*With just over a week remaining before Indiana kicks off its 2018 season at Wake Forest and North Carolina, The Hoosier Network will be releasing its position previews on a semi-weekly basis until the season begins.*
The heart of IU’s formation took a hit in late September last season when Jeremiah Gutjahr went down with a season-ending knee injury. The question surrounding the team for the remainder of the year was how it would cope without one of its veteran players.
Yet, the Hoosiers didn’t falter for the rest of the season, and their midfield was consistent from game-to-game. This season, IU returns all of its starters in the midfield and has the task of improving on a stellar 2017.
Entering the campaign as the second-ranked team in the nation, expectations are higher than they were last year. And with all its starters returning, IU’s midfield will be judged at a higher standard.
The incumbents in the midfield are all seniors and are the most experienced bunch of IU’s squad.
Anchored by Francesco Moore, IU’s midfield saw a combination of Jeremiah Gutjahr, Trevor Swartz, Rece Buckmaster and Austin Panchot. The fourth-year players will hold down their part of the field once again, but the three starters will be determined by other areas of the pitch.
Moore gave IU box-to-box play along with his defensive-minded role last season, and he will be just as important this year. He anchored the midfield, and the game was facilitated through Moore when the Hoosiers had control of possession.
The backline features four returning starters, and two of them, Buckmaster and junior Jordan Kleyn, will vie for the starting right back position. Depending on who IU head coach Todd Yeagley goes with at right back will determine whether or not Buckmaster will feature in the right-center midfield position.
Buckmaster started there at the beginning of the season, but was forced to move to right back following Kleyn’s leg injury. The dominoes will fall after Yeagley makes his decision at right back, and the next position to be decided will be left-center midfield.
Gutjahr had the position locked down at the beginning of last season, but Swartz’s play in 2017 will force Yeagley to make a tough decision. Swartz brings an attacking prowess while still playing box-to-box along with Moore.
Panchot was another Hoosier to feature in the hart of the formation last season, as well as in the attacking third. His speed and prolific play gave him an edge over defenders. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him come off the bench if Gutjahr is fit and ready to go for the first game of the season.
Another veteran who saw time in the midfield last season was senior Cory Thomas. Thomas can move from the wing position and into the midfield and will surely see some minutes in both roles this year.
In such a crowded third of the field, it will be tough for new faces to break into the squad this season.
Sophomore Spencer Glass was an impact substitute for the Hoosiers last season and will look to replicate that success this year. Glass even scored the lone goal in the road victory against Penn State last season. He saw his minutes grow with each game that he impressed last year, but with the return of Gutjahr from injury, it might impact Glass’ playing time.
Freshman Joe Schmidt will be another player, along with Glass, who will be watched as the season goes along. Schmidt redshirted last season and will be the other underclassmen who might see significant minutes this season. He also scored the lone goal in IU’s first exhibition Sunday vs. Xavier.
It’s tough to tell which other underclassmen will see action in the midfield this season outside of Glass and Schmidt.
Freshman Kyle Barks is another figure who redshirted in his first season at IU, but with five returning starters at some point last season, it will be difficult for new faces to be integrated into the squad.