FORT WAYNE – Indiana coach Kevin Wilson knows he has some urgency this season.
It’s Year Three for the Hoosiers’ head coach, and with that come expectations for wins. His team has five of those in the past two seasons, but with a large returning group on offense and more depth on defense, IU is expected to be a bowl team.
5 key issues
Preventing the big play. IU made plays on offense last season, but the defense seemed to crumble in crucial moments. With more talent on defense and another year of experience with the system, those plays should be tougher for opponents to come by.
Keep the ball moving. Wilson’s no-huddle offense relies on a high volume of snaps to even out possession time by the end of games. Last season, the Hoosiers stalled early on drives too often for it to work. Whoever winds up with the quarterback spot needs to push the tempo and keep the opposing defense on the clock.
Young players must learn quickly. IU had a bunch of talent in its 2013 recruiting class, especially defensively. But for those players to meet expectations, they will have to learn the Hoosiers’ system quickly and be able to adapt to the college game.
Adversity can’t be a detour. Wilson harped on this during his preseason news conference in Bloomington. In the past two years, when IU has slipped, it’s kept slipping. The team must learn how to turn things around on a week-by-week basis this year.
Upsets will be a sign. IU has yet to beat a team it wasn’t supposed to in Wilson’s tenure. The best gauge of how far the program has come will be if the Hoosiers can finish games against teams such as Michigan State and Ohio State, which skated by IU last season.
4 top games
Sept. 7 vs. Navy, 6 p.m. (Big Ten Network): The Midshipmen beat IU 31-30 last season in Annapolis, Md. A win in that game would be a good measuring stick for just how much better this IU team has gotten since 2012.
Sept. 21 vs. Missouri, 8 p.m. (Big Ten Network): Missouri brings SEC football to Bloomington for the final nonconference game of the season. The game is the marquee nonconference matchup for the Hoosiers and could set the tone for the conference slate.
Nov. 16 at Wisconsin, TBA: The Badgers have beaten up on the Hoosiers the past three years in embarrassing fashion: They’ve outscored IU 204-41 in that time frame. For the seniors, it’s the last chance to get some revenge.
Nov. 30 vs. Purdue, TBA: Wilson hasn’t beaten Purdue during his tenure in Bloomington. That includes a 21-point whooping in West Lafayette last season.
3 key returning players
Cody Latimer, Jr., WR: Latimer led the Hoosiers in receiving yards last season and is IU’s best big-play threat. He will join Kofi Hughes, Shane Wynn and a slew of strong backups to make up one of the best wideout groups in the Big Ten. Tight end Ted Bolser will also be a key guy in that receiving corps.
Jason Spriggs, So., LT: Spriggs has pro potential and could be the anchor of an offensive line that returns all but one starter.
Tevin Coleman, So., RB: Fellow backs Stephen Houston, Laray Smith and D’Angelo Roberts will complement him, but Coleman is the best all-around back of the bunch.
2 new faces to watch
Darius Latham, Fr., DT: Latham was the most highly touted member of the 2013 recruiting class, and he figures to play plenty this season. He has seen time at tackle and at end during camp.
Rashard Fant, Fr., CB: Despite a 161-pound frame, Fant has earned rave reviews from IU receivers because of his coverage skills. If his body can take it, expect Fant to be one of the Hoosiers’ best coverage options this season.
1 indispensable player
Mitch Ewald, Sr., K: IU lost four games by less than seven points last season. With a lack of depth at the position, and because of his leadership skills, Ewald is essential for the Hoosiers. His leg could win a few games for IU this season, and Wilson and his players are big fans of him as a player and person.