Quick 2014 Indiana review: All seemed lost for Indiana after a three-point loss to Bowling Green in week two, but the Hoosiers stunned college football by going to Missouri and knocking off the SEC East champions 31-27 in week three. As it turned out, the blow dealt by the Falcons paled in comparison to one from Iowa on Oct. 11. The Hawkeyes not only beat the Hoosiers 45-29 but knocked quarterback Nate Sudfeld out for the rest of the season with an injured left (non-throwing) shoulder. That was the start of a six-game losing streak that finally came to an end in the season finale when Indiana topped Purdue 23-16 in the Battle for the Old Oaken Bucket.
With Sudfeld going down, the offense became extremely one-dimensional, but even defenses that knew Tevin Coleman was coming could hardly stop him. He ended up with a school-record 2,036 rushing yards and opted to leave school with one year of eligibility remaining. While the Hoosiers ran wild, their run defense also improved by nearly 50 yards per game. However, that was still only good for 10th in the Big Ten. It was also much better than the pass defense, which finished last in the conference in terms of yards.
The Football Outsiders advanced stats placed the Hoosiers last in the Big Ten overall in F/+ and reveal an offense that was almost completely dependent on big plays in the running game for success (no surprise there). Defensively, the Hoosiers were average on standard downs but struggled on passing downs. They had an average success rate but had a problem preventing big plays.
Spring game recap: Ricky Brookins ran for 107 yards on 16 carries, including a 53-yard scamper, to lead the Crimson to a 13-10 victory April 18 in Bloomington. Three quarterbacks combined to complete 15 of 29 passes for the Crimson for 141 yards and two touchdowns, both off the hand of Zander Diamont. Back from injury, Sudfeld completed 17 of 24 passes for 187 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Cream, which was led in receiving by J-Shun Harris, who caught five passes for 57 yards. Alex Rodriguez ran for 63 yards and Devine Redding added 57 for the Cream. Both defenses notched five sacks, including two apiece by Cream defensive lineman Robert McCray III and Crimson linebacker Clyde Newton. Tegray Scales, a sophomore linebacker from Cincinnati Colerain, led all tacklers with eight stops.
Issues addressed: The Hoosiers finished spring unsure of who will replace Coleman. The expected top candidate, UAB transfer Jordan Howard, sat out much of spring with an elbow injury, but he should still compete for the starting job in the fall. Redding is a sophomore from Cleveland Glenville while Brookins and Rodriquez are walk-ons, and head coach Kevin Wilson saw their success in the running game as further proof the Hoosiers have developed a good offensive line. Four starters return up front with Tim Gardner, a redshirt freshman from Indianapolis who signed with Ohio State but was sent home for disciplinary reasons before ever playing a down for the Buckeyes, working his way into the No. 1 group at right tackle this spring.
“The group in general is an extremely solid group with depth,” Wilson said. “There’s a diversity of experience and youth.”
Of course, there is hope the return of a healthy Sudfeld will be a huge boost to the passing game, and Wilson praised him for his command of the offense this spring.
Sudfeld’s injury was not the sole reason Indiana went from first to worst in the Big Ten in passing yards from 2013 to ’14, though. Outside of mighty mite Shane Wynn, consistent receiving threats were hard to find. Wynn has used up his eligibility, but Sudfeld was happy with what he saw this spring.
“They’re night and day from where they were last fall, but I also think our quarterbacks are too,” Sudfeld said. “These guys are really so hungry. They’re taking pride in the wide receiver position because you know in years past Indiana was kind of known for our receivers. I think we have the talent with the guys right here and right now that we can do some special things this fall. We’ve got to keep working and getting on the same page, but I think we’ll get there.”
Domonique Booth, a sophomore from Indianapolis Pike, and Marqui Hawkins, another UAB transfer, stood out in a final practice the Hoosiers held following the spring game.
Defensively, the Hoosiers return six players and hope to be stronger in their second year in coordinator Brian Knorr’s 3-4 defense.
Darius Latham, Nate Hoff and Nick Mangieri give the Hoosiers three experienced linemen to rely on up front, and youngsters Scales at linebacker and Antonio Allen at safety could become playmakers with bigger roles this fall.