Dienhart: Defense key for Indiana in spring

It has been slow, steady growth for Indiana under Kevin Wilson. And, that’s good. Progress is being made as the Hoosiers inch closer to their first bowl since the 2007 season.

Indiana won one game in Wilson’s first year, four in the second and five last season, when the Hoosiers came oh-so-close to breaking through. That home loss to Minnesota was a killer and proved to be Indiana’s Waterloo.

Still, Wilson has much to build on as he opens his fourth season in Bloomington. And Wilson will do so with new coordinators on both sides of the ball. Offensive coordinator Seth Littrell left for the same post at North Carolina. Defensive coordinator Doug Mallory was fired. The offense won’t change, with Kevin Johns being promoted from within to run the prolific attack. But the defense will be different and promises to be a big point of emphasis this spring.

[ MORE: Read all of Dienhart's spring football previews ]

Here are three areas to watch.

1. Defensive scheme. A young unit was atrocious in 2013, as Indiana ranked last in the Big Ten in scoring defense (38.8 ppg); last in total defense (527.9 ypg); 11th in rushing defense (237.8 ypg); last in pass defense (290.2 ypg). Get the picture? The defense just never showed tangible progress the last three years, which is why Mallory is out and Brian Knorr is in. Knorr ran the defense the last three seasons at Wake Forest and will install a 3-4 scheme, scrapping IU’s 3-4 alignment. It’s hoped all of the young players who were force-fed playing time will show tangible progress this season.

2. D-line: Yes, the entire defense needs work. This is where it all begins. Kevin Wilson wasn’t happy with his front, which is why d-line coach Jon Fabris was fired after last season. Former Hoosier Larry McDaniel is now coaching unit, tabbed from Bowling Green where he coached the same position. Ends David Kenney, Zack Shaw and Nick Mangieri need to bring some heat off the edge. Bobby Richardson and Ralphael Green need to show strength vs. the run. If this group plays better, the back seven will benefit.

3. Fine-tuning the offense. Yes, it hurt to lose wideout Cody Latimer a year early to the NFL. And star tight end Ted Bolser has graduated, as well as receiver Kofi Huges. But this offense still could be devastatingly good. Shane Wynn will lead the wideout corps. The line teems with experience. Quarterbacks Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson know the ins and outs of this go-go spread offense. And Tevin Coleman is primed to be one of the Big Ten’s top running backs after a breakout 2013, running for 958 yards and averaging 7.3 yards per carry in just nine games last season.

Key losses: TE Ted Bolser; K Mitch Ewald; S Greg Heban; RB Stephen Houston; WR Kofi Hughes; WR Cody Latimer; WR Duwyce Wilson

Spring practice opens: March 8

Spring game: April 12

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Show Comments (2 Comments)
2 Post Your Comment
David Arpasi on 4/13/2014 @ 10:01am EDT Said:

Tom, you loose credibility when you do not even know who is graduating. Hughes will be graduating this year so between him and Latimer, those are fairly large holes to fill. Wynn will be back but as small as he is I just can not see him taking a lot of pounding.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com Senior Editor on 4/13/2014 @ 2:04pm EDT Said:

    David – Thanks for noticing the misprint. Based on fact Tom had Hughes listed in “Key losses” section, it must have just been an error. Thanks again.

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