Indiana football season predictions by WDRB sports staff
Can Indiana return to its third consecutive bowl game under first-year head coach Tom Allen? This IU team has more questions on offense than defense.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — All the talk at Indiana is about new head coach, Tom Allen. But there should be more chatter about another new face — offensive coordinator Mike DeBord.
The last time Allen ran a team (other than IU’s 2016 bowl game) it was an Indianapolis high school team. His resume shows two seasons as an FBS defensive coordinator, one at South Florida, the other at IU.
I understand the chatter — and the skepticism.
Allen did excellent work at USF (where the defense sagged without him last season) and he did better than excellent work at IU last season, as the Hoosiers allowed 380 yards per game, an improvement of 129 yards from 2015.
With nine returning starters, the Indiana defense should be solid.
Any improvement the Hoosiers make from a 6-7 season will depend on the work DeBord does with the offense.
Can DeBord help IU quarterback Richard Lagow the way he assisted Tom Brady and Brian Griese at Michigan as well as Joshua Dobbs at Tennessee?
Can he develop a running game as the Hoosiers try to replace a 1,000-yard back (Tevin Coleman, 2014; Jordan Howard, 2015; Devine Redding, 2016) for the third consecutive season?
Answers to those questions will unfold as Indiana opens the 2017 season Thursday at 8 p.m. against Ohio State in Memorial Stadium. The game will be televised by ESPN as College GameDay makes its first appearance at IU and former Indiana coach Lee Corso returns for the first time since he was fired in 1982.
Here are the WDRB staff predictions for the Hoosiers, followed by 5 IU Players to Watch:
Mike Lacett (6-6) — It will be slow out of the gate for the Hoosiers, but by the end of the year they’ll challenge for bowl eligibility.
John Lewis (6-6) — Another team in transition with Allen at the helm for the first full year. With some questions on offense and that Big Ten schedule, it could be a rough year for the Hoosiers.
Eric Crawford (6-6) — Hoosier schedule sets up for a strong finish but need to pick off some wins before getting there.
Tom Lane (5-7) — Too many toss up games on the road for the Hoosiers.
Katie George (5-7) — Tough home schedule in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers need to get a road win at Maryland or Michigan State to go .500.
Rick Bozich (5-7) — The Hoosiers play three Top 10 teams in their first six games and face a road trip to Virginia. That’s a lot, likely too much, for a first-year coach without a proven running back to overcome.
Five Indiana Football Players to Watch
5. Chris Covington, linebacker — Marcus Oliver was the heartbeat of the IU defense the last two seasons, playing hurt, forcing fumbles, breaking up passes, calling plays. Oliver bypassed his fifth season to move to the NFL. Covington, a former quarterback, gets first crack as his replacement and will likely be the guy opposing offenses target.
4. Donavan Hale, receiver — Nick Westbrook led IU in catches and receiving yards last season, but he’s listed as a second-teamer on the Ohio State depth chart. Hale, a dynamic, 6-foot-4 athlete, outplayed Westbrook in training camp, giving the Hoosiers the jumbo outside target every passing game needs.
3. Haydon Whitehead, punter — IU’s special teams were often a mess under Wilson, especially last season when Joseph Gideon had several punts blocked. Allen is a former special teams coach who understands the importance of excellent special teams play for underdog teams. He recruited Whitehead from a kicking academy in Australia — and he’s been booming kicks in training camp.
2. Tegray Scales, linebacker — On track to become the first IU linebacker drafted by the NFL in three decades, Scales led the Big Ten in tackles last season. ProFootballFocus raves about Scales, noting that he ranked sixth in the nation in making tackles on plays where he was responsible for the stop.
1. Richard Lagow, quarterback — The Hoosiers have plenty of talent at receiver and plenty of questions at running back. DeBord believes Lagow can cut down his 17 interceptions and improve his 57.8 percent completion percentage (which was actually 48.8 percent in IU’s final four games). If Lagow does not get better in both categories, look for redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey.
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