With eight home games and an offense stacked with talent, the 2013 Indiana football season was expected to be a good one, maybe even ending with a bowl appearance for the first time since 2007.
A defense that ranked among the worst in the nation quickly put those expectations to rest.
A year later, there’s hope that change on the defensive coaching staff can help the Hoosiers show improvement there while taking some of the pressure off an offense, whose depth will be tested.
With the transfers of Tre Roberson and Cam Coffman, there’s no experience behind quarterback Nate Sudfeld. The receiving corps lost Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes, Duwyce Wilson and tight end Ted Bolser, who last season alone accounted for 169 of IU’s 279 receptions (60.6 percent), 2,322 of 3,680 receiving yards (63.1 percent) and 22 of 36 TD receptions (61.1 percent).
The tight ends on IU’s roster have combined for one career reception, and it’s incumbent on Nick Stoner and Isaiah Roundtree providing consistent receiving threats along returning starter Shane Wynn.
But a veteran offensive line should help.
“We were fourth in the league in rushing, and everybody talks about our offense and they talk about no huddle and they think we throw the ball,” head coach Kevin Wilson said at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago in July. “We’ve got an outstanding offensive line. I think it’s one of the better offensive lines in the league. And what I like about our offensive line is that our starting right guard and starting right tackle from a year ago missed all 12 games. So we were able to accomplish decent offensive numbers with basically half the line out.”
The line will pave the way for a running game led by Tevin Coleman, whose 958 rushing yards last season were the most for a Hoosier since Levron Williams ran for 1,401 in 2001.
That was the last 1,000-yard rushing season for a Hoosier. A healthy Coleman, who missed the final three games last season with an ankle injury, should be able to hit 1,000 yards this year.
Coleman and Wynn give the Hoosiers two proven playmakers. But all those big plays won’t do IU much good if the Hoosier defense doesn’t find a way to stop opposing offenses.
Last season’s losses included games in which the Hoosiers scored 47, 39, 35 and 28 points. But Wilson has said he wasn’t completely disappointed in last year’s effort.
“There were some good performances last year defensively that that I’d take right now, we’ll take our chances. If it’s good enough, I’ll take it right now. But we did not consistently do it from day to day and week to week,” Wilson said earlier this month.
Many preseason predictions have the Hoosiers finishing sixth in the new Big Ten East, between conference newcomers Maryland and Rutgers. The Terrapins’ first Big Ten game will be at Indiana on Sept. 27, while the Hoosiers travel to Rutgers on Nov. 15.
Wilson acknowledged he’d rather have more home games than road games, but the Hoosiers have two home games and two away games out of conference.
“I’d like to get as much as anything, seven home tilts,” he said. “Last year we had eight. It was awesome. I wish it was seven and five last year, and seven and five this year is what you want.”
The Hoosiers are 2-14 away from Bloomington under Wilson, who’s 10-26 overall beginning his fourth season.
“To me, it’s kind of ready to roll. You’re excited about the potential and capabilities. We’re set up in a position where it’s going to be a hard challenge, physical schedule, and we’re going to have a lot of fun and success,” Wilson said.