Over at Assembly Hall, they’re talking about the possibility of a sixth national championship.
Down at Bill Armstrong Stadium, there’s reasonable chatter about IU men’s soccer contending for an eighth national title.
At Memorial Stadium?
Well, a Big Ten win would be nice.
Indiana’s lone win in Kevin Wilson’s first season as head coach last year came at home against FCS opponent South Carolina State. Since the 2007 season, when the Hoosiers went 7-6 and played in the Insight Bowl, IU is 3-29 in the Big Ten.
Wilson, though, doesn’t want to dwell on the past.
“It’s year two. If you look back, you’re not going to go anywhere, so we’ve been looking forward,” Wilson said. “We’ve tried to learn from [year one], move forward, and try to do what’s best for us.”
As important as assembling a more talented team is developing a good atmosphere around the football program.
“We’re just trying to create a culture in our building about how to work and how to win,” Wilson said. “Around here, as soon as we do good, we’ve been so poor, as soon as someone does something, someone pats them on the head. Their head gets inflated.
“We’re not a bad team because of bad players. We’re a bad team because good players don’t play good enough. That’s why you’re not good.”
Last season, Wilson didn’t announce a starting quarterback until Edward Wright-Baker walked onto the field to begin the season opener against Ball State.
Wright-Baker is gone, with sophomore Tre Roberson the starter now. Roberson fended off a challenge from junior college transfer Cameron Coffman to earn the starting job.
“[Tre] consistently made the fewest mistakes,” Wilson said. “He definitely gives us a little bit of a threat of a quarterback run game, but he’s made the fewest mistakes with the ball and got to where he was clicking in the passing game at a reasonably high level.”
The tailback position is more in flux. While freshman Tevin Coleman is listed as the starter, Wilson said Tuesday that Coleman will share playing time with Stephen Houston, last season’s top rusher, and D’Angelo Roberts.
Wilson said Houston can play better.
“He’s got really good feet. He’s got really good hands,” Wilson said of Houston. “But he needs to be better in pass protection. He needs to run behind his pads and get two or three tough yards. That’s where he’s not complete.”
Based on the Hoosiers’ depth chart for Saturday’s season-opener against Indiana State, IU will again be a young team. After playing 32 freshmen last season, the Hoosiers will have seven first- or second-year players in the offensive starting lineup.
That includes youngsters at both tackle spots, with converted tight end Jason Spriggs starting at left tackle as a true freshman and sophomore Peyton Eckert at right tackle, where he started six games last season.
Wilson has called Spriggs one of the best freshmen he’s ever had.
“A little light [Spriggs is listed at 268 pounds on the depth chart], but being a line coach myself, there’s things we’ll do schematically to help those guys out,” Wilson said.
The defense is a bit more experienced, but must play better against the run and force more turnovers to help the Hoosiers improve as a whole.
IU allowed 243.7 yards per game on the ground last season while forcing just 18 turnovers.
“I think every phase [of the defense] has to get better,” co-defensive coordinator Doug Mallory said earlier this month. “I think we’re still better than we were at any point even during the spring.
“One thing we talked to them [about], we’re going to be a great defense, a great offense and great special teams only with great effort,” he said. “We aren’t talented enough as an overall program right now that we can ever afford to go out and have a bad practice. We’ve got to go out with purpose each and every day.”
The need to improve quickly led to an influx of junior college players on defense, with two-thirds of the starting linebacker corps being JUCO players — Jacarri Alexander at strongside linebacker and David Cooper in the middle.
“[They] are great leaders, they fit right in,” sophomore safety Mark Murphy said.
The increased depth on IU’s roster should help on special teams. And the Hoosiers are in good shape in the kicking department with Mitch Ewald, who hasn’t missed an extra point in his two seasons and is 29-of-35 (82.9 percent) on field goals.
Mitchell Voss takes over as punter. As a freshman at Ferris State in 2009, he averaged 39.3 yards on 46 punts, including a school-record 69-yarder.
Speedsters Nick Stoner, Shane Wynn and Ricky Jones will share return duties.