It’s safe to say Indiana fans are excited for the return of IU football for the first time since the Kevin Wilson day’s.
And here is the thing: they should be.
Don’t get me wrong, last season was the epitome of Indiana football. Early success leading to high expectations, featuring a rigorous schedule leading to a 5-7 record, a loss to Purdue, and yet another year not playing in December.
But since Nov. 24’s loss to Purdue, Head Coach Tom Allen has been cooking something in Bloomington; a blend of great recruiting and new coaching mixed with a strong quarterback room. All topped off with a defense that has made significant strides since the arrival of Allen in January 2016. Safe to say that fans are catching a whiff of the early success that is cooking in Memorial Stadium.
The offseason brought newcomers to Bloomington. The first being Utah transfer quarterback Jack Tuttle, who continues to crowd the quarterback room with Michael Penix and Peyton Ramsey. Both of whom have proven their ability to compete in the Big Ten, even though Penix was used so sparingly.
Tuttle, a pro-style quarterback, would’ve been the second highest recruit to commit to IU had he done so out of high school based on 24/7 Sports rating system. In high school, he completed 205-of-295 (69.5 percent) for 3,171 yards with 41 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
The other newcomer is one that will work hand and hand with Tuttle, the new offensive coordinator, Kalen DeBoer. I’ll make this one quick. Fans should be excited for DeBoer because the offensive efficiency of last season can’t get worse. DeBoer comes from Fresno State where he boasts a 22-6 record with him as the head of the offense.
The two seasons before DeBoer joined the Bulldogs were the 120th best offense and had a 4-20 record. Fresno State added DeBoer where he lead them to become the 47th best offense in the nation just two seasons later. He executed a similar turnaround at Eastern Michigan improving its offense to becoming the 35th best in the nation.
Now let’s get to why fans should be excited.
One: The Quarterback:
All three quarterbacks have proven to be extremely unselfish. It seems in every news conference they all speak about making each other better and how they all are committed to doing what they can to help whether they are the starter or not.
I love this. It reminds me of the Eagles quarterback room from two seasons ago. The one with Nate Sudfeld (Indiana alum), Nick Foles and Carson Wentz. The unselfishness and commitment to get better despite adversity helped lead the entire team to win the Super Bowl. This much unselfishness and commitment are good, No, it’s great and fans should be pumped for it.
Two: The Coaching:
It was bittersweet watching the Hoosiers last year. On one side you had the Hoosiers' defense coached by Allen that led the Big Ten in takeaways. 2.2 per game, a number so good that, if you aren’t playing in the hardest conference in college football, could lead you to be one of the best defenses in the nation.
However, on the other side was what held the Hoosiers back from bowl contention last year, its terrible offensive production. The Hoosiers ranked as average as far as offensive efficiency goes which lead to the parting of ways with former offensive coordinator Mike DeBord.
Going back to DeBoer who has built a career off rebounding poor offenses, did I mention that last year at Fresno State he produced the 26th best scoring offense with the 29th best passing offense? With the crowded quarterback room the Hoosiers are touting the fix may come as DeBoer’s easiest yet.
Three: The Running Game:
The fact that I have gotten this far and not mentioned the running game is a promising sign for the Hoosiers.
Stevie Scott rushed like no freshman before him at IU breaking records in yards (1,137), attempts (228), touchdowns (10) and 100-yard games (6). Not to mention Scott did all this while playing for one of the most predictable offenses in the Big Ten with little to no run-pass options. Scott is fortunate in the sense that this season the sophomore duo of him and Ronnie Walker JR. also get some more help.
Scott and Walker will welcome Sampson James, the true freshman out of Avon originally committed to Ohio State but flipped to Indiana the Sunday following the Hoosiers defeat to the Buckeyes in October. Scott was one of the best high school players in the state and if all goes as planned, the two backs will provide Indiana with one of the best running back duo’s in the Big Ten.
I’m not saying that Indiana will go 12-0 next year and make a trip to the College Football Playoff.
I’m not expecting a 10-win season and a trip to the Big Ten Championship. I know very well next season may be another 5-7 or 6-6 record. But one thing is for sure: fans can be excited because next season will bring the combination of talent and good coaching that IU needs to make strides in improving the overall program and changing the history of overwhelming expectations with underwhelming success.