Dienhart: What I'll be watching at Indiana practice
The 2017 BTN bus tour kicks off on Friday, as the luxurious cruiser will pull up to practice at Indiana for the first stop on a 19-day tour of all 14 Big Ten campuses. Before each stop, I’ll share what I’ll be watching for at each practice. Then, I will offer a wrap up on what I learned as well as some fun takes.
These are high times in Bloomington, as Indiana is aiming to reach a bowl for a third season in a row. The Hoosiers last went to three bowls in a row from 1986-88. To reach the postseason once again, new coach Tom Allen will have to hope the offense comes together after he changed every coach on that side of the ball. Allen did a good job improving the Indiana defense last season, his first in Bloomington. And he will have plenty of talent and experience at linebacker and in the secondary to perhaps keep this defense on the rise.
Here are five things I’ll be watching at Indiana practice.
1. Running back. Devine Redding was the latest Hoosier to rush for over 1,000 yards, doing so twice after Jordan Howard and Tevin Coleman cracked the barrier. But Redding opted to turn pro. Who will tote the rock for IU? The school announced in July that Camion Patrick was taking a medical redshirt and his career was over. Too bad. Junior Mike Majette and redshirt freshman Cole Gest are explosive backs. Sophomore Tyler Natee is a load.
2. Quarterback. Richard Lagow turned some heads last season after he arrived from a JC. The 6-6 Lagow came out firing in 2016, ranking second in the Big Ten in passing yards with 3,362 yards. But turnovers were an issue, as Lagow tossed 17 picks. He had five INTs in one game. He needs to show better judgment and protect the ball.
3. Offense. Tom Allen wasted no time putting his stamp on the offense, as every assistant is new. The big hire was bringing in veteran Mike DeBord from Tennessee to run the offense. Another key hire was Grant Heard, who arrives from Ole Miss and will be passing game coordinator. Darren Hiller will coordinate the run game after arriving from South Florida. Kevin Wilson built some good offenses in Bloomington. Can this overhauled staff keep the mojo?
4. Defensive line. Line coach Mark Hagen made this a strong unit last season. But he must replace some key figures, including big Ralph Green. The front will look to Nate Hoff, Mike Barwick, Greg Gooch, Robert McCray and Jacob Robinson. Keep an eye on this group that needs to be stout vs. the run for this defense to be successful. Indiana knocked more yards per game allowed off its average from 2015 to 2016 than any other defense in the USA in 2016. Take a bow, Allen. Can that improvement continue?
5. Chemistry. Yes, Tom Allen was in Bloomington last season. And he coached the Hoosiers in the bowl game. But there still are a lot of unknowns about Allen as a head coach, a role he never has had in the college ranks.