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09 Homer Preview: The Hoosier Edition

homer previewIn an effort to provide coverage of teams outside of the OTP Preseason Top 25, we’ve asked some of our friends and fellow college football aficionados to follow our preview format for their team or go outside the box. This edition of The Homer Preview is courtesy of Kelper, an IU fan who comes not only highly recommended but also highly enlightened and knowledgeable about the Hoosiers. And that recommendation did not in fact come from Bill Lynch. Which would have negated its validity.

Homer Preview: Indiana Hoosiers

iu logo
What You Need To Know:
The Indiana Hoosiers are looking to rebound from a dismal 3-9 season in 2008. The Hoosiers managed only one Big Ten conference victory over Northwestern, with the other two early season victories over barely 1A Western Kentucky and 1AA Murray State. Over the course of the last two years there has been a major renovation project going on at Memorial Stadium that will debut in 2009 looking completely different. The now enclosed north end zone houses what is now one of the largest weight room facilities in the country as well as many other upgraded amenities that Hoosier faithful hope will soon help the coaching staff bring in an upgrade in talent from the recruiting circuit. With the stadium renovation completed, Coach Bill Lynch and his staff have implemented a pistol offense hoping to renovate the product on the field in 2009 as well.

Offensively the Hoosiers are now completely rid of former quarterback Kellen Lewis. Lewis was dismissed during the offseason for continued lack of discipline off the field. Indiana will look to now-veteran quarterback Ben Chappell to lead the new pistol offense. Chappell saw a lot of playing time in 2008 and showed some flashes of brilliance. After getting the majority of the reps in spring practice, and without having to worry about a constantly flexing QB rotation, Chappell should be able to settle in and perform more consistently. In part, his success will depend on the health of the offensive line and the production of the running back corps. The line brings back significant experience and it is time for late head coach Terry Hoeppner’s “7 Blocks of Limestone” class to push the Hoosier offense to the next level. Experience mixes with expectations as Bryan Payton returns at RB and will be pushed by redshirt freshman Darius Willis. Willis has all the hopes of Hoosier Nation on his back as he is the most talented RB recruit to join Indiana football since perhaps Alex Smith in the early ‘90s. DeMarlo Belcher, Tandon Doss, Mitchell Evans, and Terrance Turner will lead the wide receiving corps as one of 2008’s better playmakers, Ray Fisher, has been moved to the defensive side of the ball. The IU offense scored 13 or fewer points five times in 2008 and will have to become more consistent with getting the ball to the end zone and keeping the defense off the field if they plan on improving upon the 3-9 record in 2009.

The Hoosiers return a great deal of talent on the defense, headlined by the tremendous pass rushing duo of Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton. Middleton was a monster in 2007 when he had 16 sacks, but fell off a bit last year only to see Kirlew to step up in a big way (10.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss). The biggest question mark for the Hoosier defense going into fall camp is at defensive tackle, where Deonte Mack returns as the only experience player joined by a promising group of redshirt freshmen. The linebacking corps is packed with experienced players in Matt Mayberry, Will Patterson, Justin Carrington, and Tyler Replogle. Senior leadership leads the defensive backfield as Austin Thomas and Nick Polk return from injuries that shortened their seasons in 2008. The cornerbacks will likely rotate amongst veterans Donnell Jones, Richard Council, Chris Adkins, and converted WR Ray Fisher. The Hoosier staff hopes to utilize Fisher’s great speed to strengthen the depth and performance in the defensive backfield after seeing several teams pass all over them in 2008. The IU defense gave up 260 yards passing per game and 432 yards per game overall to their opponents last season. The Hoosiers will need Greg Middleton to return to form and for the secondary to lock down coverages in 2009 if they want to have any hope for getting back to a bowl game.

The road to playing a 13th game will certainly not be easy. The Hoosiers have only 6 home games in 2009 and they will have to travel to out of conference opponents Akron and Virginia. IU also travels to Michigan, Northwestern, Iowa, and Penn State during the conference season. The home slate is no piece of cake either with Ohio State, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Purdue traveling to Bloomington. The Hoosiers open the season on a Thursday night against 1AA Eastern Kentucky before Western Michigan comes to town 9 days later.

Who You Need To Know And Their 2008 Stats:
QB Ben Chappel 80-153, 1001 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT,
DE Jammie Kirlew 74 tackles/53 solo, 10.5 sacks
DE Greg Middleton 18 tackles/14 solo, 4 sacks

Game to Watch:
Despite the likely outcome, the game to watch in 2009 has to be October 3rd against Ohio State. This will be the dedication game for the “new” stadium and will likely be a full house given the number of Buckeye fans that love to turn Bloomington into Columbus-West. Energy will be high and the Hoosiers will have had 4 games to iron out the kinks of the new offense, including a game a week prior in The Big House against Michigan. The Hoosiers will be on the lookout for a statement game to let the rest of the Big Ten know that they are truly on their way up in the world. Will this be that game? I don’t think anyone is ready to step up and make that claim, but it could certainly become a wild one with the 7:00pm start time and the Hoosiers looking to shine under the lights.

They’ll do well if…
…the offensive line lives up to expectations and stays healthy. Those who know football know that games are won on the front lines. If the offensive line can finally get over the hump and create a push that improves the IU running game and keeps Ben Chappell off his back, then the Hoosiers will have a chance to compete 4 quarters against everyone they play. If not, then 3-9 in 2009 might be overly optimistic.

Season Outlook:
The 2009 season is full of uncertainty at this point for IU. The schedule is much more difficult than the previous two seasons, and with last year’s easy schedule the Hoosiers only managed 3 wins. It is quite possible that the loss of Kellen Lewis could be an addition by subtraction change that makes Indiana a much better football team. The talent is there for IU to be a competitive football team, but execution will be crucial. This team can not survive many mistakes against the quality of opponents they will face each week. An optimistic person can look at the schedule and see 7-5 as a possibility if the veteran leadership performs each week and pushes this team forward. At the same time, 2-10 could be just as possible and Hoosier Nation could be clamoring once again for Bill Lynch to be replaced as head coach. I for one will be hoping for 7-5. I plan to see at least 8 games in person including the road games in Charlottesville and Evanston. I sure wouldn’t mind adding one more road trip in late December.

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5 Responses

  1. Well, Kelper, one thing is a virtual certainty… either the Hoosiers get better or they are one of the prime destinations for folks like Turner Gill, Butch Jones, or Phil Fulmer at the end of this season when they start taking applications for a new head football coach.

  2. This is a good look at the forthcoming IU season, and it’s one we’ll be watching closely. No one seems to know fully what to expect, but when some of my IU alum friends are keeping a very tight lip on this season, I know that can’t be a good sign.

  3. I think a lot of us have a tight lip on this season because we truly do not know what to expect. After the 2007 bowl season, we had high hopes in 2008 and had those hopes dashed relentlessly. Anyone making big bold claims on this season is just looking for attention and probably couldn’t name 10 players from the 2009 roster. I’m looking forward to the season, just because I love being a part of it. But I wait anxiously to see what sort of production the 2009 Hoosiers have in store.

  4. 2008 hopes dashed? Oh yeah, that’s right.

    42-20.

    I almost forgot.

  5. Took long enough for one of you to pop up with that comment. Sorry things didn’t work out so well afterward for you…

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