BLOOMINGTON (AP) — Indiana is tired of getting beaten up.
Two seasons and just five wins into coach Kevin Wilson’s tenure, the Hoosiers now seem to understand what it will take to consistently make bowl games and contend for Big Ten titles. They must be big enough and strong enough to make all those critical plays.
“We’ve still got to come out a lot tougher, we’ve got to be a lot more physical, so we’ve got a ways to go with that,” safety Greg Heban said. “But physicality wise, offense and defense, we’re flying around the football, flying off the ball, so it’s definitely great improvement over last year.”
That’s just what the fan base wants to hear after years of falling short.
But will it be enough to get the Hoosiers back to a bowl game for the second time since 1994? Here are three keys to turning things around:
1. ONE, TWO, THREE QBs:
Wilson’s toughest decision may be choosing a quarterback. Tre Roberson finished his freshman season as the starter and won the job last season, too. A broken left leg ended Roberson’s season after just six quarters. Somehow, Cam Coffman and Nate Sudfeld, Roberson’s replacements, got the Hoosiers into contention for a division title in 2012. This year, all three are back. Roberson is the most mobile of the three. Coffman comes with an NFL pedigree and a penchant for winning, but Sudfeld has looked very good early in practice. Who’s the favorite? That’s not clear. What is? The innovative Wilson will figure out a way to use all three talented quarterbacks.
2. RUN, RUN, RUN:
The Hoosiers have averaged 3.9 yards per carry over each of Wilson’s first two seasons and haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2001, when there were 11 regular-season games. That’s not good enough. Wilson claims this is the first time he can recall going back-to-back seasons without a 1,000-yard runner — and he doesn’t intend to make it three. Fifth-year senior Stephen Houston is back after leading the Hoosiers in rushing in 2011 and 2012. But he will be pushed by impressive 204-pound sophomore Tevin Coleman and perhaps speedy true freshman Laray Smith.