The Indiana Hoosiers seemed to be stuck in somewhat of a Big Ten purgatory. Mired behind four elite programs in the Big Ten East, the Hoosiers have struggled to find any sort of relevance since the conference's expansion.
Indiana was the most predictable team in the Big Ten last season. They beat who they should, lost to who you expected, and gave a ranked team one of those patented Bloomington scares that we all know and love. As we head into year two of Tom Allen, the Hoosiers have perhaps their most talented roster in some time.
Indiana at a Glance
|Head Coach||Tom Allen (2nd season; 5-7)|
|2017 Record||5-7, 2-7 (7th B1G East)|
|Biggest Losses||QB Richard Lagow, LB Tegray Scales, S Chase Dutra, WR Simmie Cobbs, CB Rashad Fant|
|Biggest Returnees||RB Morgan Ellison, WR J-Shun Harris, QB Peyton Ramsey, WR Nick Westbrook, OL Wes Martin, S Jonathan Crawford|
|Summary||On paper, Indiana doesn't look all that intimidating. If they beat who they should and pull an upset or two, they could make a bowl for the third time in four years.|
|Matchup with PSU||The Hoosiers come smack in the middle of the toughest stretch of the Lions season. Sandwiched between the Michigan State and Iowa games, the game against Indiana has a chance to get Bloomington-weird.|
Peyton Ramsey came on strong as a redshirt freshman, starting four games when it was all said and done, and essentially pushing Dicky Lagow out of Bloomington. That doesn't necessarily mean he's already won the starting job for this season. Arizona grad transfer Brandon Dawkins will push him in a battle that should run through camp. Ramsey's knowledge of the system and superior passing abilities have to have him on the inside track, but Dawkins is too talented of an athlete to not have some kind of role.
Star running backs J.K. Dobbins and Jonathan Taylor garnered the spotlight as true freshmen, but Morgan Ellison has another frosh who gave Big Ten defenses a solid amount of trouble. He led the team with 704 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He'll be running behind a very experienced offensive line with 112 combined starts under their belt. Wes Martin is an All-Conference caliber player at guard, pair him with Miami transfer Nick Linder, and you have one of the best starting interior lines in the nation.
Bad news. Simmie Cobbs is gone. Good news. Nick Westbrook is back. Before losing most of 2017 with an injury, Westbrook was an absolute game breaker, hauling in 54 passes for 995 yards and six touchdowns in 2016. If healthy, he's an All-Big Ten caliber player and could be the guy who gets the Hoosiers to a bowl.
Tegray Scales was the most underrated linebacker in the conference last season. With him gone, there isn't a lot of experience at that position. Of the 11 linebackers on Indiana's roster, six are freshmen. Dameon Willis Jr. could find himself in the All-Conference conversation, but he needs help from another linebacker or someone along the line if Indiana wants to avoid being gashed on the ground.
It's really criminal how little we talked about Indiana's secondary last year. They were fourth in the Big Ten and 17th nationally in passing yards allowed, giving up under seven yards per pass. With Chase Dutra and Rashad Fant gone, it's hard to imagine a repeat performance. Jonathan Crawford is an NFL caliber player at safety. He plays like Marcus Allen in the box and like Grant Haley in pass coverage. He's the best player on the Hoosiers and maybe a high pick in next year's draft.
Griffin Oakes was money as a senior, going 16-17 with his only miss being blocked. It's between two freshmen and Rutgers transfer Jared Smolar to replace him. Hayden Whitehead returns at punter but the real star of special teams is J-Shun Harris. He had two punt return touchdowns in seven games before going down with an ACL injury.
It's hard to predict anything more than mediocrity. Indiana has the talent to make a bowl game, but anything more seems like wishful thinking. They get Michigan State, Penn State, and Iowa at home, which seems prime for at least one upset. After signing a top-50 class this past year, the Hoosiers have momentum on the recruiting trail but it'll take a few years, or conference realignment, before they're a perennial threat in the B1G.