Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
The 2015 season was a roller coaster of emotion for the fans, but we were glad to be along for this wild ride. The Hoosier players stayed even-keeled in season that featured a four-game winning streak, a six-game losing streak, two road wins to close out the Big Ten schedule, and more than a handful of games which came down to the final minutes. If that isn't exciting, we may have to check your pulse.
Like everything in life, it is easier and fairest to evaluated the entire season as a whole after it is completed. Sure, mid-term reports are a great way to see where you stand at that moment, but this report card will tell fans where we thought the Hoosiers finished. So let's start with our grades for the offense.
Senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld had a stellar comeback season after missing the final six games of 2014. He started 12 of the 13 games including the bowl, missing half of the Ohio State game and the entire contest at Penn State due to an ankle injury. For the season he finished completing 60 percent of his passes for a school-record 3,573 yards and 27 touchdowns to only seven interceptions and was named Third-Team All-Big Ten. Had he played those six quarters against Ohio State and Penn State he may have threatened to crack the 4,000-yard mark.
Points have to be taken away for the lack of depth behind Sudfeld. A year after the Hoosiers found out what life without their number one passer was like, they had issues with depth again as Sudfeld was sidelined for a game-and-a-half with an ankle injury. Indiana was held to a season-low seven points in a loss at Penn State, as Zander Diamont and Danny Cameron just could not command the offense.
Running Backs A+
For the first time in history the Hoosiers had two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season. Despite missing 22 quarters of football Jordan Howard finished with a team-high 1,213 yards on the ground and tied with fellow running back Devine Redding for a team-high nine touchdowns. Redding cracked the 1,000-yard mark with a record performance against Duke in the Pinstripe Bowl. He finished with 1,012 yards on 229 carries.
Devine Redding was great in relief of Jordan Howard over the final three games of the season as the Hoosier rushing attack never missed a beat. The Hoosiers also received timely performances from redshirt junior Andrew Wilson in the Bucket Game and freshman Mike Majette in a loss to Rutgers.
Wide Receivers B
As good as Indiana's offense was in 2015, I just could not give the wide receiving corps an 'A', due in large part to dropped balls. The receivers were one of the biggest question marks heading into the season, but by the end of it they were a strength. Simmie Cobbs became the number one target for Nate Sudfeld as he hauled in 60 catches for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns. However, Cobbs was plagued by drops the entire season, some coming in the biggest of spots for IU.
Ricky Jones, who has been bitten by the injury bug his entire Hoosier career, lived up to his hype when he was recruited. He had a really solid season, carrying the Hoosiers passing attack over the first four games. He finished as the team's second leading receiver with 906 yards on 54 catches, and reached the end zone five times.
Mitchell Paige, a virtual unknown to most coming into the year, became one of Sudfeld's most trusted weapons. He finished second on the squad with 57 catches for 684 yards and had a team-high six touchdowns.
The good news for IU is that all three of these guys will be back for 2016. Another bit of bright news was how the younger players performed in the bowl game. Hoosier fans got a glimpse of freshman Nick Westbrook, who finished the year with six catches for 69 yards and a TD, as well as walk-on transfer Luke Timian whose two catches and 51 yards were huge for the Hoosiers. Isaac Griffith, five catches for 54 yards, was beginning to hit his stride before he blew out his knee in the loss to Penn State. If the wide outs can improve upon their drops from this season, this unit will be one of the conference's best in 2016.
Tight Ends A-
There was a lot of chatter about the tight end position coming into the season, as fans and coaches wanted to see more production from the unit. While the receiving stats do not jump off the page at people, this unit was instrumental in the success of the Hoosier running game.
Seniors Michael Cooper, 17 catches, 205 yards, 2 TDs, and Anthony Corsaro, 10 catches, 142 yards, paced the Hoosier tight ends in receiving, while sophomore Jordan Fuchs was good in spurts when he was healthy. He finished with four catches and two touchdowns in just seven games this season.
The biggest reason this unit deserves an 'A' is for their support in the run game. Through the first four games Danny Friend was as good a blocking tight end as there has been at IU in the last decade. When he went down with a leg injury at Wake Forest the Hoosiers felt his absence in losses to Ohio State and Penn State. This prompted the Hoosiers to move freshman tackle Brandon Knight to tight end. Knight played in ten games and filled to void left by Friend. He was a large reason why the IU running game was so potent during the second half of the season. Oh, and he scored his first career touchdown at Purdue. IU will have some holes to fill on this unit, but should get some help from Austin Dorris, who redshirted, and JUCO Ian Thompson who committed late in 2015.
Offensive Line A+
No play personified this unit more than Dan Feeney's effort in the fourth quarter against Michigan when he bulldozed defenders, clearing a path for Jordan Howard's go-ahead touchdown. Rarely in Indiana Football history has the offensive line been a strength for the Hoosiers, but in 2015 it sported two All-Americans, cleared the way for not one, but two 1,000-yard rushers, and was the foundation for the conference's best offense.
Jason Spriggs will be missed, as will center Jake Reed. These two were stalwarts amongst the line and will be difficult to replace, but the depth and talent built by head coach Kevin Wilson and O-line coach Greg Frey should produce another strong unit next year.