QB Tre Robertson looks to lead the Indiana offense in 2012 (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Stephen Houston will also return at running back. Houston rushed for 833 yards and 8 touchdowns last year, including strong performances against Wisconsin (135 yards), Northwestern (151 yards) and Purdue (129 yards). Houston projects to be a dependable and consistent option at running back and could take some pressure off of Robertson.
Juniors Jamonne Chester and Kofi Hughes return to a receiving core that is looking to improve on last season’s parade of injuries and poor-play. Hughes was, by far, Indiana’s most productive receiver last year with 536 yards receiving, and 3 Touchdowns. Loosing Demarlo Belcher and Dre Muhammad will hurt, but it is not crippling and the receiver play should be greatly improved.
The offensive line will be young with only one senior, center Will Matte. However, the unit returns 58 combined starts and will be in the second year of a new system. Under coach Wilson, who played offensive line in college and always had great O-lines at Oklahoma, look for this to be the strongest unit on the offense.
The defensive line was a huge problem for the Hoosiers last year, as they allowed 244 rushing yards per game, and only recorded 18 sacks the entire season. However, the D-line returns 3 starters, including 2 seniors, and cannot possibly be any worse than they were in 2011.
The linebackers will have to find a way to replace Jeff Thomas, who was the leading tackler on the team at middle linebacker. They do return Chase Hoobler, who had 48 tackles and 2 sacks last year. The other two linebacker spots have been replaced by junior college transfers Jacarri Alexander and David Cooper. Alexander was a highly regarded prospect and a major ‘get’ for the Hoosiers and I expect him to be the best player on defense and possibly the best player on the team by mid-season.
In the defensive back-field Antonio Marshall is another highly touted Junior college transfer, who is projected to help the Hoosiers greatly. This unit did not play well at all last year and had only 5 interceptions for the entire season. But, the defensive backs as a whole are much more experienced this season and the addition of Antonio Marshall means this unit should improve in 2012.
Indiana as a whole is much more experienced and there are several bright spots on the field. Tre Robertson is an exciting talent and the addition of junior college stars will most certainly help the defense. Last year Wilson had a strict ‘my way or the highway’ approach and that led to a lot of transfers in 2011; however, this year the Hoosiers return a lot of players and only have 4 seniors as projected starters.
Indiana is a young, fast, and overall intriguing team and I firmly believe that Wilson has them on track to a better future. But, their 2012 schedule is not an easy one, as their most winnable games are on the road and their home slate is brutal (Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin). Sadly for Indiana it is not hard to imagine another 1-11 season, as their non-conference schedule includes a road trip to UMass and a game with Ball state, who beat them last year.
All things considered, Wilson is doing a great job but the rebuilding process will take years. Youth and returning starters are great things for Indiana but this program was just so completely devoid of talent when Wilson got there that there was little he could do in his first season.
Have patience Hoosier fans, you’ve got a long road to respectability, but I predict a 4-8 season with wins over Indiana state, Navy, Ball State and Penn State.
Feature image courtesy of www.bleacherreport.com