- Associated Press - Friday, August 29, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana coach Kevin Wilson speaks with more optimism these days.

After spending four seasons trying to put his imprint on the program, the Hoosiers finally look like his kind of team.

They have a prototypical quarterback who is capable of making all the throws. They have a game-changing running back, a big, strong, experienced offensive line and more depth. Now comes the toughest test of all - proving a revamped defense is good enough to get the Hoosiers to their first bowl game in seven years.

“I would like to see us play with an unbelievable amount of energy and effort, which means you know what you’re doing. If you’re thinking - like I tell the guys all the time, if you’re thinking, you don’t know,” Wilson said of his new 3-4 defense. “If you know, you know. You know the call, you know the job, do the job.”

Saturday’s season opener against Indiana State may not seem like the best barometer. The Sycamores, a Football Championship Subdivision school, are coming off a one-win season and their biggest playmaker, running back Shakir Bell, has graduated.

But in 2013, Indiana State put up 35 points against the Indiana defense - doing it as Bell went down late in the first half with a right shoulder injury. He finished the game with 113 yards rushing, which turned out to be a harbinger of what was to come in Indiana’s historically bad season.

Things have changed.

Players have embraced the more aggressive style and a variety of blitz packages installed by new defensive coordinator Brian Knorr, and they’re no longer resigned to being the weak link in Indiana’s ongoing postseason quest. Instead, the Hoosiers intend out to show everyone they can excel on defense.

If they do, Wilson may finally have the team he’s envisioned all along.

“I don’t think we’re going to sit there and be vanilla. I would like to see these guys fly around and I’m expecting — I’m expecting to see this team play well,” Wilson said. “We’re expecting to have a better season. We need to start playing; we need to start winning.”

Here are some other things to watch Saturday.

SECOND CHANCE: Perhaps Mike Sanford’s second season at Indiana State will go smoother than his first. Senior quarterback Mike Perish should be more comfortable in the offense, which is capable of putting big point totals on the scoreboard. But keeping up with this Hoosiers offense, however, will be a monumental challenge.

SUDS UP: Nate Sudfeld may have been the Hoosiers’ best quarterback each of the past two seasons. But this year, for the first time, the junior doesn’t have to worry about winning the week-to-week competition to start. He’s entrenched as the starter now, and Wilson wants to see how Sudfeld responds to his new title.

STREAKY STRETCH: Indiana State is trying to end a series of streaks this weekend. The Sycamores are looking for their first season-opening win since 2010 and their first season-opening road win since 1980. Plus, they’re trying to beat the Hoosiers for the first time in six tries and they’re trying to beat a Big Ten team for the first time in 13 tries.

BY THE NUMBERS: Indiana was one of six teams in the nation to finish in the top 30 in scoring, total yards, passing offense and rushing offense in 2013. The others were Baylor, Colorado State, Florida State, Marshall and Oregon.

THOMPSON HONORED: Former Hoosiers running back and 1989 Heisman Trophy runner-up Anthony Thompson will be honored Saturday. Thompson will join the Hoosiers captains at midfield for the coin toss and Indiana players will wear a decal that reads “AT 32” on their helmets. Thompson is a native of Terre Haute, where Indiana State’s campus is located.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

blog comments powered by Disqus

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide