Heading into the 2013 college football season, expectations for Indiana University’s football team were extremely high.
The team had finished 4-8 in 2012 despite losing starting quarterback Tre Roberson. The talent level returning for 2013 was believed to be the best since head coach Kevin Wilson took over before the 2011 season.
For anyone who followed IU football closely this year, you know what happened.
The Hoosiers had a top-10 offense in the country before abysmal performances in two of the team’s final three games of the year. Despite those performances, IU was still able to finish with the 11th ranked offense in the nation.
The defense was one of the worst in the nation, which hurt IU in a lot of games that they really should have won, specifically against Navy and Minnesota, allowing 41.5 points in those games.
After the 42-39 loss to Minnesota, a game where quarterback Nate Sudfeld threw a backwards pass to running back Tevin Coleman in the final minutes to seal the Hoosiers’ fate, IU’s bowl hopes quickly diminished.
After defeating Illinois at home, IU sat with a 4-5 record, needing to win at least one game against two of the Big Ten’s best teams, Wisconsin and Ohio State.
IU lost those two games by a combined score of 93-17, officially eliminating them from bowl contention.
Against Ohio State, the defense presented the offense with a lot of opportunities to make it a game. IU was unable to capitalize, managing zero points through three quarters.
Kicker Mitch Ewald didn’t help matters much. Ewald, who had not missed a field-goal attempt in the season’s first ten games, missed two against Ohio State.
In the final home game of the season against hated in-state rival Purdue, the team ended the season on a positive note. IU won 56-36; although, the game was not nearly as close as the scoreboard implied. IU, at one point, held a 49-9 lead over the Boilermakers before Purdue went on a scoring run in the last quarter and a half.
Ending a season with a 5-7 record after having such high hopes was no doubt a disappointment for the program. As IDS IU football columnist Robby Howard wrote in his column following the Ohio State game, “The kick, the game, the season, didn’t go as planned.”
IU fans will always remember 2013 as the season that was supposed to lead to a change in culture throughout the program. Despite this, not everything that happened in 2013 was negative. In Wilson’s third year as head coach, IU made great strides, falling one game short of bowl eligibility.
For 2014, there are already steady building blocks in place. Next year will likely define Wilson’s legacy at IU and give a definite look at where the program is heading in the future.
Offensively, there is a lot of talent returning to Bloomington.
Both starting quarterbacks from this year, Tre Roberson and Nate Sudfeld, will be back. This could either be a really good thing or a really bad thing as Wilson was unable to give one player the nod for the entire season. Sudfeld started eight games and played well, but Roberson played huge for the Hoosiers in a near-win against Michigan, and he had a six-touchdown performance against Purdue.
Wilson will need to provide stability to the offense by going with one quarterback throughout the year in 2014. Based on what he brought to the offense, Roberson should be the man to get the starting job, assuming he works out some of his accuracy issues.
Running back Tevin Coleman will be back for his junior season. Coleman, who I believe has the potential to be a running back in the NFL, would have eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season if not for an ankle injury that held him out of the last three games of the season. Coleman finished this season with 938 rushing yards (7.3 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns.
IU is losing one of their top receivers from the last few seasons in Kofi Hughes. The loss of Hughes will be minimized assuming junior receiver and All-Big Ten candidate Cody Latimer returns for his senior season instead of declaring for the 2014 NFL Draft. They also have special teams stud Shane Wynn returning next year in the slot as well.
The offensive line will benefit from the return of guard Dan Feeney, who missed the entire season with a lisfranc injury. Feeney started every game as a freshman and was a member of the Big Ten’s all-freshman team.
On defense, the unit was extremely young this season and will improve (I guarantee this because it is hard to imagine them being any worse).
Whether or not defensive coordinator Doug Mallory returns next year remains in question. Mallory’s father, Bill, is one of the most prestigious coaches in IU football history.
The biggest loss on the defensive unit will be safety Greg Heban. Replacing a player like Heban is very difficult, especially considering that Heban has a shot at making an NFL roster as a late-round pick.
Hard-hitting and facemask-shredding safety Antonio Allen has the ability to minimize the loss. As a freshman, Allen was named a starter midway through the year before suffering a season ending injury.
The Hoosiers have some solid recruits entering the program as well.
The best of the class, Delroy Baker, a 6'6", 295-pound offensive lineman, will be sure to see time early. The 3-star recruit out of St. Petersburg, Fla., has elite size; the coaching staff will just need to mold him into a top-tier lineman.
IU has sent relatively unknown offensive linemen to the NFL in the past (specifically, St. Louis Rams lineman Roger Saffold). I think Baker will be another one of those players.
Patience is a virtue with the IU football program. Wilson has already shown that he is a unique offensive mind, he just needs to put together a defense that is capable of holding opponents under 40 points a game (seriously, the lowest amount of points scored by the unit this season was 35, which both Illinois and FCS team Indiana State were able to score).