Hoosier Mailbag: January 24, 2015

 The Hoosier Mailbag is back as we answer questions from around Hoosier Nation  Photo by Creatas/Creatas / Getty Images

The Hoosier Mailbag is back as we answer questions from around Hoosier Nation

Photo by Creatas/Creatas / Getty Images

Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle) and T.J. Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)

1. Did the Hoosiers do the right thing bringing Wilson back for a fifth year? He has won 14 games and took a step back in 2014. If he isn't the right guy shouldn't IU just cut bait? - Debbie Downer

 Answer from TJ: Debbie Downer indeed…your questions and concerns are not entirely unfounded. IU hasn’t been to a bowl game under Kevin Wilson and most coaches don’t keep their job when they go 4 seasons without a bowl appearance. That being said, I don’t think it’s entirely fair to say that IU took a “step back” last season. In my opinion, the Hoosiers were hit hard by injuries (mainly Nate Sudfeld but the offensive line took some hits as well) and I can’t lay the blame at Wilson’s feet for that.

 The defense made progress (but still has a long way to go), IU knocked off the back-to-back SEC East Champion on the road, they were competitive in most games despite playing a physically unprepared Freshman QB and recruiting continues to go really well. I think stability is important and I’m glad that the administration brought Coach Wilson back. If the Hoosiers fail to reach a bowl game in 2015, the pressure on Coach Wilson will increase significantly. Thanks for the question DD.

 2. Signing Day is right around the corner, how would you say the 2015 class is shaping up? It started slow and took a major hit when Tommy Stevens left, but is this another solid job by Wilson? - Howie Hoosier

 Answer from TJ: Thanks for the question Howie. Losing Tommy Stevens was a bummer. I was impressed by his dual threat ability and I think he could end up being a very solid player in State College (once PSU gets their O-Line up to snuff). However, IU quickly found another QB when they secured the commitment of Austin King. King is from a good high school program in Alpharetta, Georgia (who plays a high-level of high school football), has really good size and is described as the ideal type of player for Kevin Wilson’s offense.

 The class is currently slotted as the 8th best recruiting class in the B1G, a very solid spot for the Hoosiers and another nice job by Wilson and his staff. That ranking would undoubtedly be higher if transfers were factored in because UAB transfers Jordan Howard and Marqui Hawkins are both very nice additions that should have an impact right away. Analysts seem to be big fans of a number of defensive commits (including safeties Tyler Green and Jonathan Crawford and linebacker Reakwon Jones) and I really like what Isaac James and Nick Westbrook can provide on offense. IU brought in a few large O-Line prospects that will hopefully keep the Hoosiers well-stacked upfront in the future and I’m pleased to see a good mix of kids from Indiana, Ohio and the late surge of commitments from Florida. Overall, it’s a very solid class that could still improve as the coaches pursue targets before Signing Day.

3. I know that IU was 4-8 this year and they have not sniffed a bowl game since '07, but how can the Hoosiers increase attendance, especially with the students who seem to just not make it across the street? – Kirk Kilroy

 Answer from TJ: Thanks for the question Kirk. This is a tough one to answer. Attendance is a problem that has plagued the Hoosiers football program for a long time and I know Fred Glass spends a lot of time thinking about ways to get more people into Memorial Stadium on game day. The shortest answer is to win more games. I am a firm believer that if IU consistently won 6-8 games every season, they would see attendance significantly increase. People will support a solid program, I have no doubts about that. However, that’s much easier said than done. Steps have been taken to improve the “Game Day Experience” and I think going to a game is a blast. Despite these measures, attendance has only slightly improved and is still below where IU needs it to be for the program to generate the revenue needed to compete with the upper half of the conference. The challenge for the IU Athletic Department is a very steep one but I’d like to see them try out some “2 for 1” ticket promotions during game weeks that have low ticket sales. You don’t need to do this  when Ohio State and Michigan come to town but I think it would boost attendance when IU hosts schools like Western Kentucky, Southern Illinois and Iowa. In my opinion, “2 for 1” deals (or other similar promotions) are a much better option than holding on to the tickets and having 25,000 empty seats at kick-off.

 My biggest problem with student attendance isn’t the number of students that show up to the game, it’s the number of students that leave the game at halftime and don’t return. Having a half-empty student section during the 2nd half of a competitive games looks bad on TV and I’m sure it’s frustrating for the players (Kevin Wilson has mentioned as much). This doesn’t reflect revenue but I think it’s a negative for the program and for recruiting. As I wrote earlier, the only surefire solution is to win more games…I guess you could say, “win and they will come”.

 4. What changes (tweaks to the scheme, situational play calling, distribution of run vs. pass) would you like to see, if any, from the coaching staff next season? -  Gridiron Guru

Answer By Sammy Jacobs

 Guru, thanks for the great question. The play calling in 2014 was not terrific, but most of that falls on the fact that the Hoosiers started freshman Zander Diamont at quarterback and he had a limited knowledge of the playbook when he started. As the season progressed offensive coordinator Kevin Johns opened it up a little bit more. This season, with the return of Nate Sudfeld, I would like to see the Hoosiers open up the passing game a little more and feature the tight end much more. The Hoosiers only had a handful of receptions by their tight ends in 2014 and I believe it hurt their offense. IU lacks a big receiver, but has three tight ends that have proven they can catch the ball in Anthony Corsaro, Michael Cooper, and Jordan Fuchs. The Hoosiers will add Austin Dorris, another talented prospect at the position who might end up redshirting. To me that is the difference between this offense being really good and great.

 5. Besides Tevin Coleman, which departed or graduated IU player do you think IU will miss the most this coming season and why? -  Victory Bacon

Answer By Sammy Jacobs

Ah Victory Bacon, the best kind of bacon. I believe the Hoosiers are going to miss safety Mark Murphy the most. Anytime you lose a senior on defense it’s a big deal, but Murphy was a major contributor for IU the last four years playing in 47 games while starting in 42. In his four years he recorded 279 tackles, four interceptions and two touchdowns.  He was an extremely intelligent player who could read the offense. The Hoosiers have two talented safeties now in Antonio Allen and Chase Dutra but Murphy’s presence on and off the field will be missed.

 

6. Assuming Nate Sudfeld returns from injury at 100%, where would you rank him if you were picking B1G QB's for the 2015 season? - Nick's Hut

Answer By Sammy Jacobs

There are some great quarterbacks in the Big Ten, especially in the East division, with Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones, Connor Cook, and Christian Hackenberg all returning. If Nate Sudfeld returns at 100% he should be somewhere in the conversation among the top three QBs in the conference. Only one of the three Ohio State quarterbacks will start and it seemed like Cook has plateaued while Hackenberg took a step back. Much of Sudfeld’s success in 2015 falls on the shoulders of his offensive line and receivers. If he cannot stay upright he will not be successful. Even more imperative is that Sudfeld’s receivers start catching the ball. Drops were a major issue with Hoosier wide outs last year. You can be the best quarterback in the universe, but if you do not get blocking and your receivers do not hang onto the ball you will not find success.