We continue our sprint towards the 2012 college football season and as part of our ongoing efforts to equip you with knowledge of our 2012 opponents, we continue an ongoing series of profiles of said opponents. Today we are pleased to welcome John M. of The Crimson Quarry, SB Nation’s Indiana Hoosiers blog. CQ and LTP have a long-standing relationship and history of team profiles and annual expectations that we both feel we MUST beat the other to maintain a realistic base of wins that get us to where we hope to be. Simply put, Northwestern fans almost always look at the schedule and think “w” when we see Indiana and vice versa. I also believe our respective fan bases have come to the point where absolutely no game is a given, despite the respective years these two programs are having. Let’s dive in with The Crimson Quarry.
LTP: It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Northwestern fans keep a special eye on Kevin Wilson as he’ll always be associated with that magical 2000 team under Randy Walker that really catapulted the spread offense to the next level. However, I have to imagine not even the most cynical of Hoosier fans thought a 1-11, 0-8 season was possible. Give us the Hoosier fan mentality right now.
TCQ: I suppose that I would have conceded before the season that 0-8 was possible, considering that IU has gone 1-7 in the Big Ten nine times in the past 16 years. The 1-11 part, and the losses to Ball State and North Texas, I did not anticipate. Certainly, 2011 was a disappointing season–bad record, horrible defense, internal strife, the decommitment of Gunner Kiel, and so on. I can’t claim to speak for the entire IU fan base. I think that IU fans are divided over Wilson. Myself, as far as I’m concerned he still is the guy who IU hired in December 2010. He was one of the elite assistants in college football, he had succeeded at the highest level and was involved with a successful run at a historically unsuccessful program (Northwestern, obviously). Of course, hiring a coach with no head coaching experience always involves a gamble. On the other hand, hiring a coach with only MAC level coaching experience is a gamble, too. Considering that Urban Meyer wasn’t walking through that door, I’m still in Wilson’s corner. There are some who have heard the rumors about his explosive temper and really question whether he has the temperament to be a head coach. My take is that he’s a smart guy, and I hope he has learned from his missteps in year one. IU’s athletic history makes clear that we aren’t averse to hot-tempered coaches, but as Gerry Dinardo demonstrated, it’s not a good idea to combine Bob Knight’s personality with Lee Corso’s record.
LTP: Obviously the QB spot is the focal point of conversation among any team’s fans. However, with highly touted Gunner Kiel decommitting combined with the transfer of big brother Dusty and Edward Wright-Baker it would seem that it is the Tre Roberson show in B-Town. What about JUCO transfer Cameron Coffman or incoming QB Nathan Sudfield. Help us sort out the QB scenario.
TCQ: I was very impressed with Roberson, both the way he played and the way he appeared so comfortable in charge of upperclassmen. Still, at this point in his career his legs are a better attribute than his arm, so I would say that his progress as a passer will determine to what degree Wilson entrusts the offense to him. I do expect both Coffman and Sudfeld to push him, and I’m sure that all three will see some playing time this year. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the spring game and weather forced the game indoors, so it wasn’t televised by BTN, so I don’t have any frame of reference for the new guys. I have heard that Sudfeld has a great arm, for what that’s worth.
LTP: Stephen Houston. He seems to be the rock that the 2012 offense will be built around (put up nearly 1000 yards in only 9 games including a season high 150+ against us). What can we expect out of the rest of the offense?
TCQ: Houston was excellent, and although he was a juco transfer he still has two more years of eligibility. Other skill players to watch are running backs D’Angelo Roberts and Matt Perez, tight end Ted Bolser (he was great as a freshman, not so much last year), and Kofi Hughes, who led IU in receiving yards but also is a big end around/trick play guy, and he was a good high school quarterback, so he is tough to defend. While the jury is out on Wilson as a head coach, his reputation as an offensive mind is firmly established, so I am hoping for a good offense.
LTP: Defense. Take it away…it simply wasn’t pretty last season. What gives you a sense that things will be better this season? Who should we be keying on?
TCQ: Yep. Even Cam Cameron probably turned away in disgust when he saw the 2011 Hoosiers try to stop anyone. I suppose that any optimism I have about the 2012 defense is that it could hardly be any worse. What was really frustrating about last year’s defense was not simply that the defense was outmanned–although they were–but that there was quite a bit of confusion and cluelessness that was obvious even to my untrained eye. I don’t expect to see a great or even average defense in 2012, but I hope to see a competent defense.
LTP: Give us two names that are difference makers in 2012 that we won’t read about in any stock preview out there. Why do you think so?
TCQ: Jaccari Alexander (LB) and Tregg Waters (DB). IU signed seven junior college players, and six of them were defensive players. Alexander and Waters are among the most highly regarded, and I hope to see at least some of them make an immediate impact.
LTP: I get that nothing is a given, but your first three games are Indiana State, Ball State and UMASS so you should have at least doubled your 2011 win total by the time you venture to Evanston on 9/29 for game four. How important is that B1G opener against us?
TQC: Well, it’s huge, of course. One thing that gave me some guarded optimism for 2011 is that most of IU’s most winnable Big Ten games (Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue) were at home. Obviously, that didn’t work out at all, and now IU gets the flip side of that schedule, with a brutal home slate (MSU, OSU, Wisconsin, Iowa) and with the more vulnerable teams (NU, Illinois, Purdue, and to a lesser degree Penn State) all on the road. As you know, although Northwestern has won seven of the last eight in the series, last year’s game was the only one that wasn’t in doubt at the end (another interesting piece of trivia that I read somewhere recently: although NU has a 45-34 advantage in the series, IU is +75 in points scored). Given that IU generally has competed with Northwestern, hasn’t been physically overpowered by your team, and that Ryan Field isn’t one of the more fearsome Big Ten venues (not that IU has room to talk), then obviously IU will be looking at it as a big opportunity no matter what happens in the first three games.
LTP: Tell us something about Indiana that should strike fear in Wildcat fans other than the fact we seem to ALWAYS play you down to the wire and usually pull out the win (2011 being the rare exception).
TCQ: I’m not sure that there is anything that should strike fear in the hearts of any Big Ten fans this year, but as noted above, I feel very good about our skill position players on offense, so I do think this will be a squad with some big play potential.
LTP: What do you make of the NU-IU WR coaching “trade”. You’ve got Kevin Johns, we’ve got Dennis Springer. The current assistants would like to thank Johns, by the way, as Johns leaving for IU was partially a catalyst for getting NU assistants to a better pay grade. Meanwhile, we scooped up Springer who, as you know, was let go with the Bill Lynch regime.
TCQ: I’m fine with it. I trust Wilson’s judgment in all things related to offense, and it was a nice feather in IU’s cap to steal a successful assistant from a solid program. While the early defections from Wilson’s staff garnered some bad publicity, I took them generally as a sign that Wilson was recruiting assistants who were coveted by major programs. The generally high quality of the staff is another reason I am fairly optimistic about the Wilson era. But obviously Springer was a part of some high quality offenses at IU.
LTP: Thanks for playing John. Best of luck until late September that is. We look forward to reconnecting as the game gets closer. Next up on the 2012 preview docket….Nebraska.
Other 2012 Opponent Previews (Click To See Link):