Indiana’s two bye weeks this season come at such times as to segment the season. The first, this week, comes in between non-conference and Big Ten play four games into the season. The next comes at the end of October and sets the Hoosiers up for the November stretch run. Both serve as milestones, giving the Hoosiers an opportunity to regroup and reflect. To figure out what went right, what went wrong and what needs to be fixed, what their identity is and how other teams must be preparing for them.
“Your concentration is internally, what are we good at?” Wilson said. “What are we not good at? What can we do to help this guy? What can we do to play other players? You can really eval yourself. What are your self-scout tendencies? In this formation, are we too much run-oriented, pass-oriented? If we’re doing this blitz, is it really working or not? How do we make it better? Do we do it? This coverage, where are we getting worked at? How do we make it better? You can really self-scout on yourself.”
So far, Wilson’s self-evaluations have brought to light the same concerns he already had before the season and that he and his staff spent most of the preseason starting to fix.
“We’ve gotta play better at run defense and we’ve gotta run the ball better,” Wilson said. “Which was the whole gist of preseason. The other day, we didn’t have a run attack that worked and didn’t block well. No matter what the animals are in your blocking, you’ve still gotta find it. if you get one-dimensional, you’re going to be very easy to defend and then the same thing on the defensive side. If you allow them to be two-dimensional, you’ve gotta stop something. In the league we play in, even though we’re a spread team, we can do our tempo and be in shotgun, you’ve still gotta have the toughness and the balance on both sides of the ball. So that’s really where everything is really concentrated on right now. What can we do to get run game? What can we do to be more gap sound, structure sound, eyes where they need to be to get the guys in the gaps and get off blocks and play better run defense.”
The IU players took the blame for those shortcomings. Center Collin Rahrig took the blame on the offensive line for the running game’s struggles, especially in Saturday’s loss when the Hoosiers managed just 98 yards on 26 rushes. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld also faced near constant pressure in the game even though he was never sacked.
“It was really just our fundamentals,” Rahrig said. “They did a great job, give all the credit to Missouri for doing what they were doing. But we weren’t out there playing our ball. As an O-Line, I can say collectively, we had too many missed assignments. And just slow. Slow off the ball, crossing over in the zone game when we shouldn’t. Hand placement, hat placement, the main things with an O-Line. We weren’t doing it on a consistent basis. … We just didn’t have our eyes right. We need to self-evaluate what’s going on there.”
The defense is also taking a harsh look at itself, unsurprising considering the Hoosiers allowed 32.8 points and 463.2 yards per game in the first four contests.
“I think the execution (is the issue),” safety Greg Heban said. “I think the scheme and personnel, what we’re doing is where we need to be. Trusting the coaches, trusting the scheme is what our biggest issue is right now. Once we get everyone trusting each other, trusting where we need to be, trusting where other people need to be, I think it’s gonna be a totally different defense.”
Wilson said the week off also works as an opportunity to self-analyze coaching and play-calling, and he said that needs work as well.
“When you work good, you think it’s good calls,’ Wilson said. “But as much as anything, it’s looking at rhythm of runs, protections, hats, having answers. You don’t want to get into a checking contest, because when you check, the defense can check etc. With our tempo, being reasonably sound, we have to be sounder. and give our guys a chance. We have to find ways to always find some run game. We have to find ways to help protection. We have to find ways to defend the entire field. We’ve taken shots, short passes, the width of the field, getting balls to all the players. Same thing defensively. We need to keep looking at our alignment, structure, eyes, gap responsibilities to be cleaner and more sound against the run.”
— There was no discussion in the Indiana locker room on Saturday about wearing arm bands in support of the All Players United demonstration, because apparently no one got word to the Hoosiers that there even was such a thing.
The demonstration was spurred by the National Collegiate Players Association, an advocacy group made up by former and current college athletes that protests against various NCAA rules that they feel are detrimental to student athletes, not only in areas of athlete compensation but health and safety. Several players wore arm bands with the letters “APU.” Included among those athletes were Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee and Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter.
The demonstration received nationwide coverage over the weekend, but word didn’t reach Indiana’s players until they were asked about it by reporters on Tuesday after practice.
“I have no idea what that is,” junior wide receiver Cody Latimer said.
Said safety Greg Heban: “I haven’t even heard about it or talked about it at all.”
At least one player said he might be interested in the idea, though he also hadn’t heard about it until asked by reporters.
“What is it again?” linebacker David Cooper said. “I’ve never heard of it, but it sounds like something I would do. I would do that, but I haven’t heard of that.”
Wilson said he addressed the demonstrations briefly with the players. He said he might allow players to wear some sort of patch or arm band in demonstration, but only if the whole team would do it.
“I made a comment, ‘Your tape is not a billboard,” Wilson said. “‘If you want to put something on, you tell me, and we’ll all do it. But we’re not gonna do it individually. Because the word uniform means one form. We’re going out as one form, one family, one team. If you want to do something, let’s do it together.’ I shared that with the team post-game. … I said hey, if you want to do it, check in with me and we’ll all do it. But we’re not gonna do our own thing.’ My thing is we’ll address that as a group. No one’s talked about it.”
— Wilson said the injured players are working their way back but still being closely evaluated during the bye week. Wilson said right tackle Peyton Eckert continues to practice, but that his back injury is still nagging him and he’s not 100 percent. Because he hasn’t played at all yet, the Hoosiers are still considering a redshirt possible. He said guard Bernard Taylor is making strides as well, but wouldn’t put a timetable on his return.