasons in Bloomington, Ricky Jones (Jr., 5-10, 188) has finally emerged during his junior year. Indiana’s leading receiver, Jones has soft hands; runs precise routes; and possesses above-average quickness. He’s not going to take the top off the defense or break defensive backs’ ankles, but Jones has mostly been reliable.

For the season, he has 45 catches for 750 yards and five scores. Jones had four receptions for 42 yards against Michigan.

Perhaps the most physically imposing wideout on the roster, Simmie Cobbs (So., 6-4, 212) combines both size and downfield burst. But Cobbs hasn’t realized his potential yet, and sometimes disappears during games. He’s not as decisive of a route runner or as pure of a pass catcher as Jones, while his fundamentals need refining. However, Cobbs is a sizable threat with a wide-catch radius who Sudfeld often looks for on third down.

Cobbs has 40 receptions for 638 yards and three scores this year. He’s coming off a four-catch, 86-yard effort.

Although he’s third on the team in catches, Mitchell Paige (Jr., 5-7, 176) is arguably the receiver who has the best rapport with Sudfeld. The diminutive slot has a knack for finding openings in the short- to intermediate-range, the quarterback nailing him in stride on slants; bubble screens; and outs. Paige has dependable hands, quick-twitch fibers and standout start-stop speed, making him a potent open-field playmaker. Moreover, Paige can get behind the defense too, his speed and acceleration allowing him to take safeties/corners to task. 

Paige has pulled down 36 throws for 43 yards and two touchdowns this season. He tallied three receptions for 17 yards last week.

Tight Ends

Indiana’s tight ends aren’t overly involved in the passing attack, although both Michael Cooper (Sr., 6-5, 260) and Antony Corsaro (Sr., 6-3, 250) have made a few notable plays this season.

Cooper, who is more of a receiver-type than Corsaro, isn’t going to remind of Antonio Gates, but he does present a big target over the middle. He’s usually productive as a 5- to 10-yard outlet. Cooper is also an above-average blocker, who has held his own chipping on the edge.

Cooper has 12 catches for 183 yards and a touchdown this season. He caught two passes for 11 yards last week.

Occasionally, the Hoosiers opt for two tight-end sets, and that’s when Corsaro enters the fray. His hands are rather inconsistent, although Corsaro can produce if left uncovered. But Corsaro’s forte is blocking, and he typically throws his weight around well on short-yardage situations.

Corsaro has nine receptions in 2015, totaling 130 yards.

It’s also worth noting Indiana’s third tight end, Danny Friend (So., 6-5, 262), who suffered a knee injury in Week 3 and has been sidelined ever since. Friend is IU’s most potent run blocker, instrumental in opening holes and clearing out linebackers. His status is undetermined moving forward, but, if healthy, Friend will play a significant role in the power-running game.

Offensive Line

At the season’s outset, Indiana figured to have one of Big Ten’s most prolific offensive lines. After all, the Hoosiers returned four of five starters from last year’s squad, which helped running back Tevin Coleman rack up more than 2,000 yards. And, for the most part, IU has lived up to expectations, the backs picking up 4.5 yards per pop while opposing rushers have recorded only 12 sacks (19th in the FBS).

The left tackle, Jason Spriggs (Sr., 6-7, 305), has had a fine senior season and projects as a third-round draft pick next May. He’s performed admirably against some of the Big Ten’s foremost pass rushers, his athleticism; long arms; and quickness helping stalemate opposing ends. Spriggs could stand to generate more point-of-attack power, but he’s certainly not lacking in the hole-opening department.  He’s even flashed lateral agility by sealing off linebackers in space.

Lining up next to Spriggs is the unit’s newcomer, Wes Martin (Fr., 6-3, 312), who has had a somewhat subpar campaign at left guard. Martin has committed a number of first-year mistakes, both mentally and physically, forcing the Hoosiers to rotate in a backup. Martin has potential and should progress as he gains more experience, but for now his spot is tenuous.

Given that, look for Wes Rogers (Jr., 6-4, 301) to see plenty of snaps if Martin can’t hang. Rogers is a No. 2 for a reason, but at least he has experience and won’t get pushed off the ball as often.

Meanwhile, center Jake Reed (Sr., 6-4, 300) has ably adapted during his first full year starting. He may not rank among the Big Ten’s most renowned interior linemen, but Reed has consistently held up in both pass pro and while run blocking.

Aside from Spriggs, right guard Dan Feeney (Jr., 6-4, 310) is Indiana’s most prolific offensive lineman. He is considered one of the nation’s foremost guards and could be an early-round draft pick if he chooses to leave Bloomington after this season. Feeney has not allowed a sack all season, and has been known to knock defenders back as well. He’s quick off the ball, plays with great leverage, has standout athleticism (he can pull and get to the second level) and also possesses a mean streak.

Finally, at right tackle, Dimitric Camiel (Jr., 6-7, 310) has acquitted himself well since assuming a starting role late last year. Several opponents have actually moved their most prolific 5-technique over to Camiel’s side since Spriggs has resembled a brick wall at left tackle. But, to Camiel’s credit, he’s been up for the challenge, keeping blitzers at bay. He’s long, agile and deft, allowing him to slide with quick-twitch ends and run block out on the edge.

Defense

Indiana’s defense under second-year coordinator Brian Knorr hasn’t exactly posed many problems for opposing offenses this season. Knorr should hardly bare the brunt of the blame, however, as the Hoosiers have a freshmen-laden secondary and a front-seven that has glaring holes too.

The numbers pretty much tell the story: 38.1 points allowed per game (116th in the FBS) and 511.7 yards allowed per game (119th in the FBS), including 170.7 rushing yards surrendered per game (68th in the FBS) and 341 passing yards given up per game (dead last in the FBS). Indiana is surrendering 4.8 yards per carry and 8.3 yards per pass attempt.

The Hoosiers allow opponents to convert 45.6 percent of third downs (108th in the FBS), 50 percent of fourth downs (56th in the FBS), and 60 percent of redzone attempts into touchdowns (85th in the FBS).

That said, the defense has racked up a respectable 22 sacks (55th in the FBS) and recorded 15 turnovers (70th in the FBS), so the Hoosiers do have a couple opportunistic playmakers who can swing momentum. Which, really, is what the unit is predicated on anyway. If Knorr’s 3-4 pressure defense is humming, Indiana is reaching the quarterback; forcing snap decisions; and picking the ball off. On running plays, the Hoosiers are gunning for the football; ripping it out; and recovering fumbles inside enemy territory.

The issue is, Knorr can’t get overly creative with a group that doesn’t boast a ton of talent or experience. So, at times the Hoosiers have resembled more of a gap-control defense rather than a risk-taking, blitzing one. Don’t expect Knorr to throw out exotic packages so as not to confuse the younger players, who are still mastering the base scheme.

That said, Indiana will rotate in a “bandit” linebacker/safety to bring extra pressure on passing downs. And against teams that primarily pass, IU will sub in a nickel or dime to aid the secondary.

Defensive Line

Aside from Indiana’s defensive end, Nick Mangieri, the defensive line has not been effective thus far. In general, the three-man front has had difficulties creating a pass rush and scraping off blocks. The unit racked up a sacks and busted up backfields against lesser competition, but it’s had trouble against Big Ten offensive lines.

At defensive tackle, Darius Latham (Jr., 6-5, 300) has, at times, flashed potential as a run stuffer. He has the ability to out-leverage his man and the athleticism to snare backs down the line, but is not consistent in doing so. Latham, who was suspended for two games earlier this year, has mostly been neutralized as the season’s moved along. He has, however, blocked two kicks; if opponents don’t account for him he can make a play.

In eight games, Latham has 26 tackles, nine tackles for loss and three sacks. Last week, Latham recorded four stops, a sack and a tackle for loss.

The nose tackle, Adarius Rayner (Sr., 6-2, 299), has had his share of struggles. He can be pushed off the ball and doesn’t consistently keep the linebackers clean, so the Hoosiers tend to sub for him throughout the game.

In fact, the listed No 2, Ralph Green (Jr., 6-5, 304), probably sees more snaps overall. A better overall athlete than Rayner, Green can disrupt passing lanes and make plays in the gaps. But Green hasn’t necessarily been a world-beater, either. Like Rayner, Green has issues holding up against potent offensive lines, especially in run defense.

Rayner has nine tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss this season. Green’s recorded 14 stops, three tackles for loss and a sack.

The main difference maker up front, Nick Mangieri (Sr., 6-5, 275), is up for all-conference honors at year’s end. Despite facing double-teams, the prolific end has busted through; knifed into passing lanes; and reached the quarterback. He combines a rapid-fire first step, above-average dexterity and an array of rush moves, all of which have aided him as a pass rusher. Mangieri has also been decent stopping the run. Sometimes he’ll get caught in the trash, but he’s mostly adept at setting the edge and corralling backs inside.

Mangieri has 39 tackles, eight tackles for loss and seven sacks this season. He recorded one stop last week.

Indiana will sub in a couple defensive linemen each game, and usually it’s Shawn Heffern (Jr., 6-6, 280) or Robert McCray (So., 6-2, 280). Heffern, who can play end or tackle, has not made much noise, tallying nine total tackles and zero tackles for loss this season. McCray, meanwhile, could be a key cog down the line, showing some up-front potency with three early-season tackles for loss. He has been relatively quiet of late, however.

Linebackers

The Hoosiers’ linebackers have had an up-and-down campaign through 10 games. As a whole, the group is short on game-changing talent, so it’s not a surprise the pass rush and coverage has been rather inconsistent. More egregious, though, has been the tackling, IU’s backers surrendering too many yards after contact.

At outside linebacker, Clyde Newton (Jr., 6-1, 230) has mostly performed up to expectations. He’s not a standout athlete, so he’ll get exposed from time to time (especially in coverage), but at least his mental mishaps are limited. Newton isn’t one to quickly close on running backs or actively face-guard receivers, but he maintains his lanes and typically tackles well.

Newton has 28 tackles, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a recovery this year. He had four stops last week.

On the opposite side, Tegray Scales (So., 6-0, 227) is a decent athlete with a satisfactory first step, showing some pass-rush abilities rotating in. Scales has been OK in coverage too, exhibiting enough range and instincts to pick up receivers/tight ends. But he’s not the soundest at wrapping up,  while he suffers fundamental mistakes from time to time.

Scales has 40 tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks and an interception this season. He had a team-high eight stops and a tackle for loss against Michigan.

The inside linebackers, T.J. Simmons (Jr., 6-0, 232) and Marcus Oliver (So., 6-1, 240), rack up the majority of the stops, although the numbers only tell part of the story. Each has had their respective moments, sacking the quarterback or forcing turnovers, but they’ve also had some not-so-positive plays.

Simmons, for example, has the downhill acceleration and fast fibers to rush the quarterback and take down backs behind the line. But he’ll also overrun plays, take missteps in coverage and struggle to disengage.

Through 10 games, Simmons has 63 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He's coming off a five-stop effort.

Oliver, meanwhile, has a knack for knocking the ball out, evidenced by his four forced fumbles. On top of that, he has a pick and a recovery, to go along with 4.5 tackles for loss and a sack. But Oliver, like Simmons, will suffer lapses. He may lead the Hoosiers with 84 stops, but he’s missed his share as well. Meanwhile, Oliver’s field awareness and fundamentals should improve as he gains experience. 

Oliver has 84 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and a sack this season. He had five tackles and a tackle for loss against Michigan.

In surefire pass-rush situations, Indiana brings in “bandit” backer Zack Shaw (Sr., 6-3, 253). His one job is to fire forward, disrupt passing lanes and, if possible, produce a sack. Shaw’s considered a liability in coverage, so you’ll rarely see him dropping back, but he’s an adequate enough outside blitzer.

For the season, Shaw has 38 tackles, nine tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He’s also batted down three passes when rushing in. Shaw had three stops and a tackle for loss last week.

Besides the aforementioned five, Dawson Fletcher (Jr., 6-0, 218) normally gets a few snaps each outing. Fletcher hasn’t done enough to ascend the depth chart, but he’s good for a tackle or two throughout the course of a game.

Defensive Backs

Indiana’s secondary was a question mark entering 2015, and that was before the Hoosiers lost one defensive back to transfer; another to a season-long suspension; a third who opted not to stick around for a fifth year of eligibility; and a fourth to injury. Now, IU has been forced to start four underclassmen, mixing and matching personnel to try and hide the unit’s inherent weaknesses.

To put it bluntly, not much has worked. Indiana ranks last in the Big Ten in pass defense. Not surprisingly, opposing quarterbacks have been eager to test the secondary.

At corner, Rashard Fant (So., 5-10, 177) and Andre Brown (Fr., 6-0, 194) have had difficulties adjusting to starting roles. Each has been burned throughout the year, typically surrendering an up-top play at least once every game.

Fant, who was at nickel last season, has the physical tools (read: speed, fluidity, athleticism) to cover, but his mechanics have been off. Quarterbacks pick on him often, and while he’s responded with numerous breakups, he’s also given up his share of deep balls.

So far, Fant has 43 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 16 pass defenses and a fumble recovery. He had five stops and three breakups against Michigan.

On the other side, Brown hasn’t fared much better. The freshman has length, is physical and has the necessary quickness, but his field awareness; footwork; and vision are a work in progress. He too has been taken to task during games, forcing IU to rotate through its backups.

Brown’s recorded 35 stops and four breakups in 2015. 

Fant and Brown are considered the starters, but No. 2s Ben Bach (So., 6-1, 195) and Noel Padmore (So., 5-11, 182) receive significant time. Neither has done enough to steal away the No. 1 gigs, however, which is a pretty good indication where the staff stands with them.

Padmore has seven tackles in 10 games; Bach’s racked up five tackles in the same number of outings. They do not have a pass breakup or an interception.

Safety Chase Dutra (So., 6-1, 206) is only a sophomore, but he’s the most experienced defensive back on the roster. Dutra’s been decent overall, namely in run defense, where he ranks third on the squad in tackles. But he’s prone to coverage errors and isn’t the rangiest safety out there. Plus Dutra missed two weeks earlier during the season, further depleting the secondary.

Dutra has 61 tackles, four tackles for loss, two breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He had six stops and a tackle for loss in the Michigan game.

The free safety, Jonathan Crawford (Fr., 6-2, 190), is trying to find his footing against Big Ten competition. He does have a team-high two interceptions, but that’s not really an indication of the season he’s having. Crawford’s been exposed against elite wideouts and hasn’t always aided the cornerbacks with over-the-top help. He’s learning how to read routes, anticipate moves and make quicker transitions.  Like his defensive-back cohorts, Crawford has talent and can be an opportunistic playmaker (see: forced fumble, blocked kick, two interceptions), but he’s improving in the mental department.

Crawford’s recorded 57 tackles, a tackle for loss, a sack, three interceptions, a forced fumble and blocked a kick on special teams. He had five tackles and a pick last week.

The two backup safeties, Tony Fields (So., 5-11, 203) and Jameel Cook (Fr., 6-1, 190), the latter a former Maryland pledge, each rotate through. Both actually have an interception this year, but they’ve surrendered a couple big plays too. Each has upside, but are currently in the developmental stages of their careers.

Also note a third safety/corner backup, Tyler Green (Fr., 6-3, 190), a former DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) star. Green hadn't seen too much time, but last week he had six tackles in his most extensive action this year.

Special Teams

Indiana’s special teams has, for the most part, been respectable thus far. The Hoosiers haven’t committed many glaring errors, and they’ve blocked an eye-popping four kicks. At the same time, Indiana’s kicking game has been average, and the returners haven’t readily swung momentum.

The kicker, Griffin Oakes (So., 5-10, 200), possesses a potent leg and can connect from beyond 50 yards. The problem is, he’s had some accuracy issues, evidenced by a wayward extra point. He has a bright future, however, and could be one of the Big Ten’s better kickers the next two years.

For the season, Oakes is 16-for-18 with a long of 51 yards and misses from 44 and 42 yards.

Punter Erich Toth (Sr., 6-3, 207) is basically in the same boat as Oakes. While Toth has a decent leg (41.5 yards per punt), he’s shanked a couple boots and hasn’t always placed the ball where the staff would like. Toth, though, has pinned opponents inside their 20-yard-line 18 times, proving he’s capable of flipping field position.

As far as the return game is concerned, kick returners Damon Graham (Sr., 5-10, 191) and Devonte Williams (Fr., 5-10, 180) basically share the duties. Neither has proven to be true home-run threats, however, nor have they shown enough individually to seize the starting job. The pair are considered typical 20-yards-and-out types. Graham is averaging 21.7 yards per return this year, while Williams is picking up 20.4 yards per bringback.

Maybe Indiana’s most explosive returner is Mitchell Paige (Jr., 5-7, 176), who took a punt to the house at 2015’s outset. But while he has the speed and burst to break one, Paige has muffed at least one punt and made some less-than-stellar decisions too. He also has not been able to repeat his early season heroics, mostly neutralized of late.

Paige is averaging 11.7 yards on 17 returns this season.


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