Written By Nick Holmes (@HoosierHolmes)
As the college football season nears its end with only the National Championship left you can probably guess what the next logical thing to do, and that is predict what the Hoosiers’ depth chart will look like in 2015. In this first of two articles I’ll look at the offensive side of the ball by briefly reviewing the performance of each positional group. Identifying key contributors who will and won’t be returning, and predicting who is likely to see the field for the IU next fall. Obviously a lot can and will change between now and kickoff with the addition of the 2015 recruiting class and potential injuries and departures, but it’s never too early to start looking forward to next season.
After a season that was largely defined by the loss of their starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld, the Hoosiers return three quarterbacks with game experience in 2015. Two more than it had at the start of the 2014 season. Indiana lost their 6’5” junior gunslinger Sudfeld in the team’s sixth game of the season against Iowa to a shoulder injury that required surgery. In the very same game true freshman backup Chris Covington tore his ACL and was also lost for the season. In stepped Zander Diamont, the wiry true freshman from Los Angeles. His introduction to Big Ten Football was one of baptism by fire against the vaunted Michigan State Spartan defense. Diamont battled valiantly over the team’s final six games, unfortunately, he wasn’t quite ready for the bright lights of the Big Ten. Unable to get their passing attack on track, a product of both erratic throws and drops by receivers, IU’s offense was left largely one dimensional. Despite this, the Hoosiers were able to end the season on a high note by securing a victory in the last game of the season against in-state rival Purdue, 23-16 in the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket.
Now as the Hoosiers embark on their journey towards the 2015 campaign, a season where it seems that anything less than attaining bowl eligibility could land Wilson on the hot seat, they’ll need to choose the signal caller that gives them the best chance to “Win Today.” Despite the intestinal fortitude and moxy displayed down the stretch by the young California kid Diamont, I doubt too many will argue against Sudfeld being the best option to win now. Sudfeld, who will be entering his fourth season, provides the Hoosiers’ with its best combination of skill, size, and experience at quarterback. At backup pencil in Chris Covington, health pending, due to his size and versatility to be used in wild cat situations. This scenario may allow the staff to redshirt Diamont, as it had hoped it would have been able to this past season.
QB1 - Nate Sudfeld - SR
QB2 - Chris Covington – SO
On December 29th it became official, the Hoosiers are faced with the daunting task of replacing one of the nation’s most prolific runners and one of the few bright spots of the 2014 season, Tevin Coleman. The school’s single season rushing leader with 2,036 yards announced he would forgo his senior season to enter the NFL draft. This was certainly a surprise to no one and certainly not to the coaching staff who had reached out to University of Alabama-Birmingham running back Jordan Howard shortly after it was announced on December 2nd that the Blazers’ football program would be shutting down. "As our season ended, we thought it was likely Tevin Coleman was headed to the NFL," Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said in a release. "Jordan instantly became our top target. What happened at UAB is unfortunate for Jordan, his teammates and everyone involved with the program, but this is a perfect match for both sides.” What makes Howard such an ideal fit for the Hoosiers is his running style is similar to that of Coleman’s one cut style. Both show good vision by identifying where a hole is in the defense and getting north and south quickly. Another thing that makes Howard such an attractive addition is that he has already proven he is capable of succeeding in college. Howard’s 1,587 rushing yards were good for seventh best nationally at the end of the regular season and currently rank 14th best after being passed by players participating in the postseason.
In addition to Coleman, the Hoosiers will need to find a replacement for senior backup running back D’Angelo Roberts. The Bloomington native’s gritty and determined running style provided a spark off the bench for the Hoosiers rushing attack. The highlight of his senior season coming in the upset win over the eventual SEC East Champion Missouri Tigers where he leapt into the end zone for the go ahead touchdown.
Sophomore change of pace back Devine Redding, the Hoosiers’ leading returning rusher with 29 carries for 118 yards and a touchdown, seems to be the logical choice to step into the backup role. The Hoosiers other options at tailback include redshirt sophomore Myles Graham, a bigger bodied back ideal for short yardage situations, and highly touted and heavily recruited redshirt freshman Tommy Mister, who will be coming off an ACL injury suffered during camp last fall. Regardless of who is named the starter and back up, there’s a good chance all four backs will get an opportunity to contribute.
RB1 – Jordan Howard – RS JR
RB2 – Devine Redding – SO
Since Wilson and company arrived in Bloomington the play of the offensive line has incrementally improved every season, culminating in one of the most productive rushing attacks in the nation in 2014. The Hoosiers will need to replace four-year starter Collin Rahrig, and key reserves David Kaminski, Bernard Taylor, and Peyton Eckert, but still return a deep, talented group. The line will also be getting an injection of youth with the 2014 class that includes JUCO transfer DeAndre Herron, true freshmen Wes Martin and Delroy Baker, and former Ohio State commit and transfer Tim Gardner. Martin impressed fellow teammates by putting up 440 on the bench press, Baker was a heavily recruited athletic tackle from Florida, and both Gardner and Herron provide some additional flexibility as each have the size to play at either guard or tackle. The Hoosiers also got favorable news when both Jake Reed and Ralston Evans announced they would return for their 5th and final year of eligibility. Both are penciled in as starters, however, the talented group of underclassmen might have something to say about that. Jacob Bailey who made two starts in 2014 could also see some playing time at the guard position. Regardless of who ends up in the 2 deep, it’s safe to say the offensive line should once again be a strength for the Hoosiers.
LT1 - Jason Spriggs - SR
LT2 - Delroy Baker - RS FR
LG1 - Tim Gardner - RS SO
LG2 - DeAndre Herron - RS JR
C1 - Jake Reed - RS SR
C2 - Wes Rogers - RS JR
RG1 - Dan Feeney - RS JR
RG2 - Wes Martin RS FR
RT1 - Ralston Evans RS SR
RT2 - Dimitric Camiel - RS JR
Going into 2014 it was fairly obvious that the Hoosiers’ passing game would face a steep learning curve. The days of throwing the ball up and having a big-bodied, 1,000-yard career receiver coming down with it were past. With Duwyce Wilson and Kofi Hughes exhausting their eligibility and Cody Latimer foregoing his senior season to go catch the pigskin for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, the Hoosiers saw a position of considerable wealth become a position of desperate need. Unfortunately the 2012 and 2013 classes did little to help cushion the blow, as only two of the six the wide receiver commits from those classes remain with the team.
For the second straight season the Hoosiers find themselves in the unenviable position of replacing another career 1,000-yard receiver, this time the diminutive and agile Shane Wynn. The team also suffers the loss of seniors Nick Stoner and Zeke Roundtree, neither of which had the impact they had hoped in their final season due to injuries. Therefore, it goes without saying that receiver is the most wide-open position on the team, making it the most difficult to predict.
At one of the outside spots expect to see another UAB transfer, wide receiver Marqui Hawkins. The Hoosiers identified Hawkins as one of the players on the now defunct UAB program that could help the team in a position of need. Although this fall will be Hawkins third season in college, it will be his first opportunity to see the field, which makes him a bit of an unknown. The former 3-star Florida commit had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, UNC, Tennessee and USC out of high school. Hawkins transferred to UAB after Florida moved him to the secondary during his freshman year. J-Shun Harris will likely be penciled in as starter at the slot, who showed glimpses of being a playmaker on offense catching 18 passes for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns. Simmie Cobbs and Dominique Booth are the likely frontrunners to start at the other outside spot. Cobbs has the higher ceiling athletically but had trouble with dropping passes in critical situations. Booth, on the other hand, is the more reliable pass catcher and polished route runner. This is the position that will likely have the greatest amount of shake up once a very talented group of wide receivers from the 2015 class gets on campus.
WR 1 - Simmie Cobbs
WR 2 - Dominique Booth
WR Slot 1- J-Shun Harris
WR Slot 2 - Isaac Griffith
WR 1 – Marqui Hawkins
WR 2 – Ricky Jones or Coray Keel
This season also saw a significant decline in production at tight end with the graduation of Ted Bolser. The Hoosiers had hopes they could rely on sophomore Danny Friend to help replace some of Bolser’s production. Unfortunately, Friend suffered a knee injury during preseason camp and never saw the field in 2014. As a result, the Hoosiers were forced to man the position by committee with former walk on Anthony Corsaro, Arizona transfer Michael Cooper, and true freshman New Jersey basketball standout Jordan Fuchs all seeing the field. Fuchs has the most upside as a pass catcher, giving defenses fits with his rare combination of size and speed. For Fuchs to meet his full potential at tight end he will need to add some bulk to his frame and work on becoming a better blocker. All four could end up seeing playing time depending on the down, distance, and play call.
TE 1 - Jordan Fuchs
TE 2 - Danny Friend
The Hoosier offense should once again feature a strong running game with the addition of UAB transfer Jordan Howard and the return of multiple starters along the offensive line. The aerial attack still remains somewhat of a question mark, even with the return of quarterback Nate Sudfeld and any improvement will be dependent on the development of returning players and the inclusion of 2015 class. Having a senior quarterback, a 1,000-yard running back, and a full off season under the belt of young receivers coupled with the second year of Kevin Johns calling the plays should help the Hoosiers offense get back to where it was in 2013, at the top of the Big Ten.