Editor's note: Kyle is the manager of our Indiana blog, Crimson Quarry. He's graciously stepped in to help us get to know next year's Indiana Hoosier football team a little better. Be nice to him.
5 things to know about next year's Indiana football team:
1. No Tevin Coleman? No problem.
It's not easy to replace a 2,000 yard rusher -- especially one that could be as dynamic and explosive as Coleman. But as discussed previously, Kevin Wilson went out and grabbed one of the nation's best ten rushers in 2014, Jordan Howard, off the UAB scrap-heap. It's expected by most that he'll start for the Hoosiers in 2015, but he won't be without a challenge to land the starting role full time. Devine Redding was a more-than-serviceable third back behind Coleman and the now-graduated D'Angelo Roberts in 2014, and should see a good number of carries, too. Don't overlook redshirt freshman Tommy Mister either, a converted high school quarterback that's drawn comparisons to Coleman but missed his true freshman season due to injury.
Another reason those watching the Hoosiers shouldn't expect much to change on the ground game? Big holes create big runs. Indiana will return most of a large but mobile offensive line that can block for the run as well as any in the conference and earned plenty of acclaim during Coleman's record season in 2014.
2. Nate Sudfeld is an NFL talent at quarterback. But can he play like it?
Quick! Rank the top three quarterbacks in the Big Ten! Cardale Jones, Braxton Miller, JT Barrett! Okay, the next three. Connor Cook, Christian Hackenberg...Nate Sudfeld? With Sudfeld in 2014, Indiana resembled a solid bowl team, one that knocked off the SEC East champs on the road. Without him? Guuuuuuuuuuuh. He's hardly been perfect (see the Maryland game that followed up his performance at Missouri), but Sudfeld is lightyears ahead of fellow Californian Zander Diamont when it comes to leading Wilson's offense. Add to that a *little* bit of mobility and a 6'6" frame and you might just have a mid-round pick that could surge up draft boards with a lights-out 2015, given the weak quarterbacking expected to be available next spring.
3. You need someone to catch the ball, though.
If Zander Diamont struggled to throw the ball in Sudfeld's absence in 2014, he didn't have a ton of help on the other end. The normally-reliable-but-small Shane Wynn faced double coverage nearly all season and forced freshmen J-Shun Harris and Dominique Booth into seeing a larger percentage of targets than Wlison would've likely desired. The two showed flashes of the brilliance that led them to be hyped recruits for the Hoosiers, but still were plagued with bad cases of the drops for most of the season. Indiana should see instant contributions from two big wideouts that were once destined to be big time SEC pass-catchers. Former Tennessee commit turned JUCO star Camion Patrick and Florida transfer (via UAB) Marqui Hawkins should give the Hoosiers the outside, vertical presence that was missing in 2014. Sudfeld will have plenty of arm to get the ball to an athletic and talented group of receivers, but they'll have to be able to catch the ball consistently if the Hoosiers have postseason hopes.
4. The defense should improve, too!
This is a crazy, absurd, and surreal sentence to type, but Indiana's defense kept them in game for the better part of 2014. Indiana was often competitive for a couple of quarters, letting the team somehow hold second half leads on Michigan State and Ohio State with a neutered, one-trick-pony offense. There was still a long way to go -- look at the number of 40 point games given up by the Hoosiers in 2014. But it was better, dangit. Indiana football has been the most difficult place to win in all of Power 5 football for decades now, and success has to be measured differently. Brian Knorr is making steps in the right direction with the Hoosier defense, and that showed at times last season. Just not all the time.
5. None of this will matter.
Indiana has beaten Ohio State
exactly one time okay twice since the 1960s. Ohio State is coming off a national championship season in 2014. Indiana is not. This streak will end at some point, maybe. But it won't be this year, no matter how much I get my hopes up or how much I tweet angry things at Luke and Matt and how close the game may be in the mid-3rd quarter. It will not happen. It will probably never happen. These are the cold realities of making the conscious choice to cheer for Indiana athletic teams: Any fun or good things will be ruined by Bob Knight truthers, Tom Crean is cursed by God to look like a fool in every dang photo ever taken, and you will not beat Ohio State in football. Accept it, embrace it, move on. And get your camera out and use the pause button on your DVR when necessary.
JUST LET US HAVE OUR MOMENT, PEOPLE.