Know Thy Foe is starting to wind down today, as we move on to the Badgers last three Big Ten conference games. Today's update features the Indiana Hoosiers, who will be looking to improve their fortunes in head coach Kevin Wilson's second year at the helm.
To get some answers on the Hoosier football program, BadgerBlitz.com went to Matthew Weaver, and expert on Indiana football for Peegs.com, Rivals.com's Indiana affiliate. We're certainly thankful to Matthew for his help as we continue to preview the Badgers' 2012 schedule.
Know Thy Foe: Indiana
What kind of shape is Indiana in after Kevin Wilson's first season? Did they get a chance to play younger guys, and will that give them a little extra help as they try to take the next step?
Matthew Weaver: I think they are in a rebuilding process and it is something that will take time. Wilson and his staff came in and really tried to change the culture and mentality of the team and that was met with some resistance from the older players which forced the staff to play a great deal of young players.
I think playing young guys will pay off even though it made last season very difficult. Of course, that is assuming that they can make the improvements individually that is needed to be Big Ten caliber players. But there is no doubt that the experience they gained playing so early can only help them going forward.
Can you describe Wilson's offensive philosophy? What elements did Wilson bring in from his days at Oklahoma, and is he planning on holding on to them in his second year? Who are the key players to watch this year?
MW: Wilson's offensive philosophy is to run as many plays as possible and to play fast. He likes to throw the ball, but they also want to establish the running game and be physical. IU has a new offensive coordinator in Seth Littrell. He was at Arizona last year where they were one of the top passing teams in the nation. Littrell was brought in to help a passing attack that was not very good last year for the Hoosiers.
I'm not sure how much Wilson used from his days at Oklahoma last year because the offense that IU used was closer to what Rich Rodriguez runs because the offensive coordinator was one of his longtime assistants. I think as he gets more of his players on the roster he will have an offense that is similar to what he installed at Oklahoma.
The key players on offense are quarterback Tre Roberson, running back Stephen Houston, wide receivers Kofi Hughes and Duwyce Wilson, and tight end Ted Bolser. Roberson showed flashes of very good play last fall, but he needs to be a more consistent passer this year or he might have trouble keeping his job. Houston had a nice first year after transferring from the junior college ranks. He is a big guy who also has the speed to take it the distance. Hughes and Wilson are the veterans at the wideout spot and they need to step up their games for IU to have a more consistent passing attack. Both have the size and speed to be very good Big Ten receivers. Bolser had a very good freshman season in 2010, but he regressed last fall. If he can regain that form from two years ago then the IU passing game has a chance to be pretty good.
What kind of defense do the Hoosiers have to work with this year? What kind of strides does that unit need to make for it to be considered a successful season?
MW: They have a number of returning guys who played last year as freshmen before they were probably ready. If that group can make the necessary improvements they have a chance to be much better.
The staff also signed six junior college defensive players and five of them enrolled early in January and practiced with the team in spring ball. The hope is that the jucos will shore up the weak spots and bring some toughness to a defense that was very poor in 2011.
The biggest thing the defense needs to do to be better this fall is get more pressure on the quarterback. They generated virtually no pass rush last fall and it is impossible to stop people if the quarterback has all day to throw. They also need to be better against the run on the early downs. Too many times opposing teams were in 2nd and short and that makes it tough on the defense.
Can you give me a best-case and worst-case scenario for the Hoosiers this year? Is bowl eligibility a reasonable expectation, and what do Hoosier fans actually expect out of Wilson's second year?
MW: I think worst-case scenario is that they struggle again so much on both sides of the ball that they only win a couple of non-conference games and finish 2-10 or 3-9. I think best-case scenario is they get really strong quarterback play to go along with a defense that makes enough plays to allow them to win their non-conference games and a couple of conference games to finish 6-6 or 7-5. This is still a very young team so to expect more than 6 or 7 wins is probably asking too much.
I think IU fans just want to see improvement on the field which leads to some more wins. I think most fans understand that a bowl season may still be a season away, but they want to see some tangible progress on the field. I think the average fan would say they are expecting around four to five wins this year with a team that is much more competitive game in and game out.
What kind of game should we expect to see in Bloomington this year? Are the Hoosiers in a place where they could be more competitive against the Badgers than they have been in years past?
MW: I think this season will be very interesting for both Indiana and Wisconsin. On offense the Badgers have just as many questions as IU does because of the staff turnover that happened there. They certainly have a great deal of talent, but they will have a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterback. I am assuming the offense will be very similar to what they have been running, but a new guy is still going to tweak it to what he is comfortable with. I think it is a game that Wisconsin will most likely be favored in, but I do think it will be a more competitive game. I guess that isn't saying much after the last two meetings, but I will be surprised if it isn't a competitive game in the second half.
Thanks again to Matthew for giving his insight on the Hoosiers. For more Indiana news, check out Indiana.Rivals.com.
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