Written By Alex Compton
Fresh off of an appearance in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, the pressure is on this year’s group of Hoosiers to get back to the postseason. With plenty of departures from last year and new additions this season, it will take some time before we really get a feel for what this team will look like. While it is important to remember that a spring game is essentially a practice, we will be watching closely to see if we can get answers to some of the biggest questions that remain heading into the 2016-17 campaign.
Will we see a clear #1 QB emerge?
In an offseason filled with storylines, this one is the most important. With Nate Sudfeld gone to the NFL, IU is obviously left with a considerable void behind center. All throughout spring ball, head coach Kevin Wilson and offensive coordinator Kevin Johns have both described the quarterback battle as open and even between Danny Cameron and JUCO transfer Richard Lagow. In his limited playing time so far, Danny Cameron has performed adequately and it is reasonable to expect he would play on a similar level with more snaps. However, the man expected to win the job is Richard Lagow, yet to develop solid timing with his receivers, and has not yet grasped all of the nuances of the offense either. Lagow certainly has the talent to be a big contributor for IU as soon as this season, the only thing holding him back at this point is the experience and knowledge that Danny Cameron seems to have over him. Throughout the game, look for the poise and decision making each QB shows, as this could very well end up decided who takes the first snap against Florida International in five months.
What will Tom Allen’s Defense look like?
One of the major differences fans will see right away on Friday is the look of the defense. New defensive coordinator Tom Allen is notorious for his 4-2-5 scheme, which emphasizes playmaking and “swarming” to the ball. While the “2” means you would line up two linebackers, it will be interesting to see if this is actually the case on Friday. As we have covered on the site in the past, the strength of this year’s defense is the linebacking corps. With experience, talent, and depth, this will be the unit that is expected to anchor the revamped defense. Limiting looks to only two of these linebackers at a time may not be the best strategy, but coach Allen will have to decide that for himself. I would expect for the defense to play more like a 3-3-5, in which either the third linebacker or a member of the secondary would transition into the “husky” pass-rushing role. The personnel groupings should be pretty much set at this point, so really watch closely on Friday for the way the defense lines up instead.
Who gets carries behind Devine Redding?
With the unfortunate injury to running back Camion Patrick, the clear-cut top back is Devine Redding. Redding has shown us time and time again that he can be a top back, and now he has his shot. Besides Redding, the backfield is sort of a mystery. There is a mix of guys that can all perform, so it will be interesting to see who ends up being the guy to give Devine a break every few snaps. Candidates include Mike Majette, Ricky Brookins and Alex Rodriguez, as well as Devonte Williams. After switching from defensive back to running back this offseason, Williams is an interesting guy to watch. The coaches love his versatility coming out of the backfield, which could make him a dark horse candidate to win the spot in the future. While Majette could be the #2 on Friday, don’t be surprised to see Devonte Williams out on the field a bunch.
Who gets the catches on the outside?
The offense is absolutely loaded with dynamic playmakers at receiver. The top three receivers from last year all return (Simmie Cobbs, Ricky Jones, Mitchell Paige), and we will see guys like Nick Westbrook and Luke Timian back after productive spurts last season. Add in J-Shun Harris and Isaac Griffith, who were both sidelined with knee injuries last season, and you have an impressive stable of playmakers at receiver. The talent is undeniable, now it just comes down to who executes and makes the plays when their number is called. I would expect the top three receivers to be the top three yet again, but it will be interesting to see who else steps up. With talented freshman coming in this summer, it will be important for guys like Harris and Marqui Hawkins to make an impression on the staff now, so that they can cement themselves as reliable playmakers for next season. Behind Cobbs, Paige and Jones, watch to see which guys look ready to make that jump.
What will the crowd be like?
After what was regarded as a successful season, the challenge for IUFB now is to keep the momentum rolling. With a solid recruiting class and new additions to the staff, there is a good deal of excitement among the general fan base and student body as well. The key now is to capitalize on it. Nestled in the middle of Little 500 Weekend, I would expect student attendance to be lower than normal. However, making the game on Friday night should help the team see an attendance boost this season. I hope that the fans appreciate the progress the program has made over the past few seasons, and come out to Memorial Stadium in full force to show their excitement for what lies ahead.
The 2016 Cream and Crimson Spring Football game will take place on Friday, April 15th at 6:30 pm at Memorial Stadium. The event is free to all fans, and we encourage you to come out and support the team. Be sure to check back on the site in the following days, as we will have tons of coverage on the game itself.