This is the first installment our breakdown of Navy's football opponents throughout the 2013 campaign. We begin by taking an early look into the Mids season-opening opponent, Indiana.
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 7; 6 p.m. EST
WHERE: Memorial Stadium (Bloomington, IN.)
LAST SEASON: 4-8 (2-6 Big Ten, 5th place in Leaders Division; No bowl game)
CURRENT PRESEASON RANKING: Not Ranked
SERIES HISTORY: Indiana leads, 2-1. (Last meeting: Navy 31, Indiana 30, in game seven last season)
OFFENSE: At this point in time it is anyone's guess who the Indiana quarterback will be on opening day. The Hoosiers have a three way battle going on in camp and as yet none of the trio of Tre Roberson, Cameron Coffman, and Nate Sudfeld has stood up and distanced himself from the competition. "We're unsettled at quarterback," head coach Kevin Wilson said at B1G media days. "Got three guys in a dead heat. It's not because I don't think we've got a good player. We've got three guys that are all very unique, can manage us. Haven't seen someone separate through spring. I don't know if anyone had any particularly horrible days."
Whomever emerges as the signal caller will be stepping into a situation which seems designed for success. The Hoosiers have a wide receiving corps that is easily among the top five in the Big Ten, and after Ohio State you can argue they may be the second best group overall. Returning everyone that mattered from a strong unit last fall, which includes senior Kofi Hughes (43 receptions for 639 yards) and juniors Cody Latimer (51 for 805) and Shane Wynn (67 for 648), the Hoosiers have huge expectations for their pass catchers in 2013. The running game is solid with a feature back in Stephen Houston, while the offensive line made big strides in their pass protection last fall.
Conclusion: If Indiana is to upset Navy it will be down to their offense. This group will have potential to put up big numbers against any defense they play and will prove to be a stern test for the Mids. Without a complimentary back to Houston they are not the fastest out of the backfield, but the wide outs will give the Navy corner backs everything they can handle.
DEFENSE: When you return ten players who started a game on defense last year a team would usually be talking up the benefits of continuity. The problem for the Hoosiers though is that those ten players return on a defense which was dead last in the Big Ten giving up 464 yards per contest. Though the Indiana defense was not particularly good at anything in 2012 they were especially bad on the ground. Opponents shredded them to the tune of 231 yards per outing as they struggled with both defensive positioning and open field tackling, which is never a good combination.
The Hoosiers do have to replace defensive tackle Adam Replogle who started 47 of 48 games at defensive tackle since 2009. His five sacks (tied for eighth in conference) will have to be replaced by an up and coming group who have been the focus of recruiting for the last couple of years. When looking for an example the newer players can look to safety Greg Heban. The strength of the defense will be in the secondary and Heban in particular who lead the team with 91 tackles and three interceptions last fall.
Conclusion: All that experience is a plus and it would be unexpected if Indiana were as bad on defense this year as they were in 2012. Four star recruit Antonio Allen has the build and talent to play from day one and his addition is one of a number of recruits who could easily signed for traditional Big Ten powers. If this unit makes the jump many are predicting then it will be a hard day at the offense for the Mids who will have to wear down the Hoosiers with the option attack.
Other Factors: Kickers don't get a whole lot of attention but Indiana junior Mitch Ewald is a good one who will have an impact on the game. He is as good as they come in the country from inside 45 yards, and he is also a field position asset as half of his kickoffs result in touchbacks.
Coach Wilson is entering his third season in Bloomington and he has pedigree having being the offensive coordinator to Bob Stoops at Oklahoma for years. His game planning is top notch and if he has recruited the talent to plug huge depth concerns from last year then Indiana can win enough games to make a bowl this fall.
Conclusion: This is one of those early season games which is hard to predict. Wilson is undoubtedly doing good things at Indiana, but the lack of a quarterback jumping out in the competition entering the fall must be a worry. It is also worth noting that while this is Navy's opener, it is actually the second game of the season for the Hoosiers who will thus be a little more in sync early. If Keenan Reynolds is the player that everyone in Annapolis believes, then this is the kind of game he will have to lead the Mids to victory in.
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