Dienhart: Here's what I'll be watching at Indiana practice
The BTN 2016 camp tour begins on Monday in Bloomington, Indiana, where we will check out Kevin Wilson’s sixth Indiana squad in the first of 14 stops.
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Hopes are high in southern Indiana, as the Hoosiers are coming off their first postseason ticket since 2007. Can the Hoosiers make it to back-to-back bowls for the first time since 1990-91? Learning how to win close games will be key. Last year, the Hoosiers lost five games decided by eight points or fewer, and lost three games when scoring 41 points or more.
Here are the questions I’ll be looking to answer for a program with a new defensive coordinator.
1. Is there life after Nate Sudfeld? The Hoosiers lost one of their best signal-callers in program history. JC transfer Richard Lagow and veteran Zander Diamont are battling. The 6-6 Lagow should be the guy. He has a strong arm and can stretch the field, which should open room for RB Devine Redding.
2. How does the defense look? Wilson has hired Tom Allen to run his defense, the third coordinator of the Wilson era. Will Allen’s 4-2-5 scheme be the magic elixir for this defense which struggles annually? He has eight starters back, which is a nice start. The pass defense has to get better. Time and again, the Hoosiers were torched through the air. There is veteran talent back led by FS Jonathan Crawford and CB Rashard Fant. And JC S Jayme Thompson arrives with lots of hype.
3. Are the linebackers as good as advertised? This looks like a quality corps led by Marcus Oliver. T.J. Simmons and Clyde Newton also are big-time contributors for a unit that will be the bellwether in a Hoosier defense that must improve.
4. Can the receivers continue to excel without Sudfeld? This looks like the best set of pass catchers Wilson has had. Rangy Simmie Cobbs leads the way with Ricky Jones and Mitchell Page also back. Plus, J-Shun Harris is back from injury. This collection of wideouts needs to make life easier for the new quarterback.
5. Is the d-line better? Too often, IU gets shoved around vs. the run. That must stop. The Hoosier brought back alum and ex-assistant Mark Hagen to shore up the front. He was on Wilson’s original IU staff and was at Texas A&M the last three seasons. Hagen has just one starter back in T Ralph Green. An improved pass rush (just 13 sacks last year) would help a beleaguered secondary.
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