Indiana ended a disappointing season on a high note with a 56-36 win against Purdue. Still, the Hoosiers head into the offseason after a 5-7 campaign in what should have been a bowl season.
Here’s a look at what IU will have to do to get over that hump in 2014 and put a 13th game on the schedule.
5 top returning players
Tevin Coleman, So. RB: Coleman was 42 yards from becoming the first 1,000-yard rusher in coach Kevin Wilson’s tenure in Bloomington, but he was sidelined for the final three games with a high ankle sprain. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound back averaged 106.4 yards a game and scored 12 touchdowns.
Nate Sudfeld, So. QB: Sudfeld threw for 2,523 yards and 21 touchdowns with just nine interceptions despite splitting time at the position. He is the best pocket passer the Hoosiers have and averaged more than 210 yards a game in his second season.
Tre Roberson, R-So. QB: Roberson was the other half of IU’s one-two punch at quarterback, and he excelled as a dual-threat option. The Indianapolis native ran for a career-high 154 yards and tied a single-game program record with six passing touchdowns against the Boilermakers in the season finale, which earned him Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors. Despite splitting time, Roberson was third on the team in rushing this season and threw 15 touchdowns to four interceptions, with 94 passing yards a game.
Cody Latimer, Jr. WR: Latimer became the fifth player in program history with more than 1,000 receiving yards in a season during his seven-catch, 110-yard game against Purdue. The NFL remains an option, and Latimer said he hasn’t decided whether he will stay or go. If the 6-3 wideout comes back, he gives the Hoosiers an All-Big Ten-caliber deep threat.
Tim Bennett, Jr. CB: While the defense was much-maligned this season, Bennett was a bright spot. He broke up 20 passes and was fourth on the team in tackles during his first season as a full-time corner for IU. He also recorded 3.5 tackles for loss, an interception and a fumble recovery.
4 key players leaving
Mitch Ewald, R-Sr. K: Ewald leaves IU as the best placekicker in program history, and he was also one of the unquestioned leaders of this team despite being a special-teams guy.
Kofi Hughes, Sr. WR: Hughes was second on the team in receiving yards and its best blocker at the position. His 15.7 yards a catch were also a team best, and the Indianapolis native had a knack for catches in coverage.
Ted Bolser, Sr. TE: Bolser built on his legacy as the best receiving tight end in IU history this season. The Hoosiers will have to replace his six touchdowns, improved blocking on run plays and 320 receiving yards, which were fourth on the team.
Greg Heban, Sr. S: Heban led the Hoosiers with three interceptions and was third in total tackles during his final year. He was one of just a handful of upperclassmen throughout the defensive unit.
3 positions of strength
Quarterback: Both Sudfeld and Roberson return, and another year with the system will give the two a lot more to work with next season.
Running back: The Hoosiers lose senior Stephen Houston but return Coleman, junior D’Angelo Roberts and freshman Laray Smith to form a stout unit.
Linebacker: IU has to replace seniors David Cooper, Griffen Dahlstrom and Jacarri Alexander, but the Hoosiers have three freshmen who stood out at those spots this year: T.J. Simmons, Marcus Oliver and Clyde Newton. There’s a lot of depth at the position as well.
2 major weaknesses
Wide receiver: This weakness goes as Latimer goes. The loss of Hughes hurts, but if Latimer decides to go pro, IU returns only one of its top three receivers. There is underclassmen talent at the spot, but there won’t be as many seasoned weapons in 2014 as there were this season.
Defensive line: A young unit that wasn’t all that impressive gained a year of experience, but Ralphael Green, Darius Latham and David Kenney are still young. Major offseason improvements are in order if the Hoosiers want to improve their porous run defense, be it through recruiting or player development.
1 main question for 2014
Where will the defense go from here? Defensive coordinator Doug Mallory has been under fire since his unit gave up more than 700 total yards and 63 points to Michigan in a winnable game in Ann Arbor this season. His unit showed little to no improvement from year one to year three, and it’s questionable whether Mallory will be around for a fourth try. Regardless of who is at the helm or who is on the staff, this offense has done more than enough to make IU bowl eligible. It’s up to the defense to finally make that jump.