1) Nick Westbrook had a great outing at wide receiver against Ball State, but just how much are the Hoosiers going to miss Sammie Cobbs Jr., who is out for the season after surgery on his ankle?
Matthew Weaver: There is no doubt that losing Cobbs is a tough blow. He was the leading receiver last year for the Hoosiers and he is a player that other teams have to really account for. On top of that he is a tough match-up because of his size and athleticism. The good news is IU has a pretty deep and talented group of wideouts.
As you pointed out, Nick Westbrook has stepped up big time so far this season. They are going to need him to keep doing that with Cobbs out. They also need to get senior Ricky Jones going. He was second on the team last year in receiving yards, but so far this season he only has three receptions for 18 yards. That has to change going forward with Cobbs out.
Another guy that could help pick up the slack is sophomore Donavan Hale. Hale came to IU as a QB but was moved to receiver last fall and he has a huge upside. Since he is still learning the position the consistency isn’t there, but as far as athletic ability and talent Hale might have the highest ceiling of any of the wideouts on the IU roster. Once it clicks with him he could really take off as a player.
2) How have returning players adjusted to new defensive coordinator Tom Allen, and how would you best describe his approach and scheme?
Weaver: It has been a very smooth transition. The biggest thing Coach Allen did when he came in was really get to know every defensive player on a personal level and get their feedback on the defense and what they thought needed to be changed and what needed to be done differently from how things operated in the past. That has gone a long way towards building trust between him and the players.
As far as his approach, Coach Allen is the most energetic and most upbeat and positive person I have ever been around. He is demanding but he does it in a way that shows the players he cares and in return they have been playing very hard for him and they have bought in 100 percent with what he is doing. This is still not a great defense, but they are much improved over what IU has had the last several seasons.
Coach Allen runs a 4-2-5 scheme with that fifth DB basically being a hybrid safety/linebacker. He likes to be aggressive and he preaches takeaways and it has paid off as the IU defense has picked off four passes and recovered two fumbles in two games. The defensive line is a little thin when it comes to talent and depth, but the linebacker unit is talented and so is the secondary.
3) What's been the overall fan response to coach Kevin Wilson's admonishment over leaving game early?
Weaver: I think it has been a bit of a mixed bag. There have been some people who have taken offense to it, but there are others that agree with him and understand where he is coming from. The bottom-line is the stadium is not going to be full consistently, and people aren’t going to stay until the end, until the casual fans believe the program has truly turned the corner. I think many fans can see the program is headed in the right direction, but for the people who are not diehards they probably need a little more proof.
4) If Dan Freeney isn't cleared through concussion protocol, who fills in at RG and how much of an impact will that have on the IU offensive line? Is true freshman Coy Cronk grading out well so far this season?
Weaver: If Feeney can’t go then fifth year senior Jacob Bailey will most likely be his replacement. Bailey is a very solid lineman that has started a number of games in his career, but Dan Feeney is an All-American and arguably the best offensive guard in college football so it will be a bit of a blow if he is out. It also impacts the depth because if Bailey or the other starting guard were to go down you could be inserting a lineman that is very inexperienced.
From all accounts Cronk has done a very nice job so far this season. It is rare to have a true freshman starting on the offensive line, especially at a position like left tackle, but Cronk is a very talented guy and someone the staff is extremely high on. He has alternated out there with sophomore Brandon Knight, and I would expect that to continue this week. When Cronk is at left tackle the staff has been using Knight as a tight end which essentially gives them six offensive linemen. I would think that will be the plan this week against the Wake Forest defensive front.
5) Any idea on what the staff thinks about having the bye week so early in the season?
Weaver: A bye week after two games is not ideal but for IU it might have actually come at a somewhat good time. With a new QB and a new defense the bye week now gave the staff a chance to watch the film from the first two games and implement any changes they feel are necessary.
It also helps from a health standpoint as they had some guys banged up in fall camp that were being counted on to play but haven’t been able to get on the field yet. And with the injury to Feeney it gives him an extra week to get healthy. With the Cobbs injury it allows them an extra week to try and get some of the other receivers in the mix.
The downside of course is now you have 10 straight weeks of football and if there are more injuries the depth is really going to be tested.
Weaver: I think Wake’s defense will make things tough for IU on offense but I think they score enough to get the win. I will say IU 30 – Wake Forest 20.