In the afterglow of a 56-36 Old Oaken Bucket win over intra-state rival Purdue, here are five questions that must be addressed during Indiana's offseason.
1. Will defensive coordinator Doug Mallory return? Conventional wisdom says no, based on the Hoosiers horrendous play and statistical ineptitude. IU was gashed routinely on the ground and in the air, allowing big plays in bunches. It's hard to point to improvement at any position, save for a promising freshman class that has potential but is undeveloped.
While Mallory can't be totally faulted for the lack of talent available, he failed to compensate by using different schemes and focusing on solid fundamentals. IU defenders were routinely out of position, a clear sign that they either tuned out the message or the coach wasn't able to communicate it effectively.
It would be a major surprise if head coach Kevin Wilson decides to keep the defensive staff intact. Other changes at the defensive line, linebacker, special teams could follow.
2. Who's the QB? Wilson must settle on one quarterback prior to next season. Alternating QB's has proven to work in spurts, but not over the long-term. It hurts the chemistry and timing amongst the offensive unit, preventing either player at that spot to develop his skills fully.
Tre Roberson fits the profile of the modern college QB, athletic and mobile, but with a good enough arm and improving accuracy. Roberson can give defenses fits with his run/pass option and should only get stronger another year removed from a broken leg.
In sophomore Nate Sudfeld, Wilson has the prototypical signal caller. Sudfeld has good size, a strong arm, and ability to throw his receivers open, a trait few college QB's possess. Sudfeld played well until the last month of the season, when he was bothered by the rush and hurried his throws, resulting in accuracy issues. Sudfeld isn't a threat to run, but must improve his footwork in order to eliminate being a statute in the pocket.
Roberson's strong finish to the year make him an early favorite for the starter's job.
3. Will WR Cody Latimer return? Latimer enjoyed a breakout season, showcasing the strong hands, route running ability, and run after the catch ability that has NFL scouts salivating. Latimer's consistency was one of many Hoosier offensive highlights.
Latimer became the fifth Hoosier to surpass 1,000 yards in a season and his total of 1,096 ranks third all-time at IU. His 72 receptions are fourth and his nine scores are ninth.
On the Hoosiers career lists, Latimer’s 135 catches and 2,152 yards are seventh, and his 17 touchdowns are tied for fifth. The Dayton, Ohio, native recorded five 100-yard games in 2013, which is tied for third in a single season, and owns seven in his career, which is tied for fourth.
He may have reached his potential in the college game and have little left to improve, unless his primary goal is to see IU get back to a bowl game. Even the most ardent IU fans would be hard-pressed to argue that Latimer needs another year of seasoning.
Expect him to test the NFL waters and declare for the NFL Draft, where, according to The Slant...NFL Draft Guide www.theslantdraftguide.com , he projects to a mid-late second-round pick.
4. Will Wilson's staff become a revolving door? It has in recent seasons, with at least two assistants moving on each of Wilson's first three years. Is this a sign that Wilson is hard on the help or simply a case of better opportunities elsewhere?
Player development starts with consistent teaching. IU's renewed commitment to football, including assistant coaching salaries, should help in this regard, but at the end of the day, one has to enjoy the working atmosphere.
5. Is IU's recruiting improving? Wilson earned well-deserved accolades for reeling in an impressive freshman class in 2013, with defenders Darius Latham and David Kinney both reneging on oral commitments to more "name-brand" college football programs in favor of playing in Bloomington. Safety Antonio Allen also changed his mind and brought his physical play style to IU.
Thus far, the Hoosiers appear to be reverting back to recruiting under the radar prospects with promise, but not yet developed athletically. Instead of four-stars recruits, IU has settled for a handful of two-star players. Even more disturbing is the fact that several highly rated players in the state are going elsewhere, rather than helping IU turn the corner.
Extra Points: Roberson earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors for the first time in his career, the conference announced Monday. Roberson is the fourth Hoosier to be recognized by the league this season, joining Tevin Coleman (offense), Mitch Ewald (special teams) and Ralphael Green (freshman). The Indianapolis native tied a 70-year-old school record with six touchdown passes (Bob Hoernschemeyer at Nebraska in 1943) as IU defeated Purdue, 56-36, for the Old Oaken Bucket. Roberson completed 25-of-37 for 273 yards while rushing for a career-high 154 yards (7.3 average), his third career 100-yard rushing game. His 427 total yards were also a career-high....Indiana set single-season records with 6,102 total yards, 508.5 total yards per game, 461 points, 38.4 points per game, 36 passing touchdowns, 62 total touchdowns and 300 first downs....Indiana junior wide receiver Cody Latimer and fifth-year senior kicker Mitch Ewald collected second team All-Big Ten honors, the conference announced Monday evening. Five additional Hoosiers received honorable mention recognition. Latimer earned second team accolades from the conference media for the second straight year and was an honorable mention selection by the coaches. Ewald was recognized as a second-teamer by the coaches and was an honorable mention choice by the media. Junior cornerback Tim Bennett (media), fifth-year senior tight end Ted Bolser (coaches and media), sophomore running back Tevin Coleman (coaches and media), junior center Collin Rahrig (media) and sophomore left tackle Jason Spriggs (coaches and media) were honorable mention. Additionally, fifth-year senior safety Greg Heban was named Indiana’s Big Ten Sportsmanship Award winner.