Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
We at Hoosier Huddle came into the annual Cream and Crimson game with a handful of questions we wanted to be answered and for the most part we were satisfied in what we saw on a perfect Friday night at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington as the Cream toppled the Crimson 21-17 in a less-than traditional, but really festive, spring game format. We will take you back through our questions and answer them based on what we saw tonight.
1. Will We a Clear #1 QB Emerge?
Coach Wilson would not name a starting quarterback after the spring game, but Hoosier fans got a good look at the progress Richard Lagow has made since the beginning of spring ball. In that first open practice way back in March, Lagow looked lost at times running the offense, like he had a zillion things flying through his brain at once. And who could blame him, coming in and learning a new offense if very difficult, but even in that second practice you can see that he has the tools to make it in this league. Lagow wowed fans right off the bat with a beautiful 46-yard deep ball to Simmie Cobbs that would lead to a Griffin Oakes field goal.
"Richard started very well, and I was very pleased with his poise," Wilson said of his new quarterback, "I didn't think he forced a lot of things."
Lagow finished the game 9-for-15 for 123 yards. He added two beautiful touchdown passes during the Hoosiers' red zone situations. Both throws showed the kind of arm he has and his ability to put touch on his passes.
While it is not official, to me it seems that Lagow has taken control of the quarterback competition over Danny Cameron, who looked ok, but was sacked a couple of times while losing a fumble and throwing an interception, and Austin King who had an up and down night completing a few passes, but showed that he is still a freshman.
The fourth quarterback, Donovan Hale, received a few snaps as well and showed great athleticism scrambling for a big run. Hale played at receiver last year and even took a turn at returning kicks against Ohio State, could find his way onto the field at another position.
In his post game press conference Wilson also said he will be excited to get Zander Diamont back into the mix after he missed all of spring practice with an ankle injury citing "he's the guy who's made the most plays."
2. What Will Tom Allen's Defense Look Like
The spring game may not be the right time to show everything you have on defense in terms of blitzes and different formations, but the Hoosier faithful have to be encouraged by the effort put forth from this unit on Friday. Allen's defensive unit, especially the second unit, created pressure upfront with a handful of sacks and took the ball away from the offense three times, with two fumbles and an interception. The first fumble was a botched snap that was mishandled by Cameron and was recovered by freshman defensive end Joe Belden, the second fumble occured when linebacker Marcus Oliver ripped the ball out of Alex Rodriguez's hands and ran it back for six. Between the two fumbles was a Dawson Fletcher interception off a poor pass from Cameron. While the three takeaways was a good sign from the defense Wilson said, "I know Coach Allen will tell you he waned five, so he's disappointed we didn't get two more."
That is the attitude from Tom Allen, who wide out Ricky Jones called "a different type of dude. You'd think he was 20 years old with the way he acts. He's jumping on top of all the guys, getting them crunk." that fans will love.
Another aspect of the defense that has gone unnoticed is that it seemed that there were fewer missed tackles. Of course, we will have to go back to the video and see, but to me it seemed that the tackling was much better than a year ago.
3. Who Gets Carries Behind Devine Redding?
The Hoosiers have a stable of running backs and it seems as if the news on Camion Patrick's knee is better than expected (he will be out 5-6 months), and while Devine Redding is coming of an impressive 1,000-yard season, the Hoosiers will need the guys behind him to carry some of the load.
One of those players who stood out was Devonte Williams, who played corner last season. He provides an element that most of the Hoosier runners cannot. Williams has terrific speed and can make a guy miss in space and he has the ability to play either in the slot of in the backfield giving the Hoosiers more flexibility. Williams had several carries on Friday, although he did not flash that big play skill, he was solid with a couple nice runs. Other players will be in the mix as well as Mike Majette, who had a run of about 15 yards, looks to regain his form from the middle of last year before struggling with an injury, Ricky Brookins is a nice piece, who like Williams, can be moved around the field, and finally there is Alex Rodriguez, who is a punishing, bowling ball of a runner, who can pound away at the defensive line. Each back brings something different to the table and the Hoosiers are more than happy to have depth at the position.
4. Who Gets the Outside Catches?
This is another position at which the Hoosiers are loaded. From the game tonight it looks as if Simmie Cobbs has improved his ball skills and is primed to be one of the best receivers the Big Ten has to offer. He hauled in a 46-yard pass from Lagow and made an even more impressive catch on a wobbly throw with a defended hanging all over him. He's the real deal. Don't forget Ricky Jones, who had a quiet game, but has shown the ability to be good on the outside as well.
The X-factor however could be freshman Nick Westbrook. He has the same body type as Cobbs and will give the Hoosiers another big frame to throw at on the outside. Having two bigger receivers on the outside should let a guy like Mitchell Paige play more in the slot and create mis-matches against linebackers.
Needless to say, the receiving corps will be one of the best and deepest we have seen in the last 10-15 years at IU. It may not be as flashy as the 2013 squad, but they can play.
5. What Will The Crowd Be Like?
This is always a risky question to ask, because you can never know heading into the spring game. However, with a little luck from the weather gods I was pleasantly surprised with the crowd. Now, it was not the 70,000 that some SEC schools are going to draw or even 10,000, but the Hoosiers had a solid atmosphere at Memorial Stadium on an absolutely perfect evening. I would guesstimate around 2,000 fans filed in for the festivities. After talking to several fans before and during the game, IU hit a home run with the format of the game. It had a little bit for everyone. Youngsters enjoyed a pre-game clinic with coaches and players on the practice field, while the die hards got to see around 70 snaps of a scrimmage, and the casual fan got some entertainment as Wilson hosted a handful of contests that pitted fan against player.
So make of the spring game what you will. The Hoosiers have now concluded spring practice and head off into the summer, with a list of things they need to work on and accomplish before reconvening for fall camp in August as they set their sites on a second straight bowl trip and the 2016 season.
Hoosier Huddle will have constant updates on IU Football throughout the summer, so check back early and often. Just 138 more days until IU kicks off the season down in Miami.