Indiana focusing on run game, physical play in scrimmages

Indiana’s biggest strength as a team statistically last year was, by far, the passing game on offense. The Hoosiers were the best in the Big Ten and the 17th best team in the Football Bowl Subdivision at throwing the ball.

But the run game wasn’t great and the Hoosiers’ run defense was abysmal — last in the Big Ten and 116th in the FBS — so the Hoosiers have kept the ball on the ground in their preseason scrimmages for the benefit of both their offense and defense.

Wilson said that because of that, they’ve actually spent less time in scrimmages trying to discern who is ahead in the battle for the starting quarterback battle among Tre Roberson, Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld.

“We’re working so much on trying to play better defense and get a physical run game going that we’re really not trying to get ‘X’ throws or who really the quarterback is,” Wilson said. “They’re just kind of rotating. They all did good. They all did good today. Some hot and cold, good and bad, but for the most part more good than bad. We’re just trying to take advantage of pad on pad and building the toughness that we’ve lacked and that we need as a defense, as we need as an O-Line, as we need in a run game. … Our deal through this week is to keep bringing the defense, getting 11 guys, getting to the ball, getting tougher, getting guys on the ground, and trying to get the offensive line, tight ends, receivers and running backs running the ball like a good team needs to run it.”

Wilson said he’s seeing noticeable improvement in the run defense, which has finished last in the Big Ten each of the last two years.

“Run defense really is gaining,” Wilson said. “We’re getting lined up cleaner, our eyes are where we’re supposed to be, canceling gaps, getting off gaps. playing with better effort. O-Line, again, tight end play is getting better. Running backs are gaining on it. And we’re playing run defense. Our defense is not coming out playing a pass-oriented defense thinking we’re going to throw the ball. We’re trying to stop the run, run the ball and play a little old-fashioned football and get some toughness going right now.”

Wilson said there have been occasions when the offense has done side work because it’s more advanced.

In order to be more advanced, the Hoosiers have tried to spend more time in base 4-3 formation instead of going to nickel, taking out a linebacker to add a defensive back. He said converted safety Forisse Hardin and freshman Clyde Newton have made that easier.

“Flo Hardin’s a converted safety and Clyde Newton’s a running back, a really good running back, so they’re not 240-pound guys, but they’re 218, 220, 222-pound athletes,” Wilson said. It’s a little bit more size than the little small DB out there. They’re kind of strong safety bodies, so they match up OK. Unless it’s super long yardage, we’re just playing with base defense right now. We’re trying to play Base O and Base D. Things that are window-dressed and cute, and all that deal, we haven’t tried to do that in any scrimmage. Let’s line up and run our simple plays, one-back, two-back, two tight ends and just get 11 guys coming off the ball and getting to the ball.”

— The team has remained mostly healthy save for Chase Hoobler’s stress fracture, Chris Cormier’s knee injury and Rashard Fant’s hamstring. Wilson said there is one injury in the family, though.

“The worst one, we had a broken bone,” Wilson said. “He had four catches and two touchdowns, but Trey Wilson broke his (fibula) over at Brown County in the junior eighth grade game. So the Edgewood Colts right now, they got an X-Ray today, he’s got an MRI going. He had two touchdowns, he was rocking and rolling and had the cheerleaders cheering for him.” That’s the big one.”


  1. If the program is able to have a modicum of success running the ball and defending the run especially in short yardage situations things will continue to improve. On offense if you’re able to line up and successfully run the ball when the defense knows it’s coming, you get a huge psychological boost. On defense if you can stop the 3rd and short runs you get the same psychological boost, you get off the field to rest and you give the ball to one of the more potent offenses in the conference, if not the nation.
    It’s goin’ down in B-Town in T minus 12 days and I can’t wait. Go Hoosiers!

  2. Need 3, 4 or 5 = 4 star recruits for class of 2014 or yes it will go down in B-Town after miniscule short term success.

  3. I wonder how many 4-star recruits Northern Illinois signs every year? The reason I ask is that they’re ranked, by Sports Illustrated, in the top 25 teams in the country.

    If Wilson’s team builds on the momentum they established last year, and win five or six games this year, I think Wilson and staff will continue to sign bigger, faster and better football players. And if they have some luck and win seven games this year, we’ll see IU’s football program take a big step forward. Then, the challenge will be to keep Wilson and the majority of his staff from being hired away from IU by schools with much bigger football budgets.

  4. The brass tacks of the matter is progress. The 2013 4 stars saw it and jumped on board. If the program continues to progress, highly credentialed kids will sign in 2014. I just have a hard time focusing on a star from a group of ‘gurus’. I trust what the coaches see when they sign some of the less credentialed kids. Does CWK need talented kids, absolutely. He needs talented kids who want to be at IU even more. Now that I think about it t, he also needs a fan base with a little more enthusiasm and positivity…

  5. Keith, I was right there with you regarding your comment about IU’s fan base, but I deleted those sentences. But since you opened the door, I will follow you in.

    It appears that IU has most of what it needs in order to have a competitive football program. Great campus, good school, very good football facilities, and a good coaching staff. I say “most of what it needs” because it does not have a winning tradition in football or good attendance at the football games. And weak attendance at IU home games suggests a fan base with inadequate “enthusiasm and positivity.”

    The Hoosier Nation needs to understand that we will get the football program that we deserve. If we’re not willing to invest in making the program better, through strong fan support involving donations and enthusiastic attendance at home games (at the very least) then it will remain where it has been for far too many years. IU football may never be Ohio State football, but it can certainly be the equal of programs such as Iowa, Northwestern, Michigan State, and etc., and go to Bowl games on a fairly regular basis.

  6. Very well stated Podunker. I agree wholeheartedly. The stars are aligning for something special this season and beyond if we support this program and this coach. We should embrace the fact that the Athletic Dept. is supporting the program, and so should we. This program is rising and an energetic fan base can help it along. Fans in the seats = money more in the budget = better pay to keep good coaches (read Mike Ekeler) = better coaching = more W’s = more W’s = 4 and 5 star student-athletes ;). IU was competitive in many conference games last season, and is poised to turn the corner this season. I’ll be in Memorial Stadium for at least 3 of the 8 doin’ my part, who else is with me?

  7. 1. Northern Illinois would not be top 25 in major conference playing week in and week out….probably win a couple non conference games depending on schedule and may win a game or 2 in big ten….

    2. bigger, faster, and better players are 4 star or close to 4 star players.

    3. 4 or 5 years of recruiting 3 or 4 star players with the rest of 3 star and other recruits…you end up with a dozen or so 4 star players playing in almost every game….then you have a higher level program.

    One team who seems to be doing this is Northwestern plus a really good coach and coaching staff….I also like IUs coaching staff.

  8. Keith, yes, losing Ekeler to a lateral move, after matching the salary he was offered, really stung. Not that he could not be replaced, but it demonstrated IU’s vulnerability. As the CEO of a company that I used to work for once told me, “this organization should never lose an employee unless we want to lose that employee.”

  9. I am as excited as all of you about the upcoming season but we all need to temper our expectations. This program is still very much a work in progress. We’ve made significant strides and will continue to do so. That said, a bowl appearance is probably not in the cards this year unless a lot of things go our way. While we are clearly competitive on offense, our defense is not at a B1G level YET. It is getting better no doubt, but we are thin at too many positions and as the season wears down, this lack of depth will be a significant factor. I think 5 wins plus being competitive in all games (no more blow outs) shows solid gains and will be a validation of the investment IU has made in this program. Go Hoosiers!!

  10. I absolutely cannot see any reason to temper my expectations for this season of Hoosier FB.

  11. JPat, Mike P., Dustin and the rest of the Gang,

    If you are interested there is a fine radio interview(50+ minutes long)with Coach Wilson at about my method but I am not geek enough to care to know how to link). In my estimation adjectives are vastly overused but whatever adjective you wish to label this interview would be justified. The interviewer Owen Johnson neatly asks focused Q’s targeted to get to the core of his guest then sets back and lets him tell his story. This interview is in a whole the bio of our head FB coach’s FB life. Coach Wlison’s words in this interview supports my personal belief his persona displayed at times during his 1st year in Bloomington was for “show”. I speculate that he really does not ever want to leave Bloomington except maybe for the calling of UNC. I repeat maybe. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

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