With 20 starters returning, enthusiasm and optimism abound as Indiana kicks off its 2013 season Thursday when the Hoosiers host intrastate rival Indiana State at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington.
IU has taken baby steps under the direction of third-year head coach Kevin Wilson. Wilson, 5-18 over two years, sees plenty of offensive firepower once the Hoosiers quarterbvack system works itself out. Either Tre Roberson, Cam Coffman, or true sophomore Nate Sudfeld will take snaps in the opener, and perhaps all three will see the field.
Whoever plays quarterback will hand off to dynamic sophomore Tevin Coleman or speedy senior Stephen Houston. The Hoosiers have lacked a consistent ground attack for most of the past decade. Coleman and Houston possess game-breaking skills, but are too erratic with their production.
Both the offensive line and wide receiver corps are talented and deep. Jason Spriggs headlines the line at left tackle, while maturing senior wide receiver Kofi Hughes hopes to realize his enormous talent. The light bulb started to go off for Hughes in 2012, but he must run better routes and become more consistent catching the ball.
IU's defense will have its hands full with Sycamores running back Shakir Bell. The former Warren Central poduct has been highly productive throughout his career in Terre Haute. He rushed for over two hundred yards against the Hoosiers last year, and should get a steady diet of carries on Thursday. He's short at 5-8", but possesses a stocky build, is a strong cut-back runner, and demonstrates a breakaway gear.
Meanwhile, Mike Sanford is in his first season as head coach at Indiana State. Sanford spent the 2012 season as assistant head coach at Utah State. He served as UNLV’s head coach from 2005-09, where he posted a 16-43 record.
If IU is too realize a goal of a post-season bowl bid, the Hoosiers must take care of several "soft spots" in their schedule. Too often, the Hoosiers have struggled against "lesser light" programs, portending later issues against Big Ten foes. The home schedule appears favorable, so Wilson could take this Indiana squad back to the post-season.
Extra Points: Indiana kicks off its 129th year of football on Thursday, Aug. 29, hosting the Indiana State Sycamores at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. EDT and BTN will broadcast the game.... IU returns 20 starters from 2012, including 10 on offense, eight on defense and two on special teams. The Hoosiers are multiple on offense and will run a 4-3 base defense...ISU returns 13 starters from 2012, including seven on offense, five on defense and one on special teams. The Sycamores run a spread offense and a 4-3 base defense...... Indiana State ended the 2012 season with a 7-4 overall record, a 5-3 mark in Missouri Valley Football Conference play and a 3-2 record away from Terre Haute.