Darren Hellwege is previewing each of Missouri’s football opponents for the 2014 season. The previews are being published Aug. 1 – 13 and will appear in the order of play.
Missouri v. Indiana
Date and time: Sept. 20, time TBD
Record: Indiana finished 5-7 overall last year including a 45-28 loss to Missouri in Bloomington.
Darren Hellwege, Sports Commentator
With return of their quarterbacks and coach Kevin Wilson, expect the Hoosiers frantic fast-break offense to continue. They’ll take advantage of defenses not being ready and strike fast, with the majority of their scoring drives in 2013 taking less than two minutes in time of possession.
In starting my discussion of Indiana’s quarterback situation, let me repeat myself on this subject—I am absolutely not a fan of 2-quarterback systems. The old saw “If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have a quarterback,” is one I’ve always bought in on. The Hoosiers switched back and forth through the season between Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson. The possibility exists that Wilson will pick one and stick with him, but neither pulled away clearly in spring football.
Sudfeld has the big arm for long gainers and averaged more than 200 yards a game last year. But Roberson is a run threat and had a higher passing efficiency rating, mostly due to Sudfeld’s nine interceptions.
The one returning starter among IU’s receivers is Shane Wynn. He’s bitty (5-feet 7-inch and just 167 pounds) but has great hands and makes a difference in many ways, as a receiver and a scary return man on punts and kickoffs. He’s given Indiana 17 touchdowns over the last two seasons.
Indiana’s defense was brutal last year, just plain bad. Giving up more than 525 yards a game last year, they were statistically among the nation’s worst. With new defensive coordinator Brian Knorr bringing in the 3-4 scheme he ran successfully at Wake Forest, the Hoosiers look to rectify their biggest weakness.
If the 3-4 set is to work, the Hoosiers will need a big season from their linebackers. It’s mostly a young group, but outstanding linebacker David Cooper returns for his senior campaign. Cooper led the team with 85 tackles last year and has started all 24 games in an Indiana uniform since transferring from Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College. He can play either middle or outside and is the first guy you want to account for as an opposing offense. “Flo” Hardin started eight games as a junior last year, and Clyde Newton, T.J. Simmons and Marcus Oliver all return after getting significant playing time as freshmen last season. They need to grow up fast, because Cooper’s great but can’t do it all himself.
In the secondary are strong points and question marks. All-Big 10 senior corner Tim Bennett returns, having led the nation in pass breakups and passes defended and leading the Hoosiers in tackles after moving over from safety prior to the season. At the other corner position Michael Hunter returns as the starter, having started all 12 for Indiana last year–but don’t be shocked if by week four, when the Tigers and Hoosiers meet on Faurot Field, we’re seeing redshirt freshman Rashard Fant in the mix. At just 174 pounds he’ll need to beef up to avoid getting jammed at the line, but he has some serious cover skills and athletic ability and should be part of the Hoosiers corner rotation before the year’s through. I like the Hoosiers safeties a lot…if. Returning starter Mark Murphy missed spring ball with a shoulder injury. Antonio Allen was coming on gangbusters as a freshman last year before earning his first start at Michigan…and blowing out a knee in that game. The “if” for the Hoosiers is obviously the health of Murphy and Allen, but if they’re ready to go 100 percent, they make a strong unit with Chase Dutra a very good backup option.
Indiana is a program to watch in the Big Ten. They have a lot of young talent and a strong offense. If they can move their defense from awful to mediocre or better, this could be a .500 team. That said, I’ve seen very few .500 teams beat Mizzou, especially in Columbia. This one takes the Tigers to 4-0.
Darren Hellwege is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the United States Basketball Writers Association