Learn more about the foe this weekend for the Michigan State Spartans football team as they head to Bloomington, Indiana to take on Kevin Wilson and his Hoosiers football team.
How important was it to the future of Indiana football for the administration to give Kevin Wilson a contract extension?
It was huge for a few different reasons. First, IU football has had a revolving door of coaches for some time so to finally have some stability is obviously good because it is tough to build a program when there is a coaching change every four or five years.
Second, it was extremely important for recruiting because other schools were starting to use his contract situation against him. After last season Coach Wilson only had two years remaining on his original deal, and at a place like Indiana it is virtually impossible to recruit with that type of contract uncertainty. The new contract lets recruits know that this staff isn’t going anywhere and they don’t have to worry about who their coach will be in a few years.
Finally, it showed that Indiana is serious about having a respectable football program. Indiana has never been a school to pay market rate for their football coaches, but with this new contract for Coach Wilson they have made a big financial commitment to both him and his staff.
Kevin Wilson hired Tom Allen as his new defensive coordinator. How much has Allen changed the Hoosiers defense from what we’ve seen before.
Coach Allen has made a huge difference on the IU defense. Now, they are only three games in and they have yet to play any conference games, but compared to where they were last year at this time to where they are now is night and day. They are just a much better overall defense. There will still be some issues because they are thin in some areas like defensive line, but the attitude and the mindset of this defense is so much different. I think that is where Coach Allen has made the biggest difference. IU defensively the last few years did not appear to be a confident group, but that is no longer the case. Their body language and the way they go about their business is so much better than it has been since I have covered this program.
The on the field change is Coach Allen runs a 4-2-5 scheme. Last year IU ran a 3-4 scheme so there has been some adjusting to that. Coach Allen’s scheme is similar to what TCU does under Gary Patterson. The fifth DB is basically a hybrid safety/linebacker. It allows the defense to have more speed on the field, but this week with MSU and their more traditional offensive attack it would not be surprising to see them play more in a 4-3 base because having a fifth DB could make it difficult to defend the run consistently.
New starting quarterback Richard Lagow looks on paper to have picked up where Nate Sudfeld left off. What does Lagow bring differently to the Hoosiers offense and what has been his weakness so far?
Lagow is very similar to Nate as a quarterback. They are both about the same size at around 6’6 and 240 or so pounds. They both have big arms that can make every throw. Neither guy is going to make a ton of plays with their feet, but Lagow does move a little better than Nate so you could see him run the ball a little bit. Talent-wise there is not much of a difference. Where there is a difference is Nate knew the offense like the back of his hand and was very comfortable in it, and he also had all those practice reps with the wideouts and tight ends and backs. Richard knows the offense well but not to the level that Nate did which is to be expected this early in his career. He is also still developing that rapport with the guys around him.
He hasn’t shown much as far as weaknesses so far. Last week he did have five picks but Coach Wilson has said that he really only puts one of those throws on Richard. Two of the balls went off the hands of the intended receiver, and two others he said were the result of poor play calling. Richard can sometimes try to force a throw into a tight window when he probably shouldn’t, but overall his play has been pretty good.
Kevin Wilson is 0-5 against Michigan State. Last season the Hoosiers gave Michigan and Ohio State all they could handle. Is this the game Wilson gets a signature win?
I think it certainly doable. Michigan State is a great program, but they are obviously in a bit of a transition year with a new QB and some other new faces at key spots. It also looks like they are a little banged up on the defensive side, so if there was ever an opportunity to get a signature win this could be it. The thing is, MSU is coming off an embarrassing loss and great programs almost always bounce back in a big way after a game like that so IU better be ready to play a very good game this week because MSU is going to be looking to redeem themselves in a big way.
Who is the one player on the Hoosiers offense Michigan State fans should know?
Wide receiver Nick Westbrook is a guy to keep an eye on. He is a sophomore from Florida that played some last year, but was basically thrust into the starting line-up this season when last year’s leading receiver, Simmie Cobbs, was suspended for game one of the season and then suffered what appears to be a season-ending injury very early in game two. After three games Westbrook has 15 receptions for 332 yards and four touchdowns. I think he is also the only wideout in the nation to have two touchdown catches of over 70 or 75 yards. He is a very talented guy and someone the MSU secondary has to be aware of.
Who is the one player on the Hoosiers defense Michigan State fans should know?
There are a few names to choose from but I will go with linebacker Marcus Oliver. He is a redshirt junior from Hamilton, Ohio and he is just a good football player. He is not a wow player, but just the type of guy that makes plays and is very productive. Against an MSU offense that is most likely going to try and pound the ball he will be important. Fellow linebacker Tegray Scales and defensive back Marcelino Ball are also names to know, but Oliver is the leader of the IU defense and if he plays well that usually bodes well for that unit as a whole.
Indiana opened the season with wins over Florida International and Ball State. What did the loss to Wake Forest show you about this team? Are they better or worse than last year’s team?
The Wake Forest loss showed how important winning the turnover battle is. Usually when one team turns the ball over five times and the other team has no turnovers it is a blowout type of game, but that was not the case for IU in their loss to Wake Forest. They were in that game all day long even though they kept killing themselves with turnovers. Take away a couple of those mistakes and IU probably wins by double digits because they had very little trouble moving the ball with over 600 yards of total offense. This week will show a lot about this team because they have to battle back from disappointment and show how resilient they are, and they have to do it against one of the top programs in the Big Ten and the nation.
Defensively they are better than last year. The numbers prove that, but more important to me is the eye test. It is evident in just watching them play that this defense is improved. Are they a great defense? Probably not, but I will be surprised if they end up being the worst defense in the league like they have been the last few years.
Offensively they are not at the same level they were last year when they were really clicking, but I think they will get there because they have as much talent as they did last year. The biggest difference is the experience at the QB spot. As Lagow gets more and more comfortable leading the offense the better and more explosive they will be, and they have been pretty productive so far.