College football season is now upon us and after weeks of fall camp, the 2023 Indiana Hoosiers are looking to change the direction of the program. Seventh-year head coach Tom Allen looks to bring the Hoosiers back to their 2020 season form and will start this season on Saturday against Ohio State.
For a team with many unanswered questions, our Hoosier Network football beat reporters tried their best to predict the 2023 Indiana football season.
Most Valuable Player
Carlo Barone: My pick is Aaron Casey. The senior linebacker has been voted to wear No. 44 in honor of George Taliaferro for a second straight season, showing the impact and respect that he has in the Indiana locker room. Casey is also as durable as they come, playing in all but four games the last two seasons combined.
On the field, I expect Casey to be the heart and soul of this team. Last season he totaled four games with at least 10 tackles, and he more than doubled his total tackles from 2021 to 2022. I believe he will make even larger strides this season as one of the players Allen will build his defensive scheme around. Expect a first or second-team All-Big Ten Appearance for one of Indiana’s best players.
Kylee Corman: I think the MVP will be Jaylin Lucas. Despite Lucas’s size he is such a dynamic player and surprised a lot of people last year. An All-American as a freshman, Kick Returner of the Year, and considering all the challenges that Indiana faced, Lucas still had a successful year. I think this year the coaches and the rest of the team are more aware of the talent he has and are willing to experiment with him more.
Coaches have said they’re using Lucas in a slot position occasionally and expect to see a lot more from the young running back. The running back room is one of Indiana's best positions at the moment and they will be relying on all of them heavily. While all of them should have good years, I think the dependency on and creativity of Lucas will ultimately get him the MVP award.
Audrey Marr: I’m going with transfer defensive lineman Andre Carter as my MVP pick. I think it says a lot about him as a player and as a person that he was chosen to be one of five team captains in his first season as a Hoosier. Just last season with Western Michigan, he tallied 68 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and 7 sacks in all 12 games that he started in.
This Indiana defense had its light burned out in these last couple of seasons and I think that Carter is a match that will light it right back up. With Casey and Noah Pierre alongside him, this will be a fun defense to watch. As Casey said at Big Ten Media Days, this defense reminds him of the 2020 defense. Will this defense live up to those expectations? Only time will tell, but I think that defensive coordinator Matt Guerrieri and a Casey, Pierre, and Carter-led defense will shock a lot of people this season.
Offensive Player of the Year
Barone: For the second straight season, Indiana’s starting quarterback will be a mystery to the public until the Hoosiers’ offense takes the field against Ohio State. I will go a different route outside of trying to guess the starting quarterback, so I will pick Cam Camper.
Camper was named one of the five captains for this season, and he and lineman Mike Katic are the only two offensive players to have received that recognition. However, this is more of a risky pick because it is still unknown just when Camper will return to the field, and even when he does, how effective he will be. But I think Camper will eventually showcase the stardom that he played with at the beginning of last season, improving the Indiana passing offense the more that he plays.
If you remember, Camper was very close with Purdue’s Charlie Jones, who led the Big Ten in receiving last year, before his injury. I am confident that Camper will rebound in a big way but don’t expect flashy stat lines from him until conference play.
Corman: I believe the OPOY will most likely come from the running back room. The returning running backs, Josh Henderson and Jaylin Lucas, were some of the most impactful players on the field last year.
I think Henderson’s consistency in the position, experience with this team, and size is going to give him a slight edge and why I am putting him as my OPOY. Henderson averaged about eight carries per game, about four and a half yards per carry along with four rushing touchdowns and four receiving touchdowns.
Lucas is no doubt one of Indiana’s most exciting young players. I would expect a lot of experimenting with Lucas. Last year the team saw the potential of the young running back, and this year they are ready to push his limits a little more and test him.
Christian Turner is an exciting addition from Wake Forest that has been repeatedly and lovingly referred to by Lucas as a “dog.” Turner is an explosive player Indiana fans should be excited to get a look at. All that being said, I think that it may take Lucas until later in the season to really click and do all the things Indiana is expecting of him.
Marr: This may not come to be a surprise, but I have to go with Jaylin Lucas here. Coming off of a breakout season just in his freshman year, Lucas still has a lot to learn and ways to grow which will be exciting to watch unfold this season.
We even saw it last season — starting off the season with one reception for seven yards against Western Kentucky and ending the season with a 100-yard rushing game against Purdue. When he was needed most, he excelled and I’m excited to see how much he’s grown this off-season. As Kylee said, there will most likely be a lot of experimenting with him, and I think he’ll be utilized on all ends of the field.
It’s obvious that he’ll be returning the ball after totaling 168 kickoff return yards last season, but along with contributing to special teams, Lucas will bring a lot to the running back and wide receiver rooms. With the versatility that Lucas brings, I think it’s hard not to put him as my OPOY. I’m excited to see how he handles these expectations he’s been given and I think by the end of the season, he’ll be getting many more honors under his belt.
Defensive Player of the Year
Barone: Allen has talked so much about this team’s defensive line all summer long. I expect Western Michigan transfer Andre Carter to be this year’s best defensive player other than Aaron Casey. Carter’s size and speed on the edge shape up well with Allen’s defensive scheme and I expect him to be a difficult one-on-one matchup this season. Carter has also proven to be as reliable as they come as he has only missed one game the past two seasons combined. I expect Carter to elevate the play of those around him and make Indiana’s defensive line one of the most improved rooms of the team this season.
Corman: Coaches up and down the Indiana staff have been giving Noah Pierre all-star accolades throughout the offseason. As one of the oldest guys on the team, he has stepped into a leadership position, not only on the defense. Pierre was named to be one of the captains for this season.
Pierre has been one of the quieter guys in the past, playing alongside Tiawan Mullen, Devon Matthews and others, but he has always had a presence. Pierre was not highly recruited out of high school and has had to work hard to prove his worth year after year. Last year Pierre had multiple plays to add to his highlight reel, including deflecting the pass in the Michigan State game to secure the Indiana win in double overtime. As someone with this much work ethic, who has had experience with a successful Indiana team, and who has really started to prove his own name, Pierre is my prediction for DPOY.
Marr: Although he’s in the running to be Indiana’s MVP this season, I still have to go with Aaron Casey for my pick of DPOY. Even with the success Indiana had in the portal on the defensive side, I still see Casey leading this defense. He’s the leader the defense needs and I believe he and Andre Carter will be a good 1-2 punch.
Looking at the past couple of seasons, he made 25 total tackles in the 2021 season. Last season, he ended with 85 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. Casey has grown into a tremendous player and leader Indiana needs. He embodies what this team represents and with the combination of his skills as a leader and as a player, he will be a massive contributor.
Breakout Player of the Year
Barone: When I think of someone on the edge of breaking out for this team, I immediately think of Jaylin Lucas. While some may say that Lucas has already broken out, I feel like he has a much bigger season ahead of him. Now that he has one season behind him, Allen can now tailor plays to his strengths as he knows how dangerous of a runner Lucas is in the open field. This is also even more true for him as a kick returner, where he found himself as one of the best in all of college football last season.
His speed and quickness make defenders miss and a hard guy to tackle, despite being one of the smallest guys on the field at any given time. When I spoke to him last season, he talked to me about how it’s always been “heart over height” for him, but I expect Lucas to climb to even taller heights as one of Indiana’s premium players for this season.
Corman: Someone who had repeatedly stood out to me at camp was redshirt freshman Omar Cooper Jr. Now, all my thoughts on him are relatively limited and strictly observational from fall camp. Regardless, Cooper was a guy that I would not have guessed was one of the youngest and inexperienced in the wide receiver room. It seemed like he had a good chemistry with both Brendan Sorsby and Tayven Jackson that the other receivers may not have established yet.
Being from Indianapolis, Cooper faced Jackson a few times throughout high school, and although they did not share the field, Cooper is no doubt familiar with Jackson’s game and vice versa, which may be used to complement each other well. There are a lot of experienced wide receivers including Andison Coby, Cam Camper and Fordham transfer DeQuece Carter who should have a big impact on the offense. With Lucas getting thrown into the mix, there might not be too much time for Cooper. However, I believe given the opportunity he will be a playmaker, and if not this year, then next.
Marr: I don’t know if we can even classify my pick as a breakout player, but hear me out — I’m going with Dexter Williams II. We didn’t see a lot of Williams last season, but when we did, the state of Indiana saw hope and potential. It didn’t last long when he suffered a knee dislocation last season against Purdue.
Now, why do I have him as my breakout player? I think that this season we have the potential to see a lot more of him. With the offensive weapons Indiana gained in the offseason, Williams will have more opportunities to showcase his talents. While I don’t think he’ll be running the ball as much as he used to, I think the combination of Jaylin Lucas, Christian Turner and Josh Henderson in the running back room will make it known that it isn’t an issue. Williams is known for his versatility — which I still think he will bring to the field this season — but I don’t think he will be thrown into the ring until at least Akron.
Now who knows if Tayven Jackson or Brendan Sorsby start, completely turn things around for this Indiana program, and they don’t even look to Williams to start when he’s first available? Absolutely no one. However, from what he did last season and the new additions to the offense, I think a healthy Williams has tremendous breakout potential this season.
Newcomer of the Year
Barone: This pick is sort of a gamble, but one I am sure we’ll get a chance of seeing. I’m talking about Tennessee transfer Tayven Jackson. Whether we see Jackson on the field against Ohio State or not until later in the season, one thing I know for sure is he will play.
I’ll throw another prediction here: I think that Jackson will start week one. If this is the case, he’ll have all the opportunities in the world to take control of the team. This team desperately needs players to break out on offense, and if Jackson can stay healthy and take care of the football, he has the potential to grow into something great. His athleticism and big arm talent make him an interesting prospect, along with the fact that he hasn’t taken any hits for over a full year. Jackson could develop into a much better player than the last time that the public saw him take the field. If Jackson is the starter, his upside is endless.
Corman: There are a few intriguing transfers on the defense. Anthony Jones is a young outside linebacker from Oregon. Philip Blidi from Texas Tech has had plenty of experience against some powerhouse schools. However, Andre Carter is my pick for Newcomer of the Year.
A senior from Western Michigan, Carter has a lot of experience that will benefit the whole team. Although he is new on the team, he has already stepped up to a leadership position and was chosen as a captain. Everyone speaks incredibly highly of Carter and I would expect him to be one of the biggest playmakers on the defense.
Marr: Indiana gained some exciting additions on the defensive side this offseason, but there are a lot of new players on the offensive side that stick out to me as well. Someone who has really caught my attention but hasn’t been talked about as much is Clemson transfer E.J. Williams.
He dealt with injuries following his breakout freshman season, but still managed a total of 40 receptions for 442 yards in his three years at Clemson. He’s a big playmaker — making one-handed catches from Trevor Lawrence in his freshman year at the ACC Championship.
Wide receivers coach Anthony Tucker said that he’s very excited with where Williams is in his development and that he’s been getting a ton of reps in the offseason. With Cam Camper not being 100%, E.J. Williams is exactly what Indiana needs. Whoever is throwing the ball this year is going to be a young guy, and E.J. Williams has the experience that could be exactly what Jackson or Sorsby need to excel this season.
Barone: Indiana gets both of their Big Ten wins on the road this season.
Though the Hoosiers have only gotten two road wins the past two seasons combined, I think the schedule favors this prediction. The Big Ten East is one of the hardest divisions in all of college football, but consider Indiana’s road games: Maryland, Michigan, Penn State, Illinois and Purdue. Outside of Michigan and Penn State, Indiana played the other three programs pretty well last season.
Maryland has posted a close game with the Hoosiers the past two seasons and there is nothing staggeringly new within the program this year, so who says that Indiana can’t finally win a close game against them? Illinois lost to Indiana in week one of last season, one of only two Big Ten wins Indiana had in 2022. The Illini also lost defensive coordinator Ryan Walters to Purdue, so I expect their dominant defense to take a step back. Purdue is going through a transitional season, as the team lost its starting quarterback, top wide receiver, head coach and more this offseason. Expect the Boilermakers to be a different program in the post-Jeff Brohm era, opening the door for Indiana and Tom Allen to take back the Old Oaken Bucket in West Lafayette.
Corman: Indiana beats Louisville at Lucas Oil Stadium.
This would change the course for the entire IU season. The confidence alone would help this team tremendously. It seems like a wild concept — Louisville has had a reputable program that has found itself in bowl games year after year — but that does not mean Indiana should be completely counted out. There are a few familiar faces around the Louisville football program including former Purdue coach in his first year at Louisville, Jeff Brohm, and assuming he is the starter, former Purdue quarterback, Jack Plummer. Indiana is familiar with both of them.
It is also early in the season, where teams are still working out the kinks, especially ones with new head coaches. The game is at an incredible venue only an hour away from Bloomington. It should draw an impressive Indiana crowd. I would not write this game off yet.
Marr: I don’t think Cam Camper is the set in stone WR1 this season.
Yes, he led the team in receiving yards last season, despite tearing his ACL halfway through the season. But with DeQuece Carter, E.J. Williams, Andison Coby, Donaven McCulley and others, this wide receiver room is stacked. We can’t guarantee that Camper is 100% healthy and ready to go against Ohio State. He said on Monday that he doesn’t feel 100%, so I think he definitely starts the season with limited reps and he progresses into the season. Now in this time, the new offensive additions will be put in the spotlight.
So as the season goes on, I think we’ll see the true talent and depth of the receivers and my prediction is that E.J. Williams will be WR1.
Barone: This season is an interesting one for Indiana and Tom Allen. After two straight losing seasons, where would this program go next? There are plenty of question marks surrounding this roster coming into this season once again, making this team one that’s hard to predict.
I believe Indiana’s ceiling is five wins and its floor is two. Indiana State and Akron are two programs Indiana should beat. Rutgers, Maryland, Michigan State, and Purdue are all very unknown teams as well. Indiana was within one score in nine of its losses last season, so having some good luck on IU’s side is well overdue. If Indiana’s injury struggles don’t linger once again, I can see this team winning a few more games. However, I will go with a safer pick with Indiana finishing 4-8 on the season, with two Big Ten wins.
Corman: My prediction for the season is 4-8. This is an unknown Indiana team. Even to the team itself it is an unknown team. Just two weeks ago starters had not been decided in almost every room across the team, and even then not every player was solidified in a position.
It would not entirely surprise me if this team shocks the world and gets more wins than that. It also would not surprise me if it has fewer wins than that. Indiana State and Akron should be wins. “Should” being the key word. There’s hope for a win at home over Rutgers on homecoming weekend. By then the team should have a good feel for the season and Dexter Williams II should be back, who was the saving grace of last year’s team until he was injured.
And speaking of injuries, Indiana has not been able to keep all quarterbacks healthy, all season in years. If this team can get Williams back at QB sooner rather than later and remain relatively healthy, this team might not finish too badly. Remember, a lot of games last year were close and were decided by a touchdown or less. The potential is there. But to be safe, I think I will stick with 4-8.
Marr: I’m going to agree with Carlo and Kylee and go with 4-8 for the Hoosiers this season. From what I’ve seen in the off-season and the new players, I have to go with four wins. Who knows, we could be seeing a completely different Indiana team than anyone expected, but I don’t think we’ll truly know how this season is going to go until at least Louisville or Akron.
As of now, I say Indiana State, Akron, Rutgers and Michigan State are wins. I personally do think this will be a better Indiana team, and with the win at Spartan Stadium last year and Rutgers at home this year for homecoming, there’s a real chance for those two. I’m stuck on Purdue. I think there’s definitely a chance for a win with a new coach and new quarterback, but again, college football is full of unknowns right now and we’ll have a lot more answers after this weekend.
Indiana was hit with the 27th hardest schedule in college football, and while this team has potential, I think facing Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin will all be very difficult tasks for this young Indiana team. A big indicator this season will be how Indiana handles the fourth quarter. As Allen pointed out at Big Ten Media Days, many of Indiana’s games were decided in the fourth quarter last season and the team still ended the season with a 4-8 record. If Tom Allen & Co. can dominate all four quarters of the games this season, I can see the potential for a six-win season and a bowl game. However, I’m going to stick with my original thought and go with 4-8 on the season for now.