Wilson: Roberson made the fewest mistakes, Coleman was the most talented back

Kevin Wilson’s first rule for quarterbacks is don’t turn the ball over. The man he wants under center is not always the option with the most talent potential or upside, but the guy who moves the offense efficiently and consistently and doesn’t give the ball away or make other obvious mistakes.

Tre Roberson was that guy this preseason camp, Wilson said, and that’s why he will be Indiana’s starting quarterback on Saturday against Indiana State.

“He just consistently made the fewest mistakes,” Wilson said. “This definitely gives us a little bit of a threat with the quarterback run game. He made the fewest mistakes with the ball. He got to where he was clicking in the passing game at a reasonably high level. He’s also probably, of those guys, a little bit more comfortable being here longer because he’s more of a natural leader. But he consistently, consistently, not even close, played at the highest level at practice.”

Though Roberson was the incumbent starter after starting the last five games last season as a freshman, he was in competition throughout the spring with junior college transfer Cameron Coffman and early in preseason practice with Coffman and true freshman Nate Sudfeld. Early on, however, it was evident that Roberson had improved enough in the passing game to be able to handle new offensive coordinator Seth Littrell’s offense and that he was ahead of his incoming challengers. Wilson didn’t make it official until recently that Roberson would be the starter, but he has been saying for at least the last two weeks that Roberson is “the guy.”

“He’s competed and progressed every single day,” Littrell said. “He’s worked extremely hard.”

The tailback situation was always going to be by committee. However, Wilson was less pleased by the work ethic of the incumbent starter at that position. Freshman Tevin Coleman was listed as the starter on Friday’s depth chart, ahead of junior tailback Stephen Houston, who rushed for 802 yards and eight touchdowns last season.

Wilson first stressed that no one has won the job. Coleman, Houston and sophomore D’Angelo Roberts will all see time, he said.

“I don’t know if anyone’s won it, (Coleman) has just played the best short term,” Wilson said. “He’s playing the hardest and he’s awfully talented. … With Stephen and Teven and D’Angelo, those are the three that we’re primarily going to this game with. They’re all comparable. Tevin’s probably got the most talent. Stephen can be the most consistent, doesn’t play the hardest. D’Angelo’s a nice change-up that fits in. You’ll see them all. I don’t know if I’d call anyone the starter. Tevin has played harder and has the most talent. We’ll start with that and see how it goes. At the same time, if you’re a good football team, you’re going to play more than one back. You’re going to need two or three.”

That being said, Wilson repeated that Houston hasn’t met his standard.

“I was talking to Stephen the other day,” Wilson said. “I said, ‘Maybe I’m wrong, but my standard for you is pretty high. Now maybe I’m the guy who’s wrong. Maybe my standard shouldn’t be as high. My standard it’s a little bit higher than I see your performance.’ Maybe I’m wrong. Sometimes we all make mistakes. Maybe I’m the guy making the mistake and I misjudged what I think he is. I think he could be an upper-level Big Ten back. He’s 220 (pounds). He’s got really good feet. He’s got really good hands. But he needs to be better in pass protection. He needs to be more physical. He needs to run behind his pads and get two or three tough yards. That’s where he’s not complete. The physical side of his game needs to come out. His skill set is reasonably good and he can have the edge and the attitude of a great running back, he can be an upper level running back. Right now he’s a pretty good one.”

Coleman has a chance to be one as well.

“He just runs hard,” Wilson said. “Fast. Has instincts. Some guys got it…. He has a chance to be pretty good.”

Of course, Wilson’s also been burned by tailbacks before. Much of last season, he said, every time a back ran well, he got a big head and failed to perform the following week.

“Around here, as soon as we do good, we’ve been so poor, as soon as someone does something, someone pats them on the head,” Wilson said. “Their head gets inflated. We get out there and play average as all get out. It’s just a vicious cycle of up and down and up and down. No one knows how to keep coming. No one knows how to handle success. No one knows how to push themselves. A couple of guys like Tre and some guys, other guys haven’t done poorly, they just haven’t done the standard that they’re capable of doing, the standard of winning they need, the culture we’re trying to create. We’re not a bad team because of bad players. We’re a a bad team because good players don’t play good enough. That’s why you’re not good.”

— Wilson is impressed by Indiana State and coach Trent Miles, who he actually tried to hire when he got the Indiana job.He’s extremely impressed by tailback Shakir Bell, who finished tied for second in the voting for the Walter Payton Award voting for the Football Championship Subdivision player of the year, as well as Buck Buchanon Award candidate and defensive end Ben Obaseki.

“You watched them play Penn State (last season),” Wilson said. “Fly around and score, they got a little end and they were teeing off on those cats. They got six preseason all-league players, they got an excellent punter. Trent, who I know reasonably well, not great but I got a lot of respect for him. He’s a no-nonsense guy who’s going to get their team to play their style. Their style is they’re gonna try to be a very physical football team. They’re gonna try to run the football. They’re gonna play great defense. They’re gonna play stubborn defense. They’re gonna play stubborn defense. They’re gonna take away that run and try to get you one-dimensional, get you third and long and tee off on the quarterback. They’re impressive…. There’s a reason they’re talking about them to be conference champions.”

— Wilson gave his early idea of the freshmen he eventually sees playing as true freshmen. Coleman, wide receiver Ricky Jones, left tackle Jason Spriggs, and guard Dan Feeney are the most obvious. He said backup right tackle Dimitric Camiel is “on the bubble” to play. Defensive tackle Alex Todd will likely play, and Ralphael Green is also “on the bubble.” Defensive end Nick Mangieri and linebacker Jordan Wallace are likely to play, and defensive back Dawson Fletcher will likely at least help on special teams.

— Wilson said most of his injured players have returned to practice. Defensive tackle Nicholas Sliger is out with a knee injury, but left tackle Charlie Chapman and tailback Isaiah Roundtree are both back after sitting out significant time with concussions. Chapman was about for about three weeks and Roundtree was out for about one. Though Chapman and Roundtree are back, Wilson said they will not play in Saturday’s game.

“If you don’t practice and you miss significant time, we got enough players, we’re building a team,” Wilson said. “You go with the guys who are fighting for ya. We’ll see if those guys get back in time. It’s just unfortunate, but that’s the nature of the business. It’s kind of the nature of building a program. We’ll see where those guys are.”

Cornerback Greg Heban, who had missed a few days, has returned to practice and will be available.

AUDIO: Kevin Wilson Part 1

AUDIO: Kevin Wilson Part 2

AUDIO: Seth Littrell

AUDIO: Doug Mallory


  1. Wilson said, “Around here, as soon as we do good, we’ve been so poor, as soon as someone does something, someone pats them on the head,” Wilson said. “Their head gets inflated. We get out there and play average as all get out. It’s just a vicious cycle of up and down and up and down. No one knows how to keep coming.”

    I get the feeling that Wilson is not going to be handing out a lot of praise early in the season. He is clearly elevating the bar in an attempt to change the culture of IU football.

  2. We agree. I particularly liked this statement by KW: “We’re not a bad team because of bad players. We’re a a bad team because good players don’t play good enough. That’s why you’re not good.”

    What I’ve always liked about this man is that he is a throwback to a way of being that can lead to ‘exceptionalism’ and puts it right there, where it is possible and reachable.

  3. Yes, I caught that one too. If they buy in to what he’s telling them, and they choose to push themselves beyond where they think they can go, they will be individually and collectively more successful.

    As my Dad used to say, “People have no idea what they can achieve until they have no other choice but to do it.” I think that came from his service in the 82nd Airborne during WWII. He used to tell me that during their training, they all really hated their instructors and officers. But when they were in combat, they loved those guys for pushing them so hard. Some of his players may hate Wilson now, but if they have a winning season, they’ll love him for pushing them beyond where they thought they could go.

    (Please guys, spare me the admonitions that college football is not combat. I got it.)

  4. My mind cringes every time an athlete says “I am going to play with 110% effort”. That is an impossibility. If his performance is 10% better than previously, then he has been a slacker previously. If he gives 100% mental and physical effort each practice/game, his perfomance level reaches an incrementally higher plane. Doing this day in and day out raises his new 100% effort to heights that his old 100% effort could only dream of. This is how he becomes better as an athlete. There is no magic to improving, just hard work each and every time he practices and competes.

    This appears to be Coach Wilson’s mantra. Either work hard to improve or someone else will take your place. I applaud him for that.

  5. Crean is such a genius, he tweets with one hands and claps with the other. Wilson will change the culture at Indiana: in a few years we will be happy to win one game per season.

  6. Podunker…(and I may have told you this co-incidence before), great for your dad. My son has been in the 82nd (AA-AllAmerican)for the major part of his 25 year career; including as a battalion commander (Iraq and Afghanistan). Congratulations on your dad…I have met several at reunions, some of whom jumped or glided into France at age 17…they were and continue to be incredible men (and now women). And you’re right, great leadership takes you beyond normal limits.

  7. vgBMG, excellent post(4). It is a physical impossibility. I believe great teams are made of individuals consistently playing at 70% and collectively maximizing on that with concentration and focus. Very good point and I too hope that is where Wilson is taking this.

  8. So the guy that averaged more yards per carry as Le’veon Bell and as many yards per carry as Denard Robinson is now #2 on the depth chart. That sounds like some serious progress.

  9. I am increasingly convinced that IU is moving in a positive and sustainable direction with the FB program and I think KW’s candid comments bear that out. However, let’s not get too carried away with the progress reports because, as a team (and FB is a team effort), we are still not where we need to be to compete in this league. We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet. The game with ISU will be close…a lot closer than some of us think.

  10. How can Wilson say he thinks Houston can be an upper-level Big Ten back when Houston proved last year that he’s already that? He averaged more yards per carry than Le’Veon Bell and Silas Redd, behind a mediocre line. I am thinking this is an attempt, without Wilson wanting Houston to know it, to tell Houston that he can be whatever he wants to be if he gets more consistent at being more physical. It was already mentioned last year that Houston ran through trash better than anyone on our team, and McCullough mentioned last night that Coleman’s issue was that he never ran between the tackles in high school so he had to learn to run behind his pads. So it is not like Coleman has blown the staff away with his ability to run between the tackles – it’s just his flat-out talent. I think they need that Montee Ball-like production between the tackles from Houston, and KW knows he has that potential. If Montee Ball is considered the best back in his class, then I think he thinks Houston has that potential as well.

  11. While we’re telling military stories…

    Coach kinda reminds me of the attitude of the instructors in flight school. Nobody every tried to help you keep your head up or restore your confidence. They just reminded you, “Don’t worry. There’s a bunch of people waiting to take your place.”

  12. Is it just me and my equipment or are the audios just not responding in this time frame?

    What I am most impressed with is Coach Wilson and staff continually march forward to meet their goals with or without you. This program because of the coaching leadership may come around a season sooner than I had thought was possible.

  13. It’s meant as satire, ‘HC’——in general, these are one and two star recruits already playing their guts out against teams with three and four star recruits——–by November, the traing room probably resembles a VA hospital because of the size and talent differential——-I understand coaches must raise expectations, but the idea that ‘whipping’ them harder to produce more wins is absurd——–the only way to regularly win is to load the team up with three and four star recruits, which is the coach’s job———–

  14. Speaking of running between the tackles, it helps to have blocking there, too. The zone blocking used in a lot of modern offenses is significantly different from what I suspect most of us played with/against in high school. Fast and big linemen are always preferable to fast and not-so-big linemen, but zone blocking is supposed to help the not-so-big line in that blocks are not held very long and the RB is supposed to take what presents iteself rather than hitting a pre-determined hole that may or may not be there after the snap. Anyone have any idea what kind of scheme IU will be running on offense this fall?

  15. I don’t know what blocking schematics IU will use. What I do know is that we are small (very small) compared to our league competition. This is an issue. To some extent quickness and zoning can overcome size differential. However, if we are spotting 40+ lbs per man as we are against Wisc, no scheme is likely to work. I think O line remains our single most significant challenge (not to minimize the other aspects that need to improve).

  16. Good observation about coaching staff HC. Whether this season, next or the following I want us to get there solidly and stay there as a program, year-in, year-out.

  17. Barbwire…I agree with HC; absurd statements. I’d rather take KW professional diagnosis ‘…these are(were) not bad players, these (were)are good players playing bad’.

    Davis’ has a good question and observation on blocking schemes. Similar differences exist in the NFL as well and coaches do make adjustments in blocking schemes based on which favors their characteristics. A good issue/point for ‘Scoop’ to ask KW and staff and inform us about.

  18. IUfan23, I’m glad someone else has expressed concern about the size of IU’s O-line. To me, it is too light. We need an O-line that averages over 310 pounds, and according to the data published on this site earlier this week, we’re not even close.

    We finally have some taller O-linemen, but their weight still seems well below all other Big Ten O-lines. I compared the published data between Wisconsin’s O-line, which is generally considered to be the biggest in the Big Ten, if not the country, and IU’s O-line starters. Granted, the loss of Chapman for the first game reduces IU’s average, but the difference is over 40 pounds on average! If this was boxing, we’d be in a different weight class.

    I’m hoping the data published was from last year or even in the spring and that IU’s O-line is actually heavier that the published stats suggest. Otherwise, come Big Ten season, establishing the running game is going to very difficult.

    The indication that IU football has turned the corner will be, in large part, when IU starts signing linemen that are 3 and 4 star rated O-linemen that arrive on campus averaging over 6’4″ and 300 pounds. Based on the data, we still have a way to go.

  19. Po, I noticed some of the local kids that signed with big name schools (one went to ND last year and a couple to Clemson) were tall and strong but not really heavy. I’m assuming the schools figure if they have the height and the frame than their conditioning coach and training table can put the beef on them.

  20. @Chet you hit it right on the head; the new trend is going after body types. The the big time blue chippers well always be there but if you follow recruiting closely you’ll notice that 2 and 3 stars that get offered by major programs will jump in star rating in the recruiting services.

    And I too think Wilson is putting IU on the right track. But to be captain obvious in order for IU to take that next step IU will have to be able to get that next caliber of athlete and it maybe as simple as targeting body types instead of stars! Of course you still have to develop that talent.

  21. Chet, I also think you hit it on the head. When KW says “big” he’s talking about a player with length and size, the weight issue may be secondary and one he (KW) can control to his specs.

    We had a hint of that little more than a year ago when KW first arrived in Bloomington and began looking at and re-assessing the previous staff’s recruits. And, his initial contacts with players on campus set the tone. (I believe a review of the stories by DD at the time will support that).

    It was obvious then from his approach and player comments that KW and his staff worked hard at re-shaping some of the heavier players and rebuilding their bodies emphasizing lean muscle, strength, speed, stamina while size was seen as a plus in the context of the other qualities he sought.

    I particularly recall KW had reservations about some players recruited by the previous staff for exactly that issue, some had the weight but lacked the size, (i.e. 5’10 1/2″, 283 lbs)- speed and strength to carry it. As a result, he encouraged some to reconsider their commitments to IU and consider going elsewhere. He was pretty clear and up front on the issue.

    I believe KW’s approach, to look for a particular body type with the physical skills he requires (speed, quickness, intelligence, stamina, quickness) and to ‘sculpture’ them while honing their mental and emotional approach to the game is correct and encouraging for our program.

    The issue of ‘the number of stars’ before arriving at IU will become less and less important if KW’s approach is able to ‘build his own’.

  22. I picked up the paper this morning and saw that the tall, gangly kid I referred to will be starting at outside linebacker for the Irish on Saturday. He’s a sophomore.

  23. Tsao, Chet, & Bonus; All good comments, and I agree with most of them. Your comments are why I raised the issue after seeing the stats published on the depth chart as published on this site. Wilson certainly is going after “body-types.” He is obviously recruiting taller players for the O-line (with long arms). His plan is then build their weight (through muscle) in IU’s revamped conditioning program. He clearly has the right plan. My concern is simply that it seems the players on the O-line are not increasing their weight very fast. I mean, a 20-year old guy that is 6’6″ and weighed 290 pounds a year ago should easily be able to put on 20 pounds in twelve months and begin the new season at 310 pounds with better strength. It does not appear to be happening to the degree Wilson’s previous comments suggested it should.

    If the published data on the O-line’s weight is accurate, IU’s O-line is the “lightest” O-line in the Big Ten and gives up, on average, 20 pounds per man to the next lightest Big Ten )-line. This may be because younger guys have replaced the older bigger guys on the two-deep roster, but I was not surprised that none of the starters weigh over 300 pounds.

  24. Sorry, the last part of the last post should read, ” Big Ten O-line. This may be because younger guys have replaced the older bigger guys on the two-deep roster, but I was very surprised that none of the starters weigh over 300 pounds.

    Fat fingers screwed up my typing again.

    I think we’re making progress on the O-line, but it just does not seem to be happening as fast as I expected.

  25. Podunker- I think you may have a good hypothesis that younger players will be smaller in weight. They are barely out of the baby-fat shedding process, while an older player is settling into his ‘adult’ weight. Still, once we are discussing the 280+ neighborhood or so, I have little concern with ‘weight’ as too small.

    The coaches approach is critical; in the same way that some wrestling coaches become obsessed with getting wrestlers ‘down to weight’, some football coaches go the other way and encourage obesity. Too often we read of former pros having massive heart attacks very young or of those beset with diabetes traceable to excessive demands to put on weight during their careers. Both losing and gaining weight can become pretty unhealthy practices bordering on abusive.

    It’s important to remember that when we are talking about a 320+ lbs man we are talking about someone who probably would be rejected from the services because of health reason. I doubt more than 5% of them could finish a 10-mile, even a 5-mile run. So the entire concept of ‘athlete’ is a bit questionable that exaggerate body mass nearly to the same extent as Sumo wrestling.

    These are practices that must be dictated and controlled by medical professionals ()in my opinion), just as professionals should monitor and have the last word on ‘concussions’ at all levels. Size may be important but only within safe, legitimate and healthy parameters.

  26. Chet-

    Just curious…How big is too big to crawl into the the seat of a fighter jet cockpit? Is Dwight Freeney-ish the cutoff?

    I roomed with a football player while at IU. Disastrous introduction to college life. This was not a kind man. I’m sorry, but I truly believe most these guys are putting so many chemicals into their bodies that they are ticking bombs with Pit Bull personalities in frames a Frankenstein creation. I was the lucky freshman that was the only experiment they could find to put in a concrete cell with this jacked-up steroid-infused lunatic. Crazy-ass mean SOB. Add to his warm and fuzzy demeanor the fact that he was a gorilla that would walk in his sleep. How would you like a 6-8, 285lb unstable behemoth standing over your bed while he’s in a complete trance at two o’clock in the morning? This was my first nights as a college boy in diapers from a small town. I guess they could not find another football player or friend of this John Carpenter ‘Thing’ in cleats that was raising their hand to room with the monster after he had already been on campus for an entire year. Do you think that was comforting to me? I was told by other guys on the floor that his previous roommate once saw him sit up in bed and act like he was rowing a boat. I was never given the name or whereabouts of his previous roommate. There was a code of silence. Homesick and terrified, I went to sleep(not an easy task under the circumstances) wondering each night if I would wake up screaming in pain, split in half from groin to chin, with my feet used as his oar handles.

  27. Harvard, back in the day, to paraphrase Bill Murray, it was more of a guideline than a rule, but you didn’t run into many guys over 5’10” in a two seat cockpit.

    Somebody like your old roommate would more likely have been shown the door due to one of the countless psych evals. It was really fascinating and I don’t know how they came up with this stuff but a good example (this was during ‘Aviation Officer Candidacy’) but they’d do stuff like keep you awake for a couple days and then put you through a battery of bizarre tests (sample question, “Would you rather slam you hand in a car door or throw up in church?”). Crazy stuff.

    A couple guys in my class ‘tested out’ on the psych stuff and I couldn’t help but wonder if that kind of thing stuck with you for life.

    I had a roommate that thought it was just fine to have his guns in the room. I gave him the option of moving out or talking the issue over with campus police. He moved.

    TTG, my boys were two of the better wrestlers to come out of NC (no wrestling Mecca by any means) and we refused to ever let them cut weight…ever. This didn’t go over well with some of their (high school)coaches but TFB. They couldn’t have performed much better and they didn’t screw up their bodies for life. They’d be chowing down at the training table while their teammates were so weak from hunger they could hardly talk. College coaches never even suggested they cut weight.

  28. I would pick throw up in a church. Hope I just didn’t get my wings clipped.

  29. That’s the answer I picked, too. Actually, that one seemed like a no brainer. It was really quite a sight. Guys falling asleep at their desks while Drill Instructors would smack their batons on them to keep you awake. Pretty surreal (especially when you’re already about to hallucinate).

    Like I said, I’d feel pretty bad if that was what I got washed out for.

  30. And you were absolutely right Chet. Back in the day, to paraphrase Bill Murray paraphrasing you, I did see kids wrapped in three towels, sitting by a heater for three hours; or, weighing in and immediately running to the bathroom from their ExLax diets just to cut an additional 1/2 lb. Brutal and criminal.

  31. It would be interesting to see what type of medical supervision the men that form the starting O-line for Wisconsin receive. Are they obese? Are they healthy from a cardiovascular standpoint? I don’t know, but i assume the doctors and trainers monitor them closely to make sure they are healthy enough to compete. I do agree that after their playing days are over, they will need to lose a lot of weight or suffer serious health consequences and shortened lives. I suspect that most of them will play in the NFL, make millions, and have to cope with a lot of injuries that will inhibit their ability to lose the weight when their careers are finished.

    Like all players that desire an NFL career, these linemen willingly make the choice to bulk up and endure injuries, and assume the risk to their long term health and quality of life, in hopes of obtaining the rewards that result from a career in the NFL. I don’t see it being stopped any time soon.

Comments are closed.