Written By: Nick Holmes (@HoosierHolmes)
It was perfect day for football in Bloomington on Saturday, as the Hoosiers took part in their annual Cream and Crimson showdown inside Memorial Stadium. While both the offense and defense kept it fairly vanilla, there were many encouraging signs that leads one to believe that this could a breakthrough year for Coach Wilson and his team.
Nate Sudfeld is Back
While the Hoosiers passing attack did take a few steps back in 2014, not all of it can be blamed on the injury to quarterback Nate Sudfeld. Nonetheless, from a sheer experience perspective, it's great to have the senior back behind center. Aside from a very athletic play by junior defensive tackle Darius Latham that resulted in an interception, Sudfeld had a fairly productive afternoon, completing 17 of 24 throws for 187 yards a one touchdown. He did get dropped five times in the backfield, however, the referees were quick to blow the whistle anytime a Hoosier defender got within arms reach of the California native, eliminating any opportunity for him to scramble away from the pressure. Overall, his efforts for the day were very encouraging and should ease of the minds of Hoosier fans that the number one signal-caller is ready for action.
Physicality of the Defense
Whether it were inside linebacker Greg Gooch, safety Kiante Walton, or cornerbacks Ben Bach and Noel Padmore landing blows on some of their fellow teammates on the offensive side of the ball, this team is playing a much more physical brand of football. After the game Coach Wilson talked about simplifying things for the defense and just focusing on the fundamentals and being a more physical, tough ball club. Padmore reiterated this message, "Coach Shelby and Coach NoJo (Noah Joseph) emphasize that everyday. Being better, physical tacklers. Wrapping up and doing everything with velocity." It's clear that the defense wants to bring a smash-mouth mentality to the gridiron when they step onto the field next fall.
Wide Receivers by Committee
Right now there has yet to emerge a dominant force among the group , however, as a whole the wide receiving corp has made some strides during the winter and spring. While the defense did a good job of minimizing big plays and keeping things in front of them most of the day, the wide receivers were still able to make some plays on the ball that likely would not have been the case last saeason. They have clearly worked hard to dispel much of the criticism that came their way last fall and are out to prove their naysayers wrong. "I do think these kids are taking that personally," offensive coordinator Kevin Johns said in an interview with ESPN last week. "We plan on using that as a driving force."
Diamont's Command of the Offense
This is Zander Diamont's second spring with the Hoosiers and as you would expect, he is visibly more comfortable leading the offense. The sophomore gunslinger admitted that it has been night and day for him when comparing this spring to last, "It's no comparison, last spring I didn't really know the playbook, wasn't ready," Diamont said. "Now I know the playbook and am so much more confident."
Diamont completed eight of his 16 passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns, both of which were to wide receiver Damon Graham. The first touchdown pass was made into a very tight window, showing off improved arm strength. And much like last season, he was able to make some plays with his legs carrying the ball five times for 31 yards. At one point he broke into the secondary and likely could have made it to the endzone had the play not been whistled dead.
Improved Pass Rush
For a defense that has been rife with concerns over the last few years, failing to get a consistent pass rush has been a constant. However, the Hoosiers demonstrated during the team scrimmage that they are trying to make that worry a thing of the past. On Saturday the Hoosiers defense recorded ten sacks overall. And while the referees were quick to blow the whistle to ensure the quarterbacks were kept safe, it bodes well that they were able to collapse the pocket against an offensive line many believe to be one of the best in the Big Ten this year.