FORT WAYNE – Indiana coach Kevin Wilson says his football team added size and muscle. He will test the Hoosiers’ new look as the team opens spring practice today with the 15 practices concluding with the Cream and Crimson Game on April 12.
Guys are getting stronger and more fit, conditioning coach Mark Hill said. Coach Wilson thought we needed to be a little bit bigger. We attacked that with nutrition and other objectives. It’s been a team effort.
Here are five other areas of interest for Indiana this spring:
Ted Bolser, Indiana’s all-time record holder for catches by a tight end, leaves a void. Anthony Corsaro, Danny Friend and Jordan Fuchs are vying to be his replacement. Receiver Cody Latimer, an all-conference pick, led the team with 72 catches for 1,096 yards and left early for the NFL draft, and Kofi Hughes, who was second with 47 catches for 739 yards, graduated. Shane Wynn has worked almost exclusively out of the slot, but new offensive coordinator Kevin Johns will use practice to figure out whether to move Wynn around. Can Wynn, who caught 46 passes for 633 yards last season, be the main target? In the mix are veterans Nick Stoner and Isaiah Roundtree, as well as Dominique Booth, a talented 6-foot, 196-pound freshman out of Indianapolis. IU lost one receiver option as Anthony Young left to the team to concentrate on track.
The Hoosiers established a running game last season, ranking third in the Big Ten in yards per carry with 5.3. Indiana ran the ball 49.3 percent of the time. Right guard Dan Feeney and right tackle Peyton Eckert missed all of last season. Their return, along with left tackle Jason Spriggs, center Collin Rahrig and left guard Bernard Taylor, gives Indiana a line with experience and skill. Junior Tevin Coleman was a breakout star last year, averaging more than 7 yards per carry. Backup Stephen Houston is gone, but D’Angelo Roberts and speedy Laray Smith provide depth.
The biggest position battle is at quarterback, and it’s a two-way battle. Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson begin a six-month competition. Roberson is a better athlete than Sudfeld. Sudfeld has the better size and arm strength, and Wilson will give him every chance to win the job. Wilson will rotate between the two in practices and maybe through the season.
The Hoosiers couldn’t stop anybody, so Wilson fired Doug Mallory after three seasons. Brian Knorr, the team’s new defensive coordinator, is changing the approach and culture. Knorr coordinated Wake Forest’s defense for three years and is bringing in a 3-4 alignment. He wants more aggressive schemes to force turnovers. Safety Greg Heban is the only starter not back, but sophomore Antonio Allen shows a lot of promise in that spot. It will take time for defensive linemen Ralphael Green, Nick Mangieri, Darius Latham, Zack Shaw and David Kenney to adjust to a new system. IU lost two linemen options as Ryan Phillis graduated and will work as a student coach and Alex Todd took a medical hardship.
The Hoosiers are sorting out a lot of things here. T.J. Simmons, Marcus Oliver and Clyde Newton showed glimpses of the instincts and range needed to make plays as freshmen. David Cooper did well as a middle linebacker in 2012, less so on the outside in 2013. A struggling Flo Hardin was benched in favor of Newton for the last four games. Indiana was a poor tackling team, and linebacker play seemed to be the biggest problem.