Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, April 27, 2016
In his fifth season in Bloomington, Indiana, Kevin Wilson enjoyed a breakthrough by leading the Hoosiers to their first bowl since 2007. Now, he wants to take the program another step foward: winning a bowl. Wilson and Co., are on track. But work needs to be done to move up the pecking order in the rugged Big Ten East.
The offense loses some key players but should be OK with Wilson?s steady hand guiding things. The defense? It remains an albatross around the neck of the program, ranking last overall (509.5 ypg) and last in scoring (37.6 ppg) in 2015. Wilson isn?t standing pat, changing coordinators. Brian Knorr is out after two season; Tom Allen is in, the third coordinator under Wilson, who originally had Doug Mallory running his defense.
Allen was the DC at South Florida. He was a hot name in coaching searches this offseason and was a top candidate for the same position at Auburn. Allen is an Indiana native who has coached in the state. He implemented a 4-2-5 defense at South Florida and has brought that scheme to Indiana. Will it work? Stay tuned.
I caught up with Wilson after spring drills to get his impression of his team.
Q: What did you like about spring drills?
A: Our kids have a strong understanding of how we want to play, practice and work. The energy and consistency of coming to work each day was good. There is a good vibe. We lost some good players but have a lot of starters back. Nick Mangieri, Zack Shaw, Jake Reed, Adarius Rayner ? Who will replace those guys? They don?t have the notoriety of Jason Spriggs or Nate Sudfeld, but they were good leaders. We need Ricky Jones, Mitchell Paige, Dan Feeney, Wes Rogers, guys like that need to step up.
Q: How is the defense looking?
A: We only have four seniors on defense. We have everyone back at linebacker and in the secondary. We don?t have a senior in the secondary. Rashard Fant, Chase Dutra, Marcus Oliver, Tegray Scales, you need guys like that to step up. I was impressed with how they came out and worked to get better. We need some guys to step up as core leaders. We had many last year, which was why we had a good team.
Q: How is the QB spot looking?
A: Zander Diamont had an ankle issue he had to have taken care of. He is back running now. That cost him spring reps, but he has eight career starts and is savvy and competitive. I am not in a hurry to finalize a starter. Richard Lagow has talent and finished spring strong. Danny Cameron was the next most seasoned QB we had in the spring. He had a nice spring. Every year I have been here, we have played three quarterbacks. It would be nice to just have a guy go all the way. We will keep working them all. I need to see how the quarterbacks progress in the summer. I think we will be OK at quarterback.
Q: What does new defensive coordinator Tom Allen bring to the program?
A: He is confident in what he wants to do defensively. He has a positive attitude and energy. He also has done a great job getting all the coaches on the same page. He has spent a lot of time coaching the coaches. We talked about everything but scheme when we first met. I was not consumed with this scheme. Coverages will be comparable. We basically played a four-man front last year and will again. We have a better culture being created. I don?t think we are far off physically on defense. He has a knack for connecting to people and kids. We had a heck of spring on defense, and we have a lot of guys back. We took a hit up front, losing some good players. (New d-line coach) Mark Hagen brings juice to the line. We have a long way to go, but it is very encouraging. We have a good vibe. The team has a nice look to it.
Q: Is this the most talent you have had?
A: We have a lot of senior linemen. We need to get the tight end spot going. We have some nice options. Simmie Cobbs, Ricky Jones, Mitchell Paige back. J-Shun Harris is back at wideout after being hurt last year. Devine Redding is a 1,000-yard player. The QB play, defensive confidence ? those are key.
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