Dienhart: 5 things I learned at Indiana fall practice

Dienhart: 5 things I learned at Indiana fall practice

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — There’s a lot of excitement in Bloomington, as the Tom Allen era begins. Unlike in recent years, defense looks to be the strength of this IU squad, as the back seven looks strong. The offense is loaded with skill, but questions loom up front.

[ MORE: Get Tom Dienhart’s fun takes from Indiana practice ]

Here are five things I learned at IU practice Friday morning.

1. There are few more affable coaches than Tom Allen. Before practice, he told me the offense won’t be too different from last year despite having the entire staff changed. He said the pass concepts will be different but the run concepts will be the same. And the tempo may be quicker, too. It will be interesting to see if OC Mike DeBord develops a package for backup QB Peyton Ramsey.

2. It hurt for Devine Redding to turn pro after his second 1,000-yard season in a row. Making matters worse, the school recently announced Camion Patrick’s career was over before it really even got started due to injury. Mike Majette could be next in line. Is he a 1,000-yard back? Probably not. In fact, there doesn’t appear to be one on the roster, so this may be a committee approach. Cole Gest and Devonte Williams are options, along with massive Tyler Natee.

3. The defensive line has potential, but pass rushers are needed. No doubt, the unit suffered a blow when it was announced earlier this week that Nile Sykes would miss the season with injury. He could have been one of the unit’s best pass rushers. He was the team’s top sack meister last season with five from his end spot. Now what? Six linemen had at least one sack last year. But is there a stud in the group? Co-DC and line coach Mark Hagen likes Robert McCray and Allen Stallings, who could be primed to break out. Greg Gooch is a quick vet but undersized. Inside, IU has Nate Hoff and Jacob Robinson. True freshman Juan Harris, a 360-pounder, is intriguing.

4. The o-line has something to prove. Brandon Knight was out today with injury but should be the right tackle. When will he return? Stay tuned. His future may be at center. Delroy Baker is the guy right now at right tackle. Left tackle Coy Cronk looks like a future All-Big Ten player, an ultra-stud. He is primed to follow Jason Spriggs and Dan Feeney as the next great Hoosier blocker. And Cronk is just a sophomore Wes Martin is a rock at left guard. IU needs Hunter Littlejohn (center) and Simon Stepaniak (right guard) to step up.

5. The wideouts are good. There aren’t many better tandems than Simmie Cobbs and Nick Westbrook. Cobbs missed almost all of last year but is back and looked good today. Westbrook was first in line for wideout drills. These are big targets. The staff likes Luke Timian, Donavan Hale, and Taysir Mack, who could be special. And I was impressed with tight end Ian Thomas, who could be poised for a big season. He is a specimen.

Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

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, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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