4 things we learned from the Cream & Crimson game

Projecting the future off of the early returns of a spring game can be a dangerous proposition. There’s still too much at work, too many new faces yet to arrive, to read too deeply into Indiana’s annual Cream and Crimson game on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. But there were also reasons to feel good about the future and the fifth year of IU coach Kevin Wilson’s tenure in Bloomington.

With that, here are four takeaways from IU’s spring game:

1. Nate Sudfeld’s return is a huge boost.

Had Indiana’s No. 1 quarterback not missed the final six games of the 2014 regular season, the Hoosiers may have found themselves bowl eligible by the end of the November. Actually, that very likely would have been the case. Sudfeld’s return to game action in Saturday’s Cream and Crimson game was a reminder of all that was lost when he separated his shoulder on Oct. 11 at Iowa. The senior offered poise in the pocket, he smoothly ran an offense that moved with a tempo more to IU coach Kevin Wilson’s liking and he brought a sense of calm to the Hoosiers, extending drives with accurate throws and good decisions. There was nothing inspired about the playcalling in IU’s spring sneak peak, but Sudfeld found his receivers where they were supposed to be and appeared on the same page with that group — something that couldn’t be said at times a year ago. As left tackle Jason Spriggs said afterward, once again having Sudfeld’s leadership could carry this offense far.

2. IU’s defense could be ready to take tackling serious.

The first four years of Kevin Wilson’s tenure in Bloomington saw a concerning amount of missed tackles in the open field. It was something that drew added emphasis last year in defensive coordinator Brian Knorr’s first season at IU, and it appeared to be an area that the Hoosiers aimed to fix more completely this spring. The early returns are promising. Of course, some missed grabs led to a 41-yard reception for Mitchell Paige and a 53-yard run through the middle for Ricky Brookins, but there was more good than bad from defenders tasked with making stops in the open field. The defensive front started the day with some tough stands between the tackles against Devine Redding the No. 1 offense, with linebacker Tegray Scales leading all defenders with eight stops and appearing set to build off an impressive freshman campaign. There were hard hits from defensive back Kiante Walton and linebacker Dawson Fletcher, while the IU defense as a whole took to the concept of physicality, which is what Wilson preached all afternoon.

3. There’s no replacing Tevin Coleman, but IU won’t lose its running game.

While UAB transfer Jordan Howard’s absence was a disappointing subplot to Saturday’s festivities, Devine Redding backed up all the compliments from the coaching staff with a fine day. Redding showed off his signature tough running, going for 57 yards on 13 carries, while walk-ons Ricky Brookins (107 yards on 16 carries) and Alex Rodriguez (63 yards on 12 carries) appear set to battle with Tommy Mister and incoming freshman Devonte Williams for the third spot on the depth chart heading into the summer. It’s also clear that whomever earns the starting job come September will owe plenty to Indiana’s offensive line, which is very likely going to be the strength of the 2015 Hoosiers. Consider that Rodriguez’s long run of 14 yards went to the right side on a play behind right tackle Tim Gardner, a former Ohio State transfer who appears to be on the verge of winning the starting role. Then there was the massive left side of the line manned by the two 6-foot-7 giants, tackle Jason Spriggs and guard Dimitric Camiel, who both looked good pulling in front of Redding in the first half.

4. Who knows if the secondary is better?

The key to the whole season, whether Indiana snaps its bowl drought or not, will come down to the development of IU’s secondary. None of IU’s cornerbacks saw themselves hopelessly burned for gigantic gains, and by large, the group did fine against Sudfeld’s passing attack. Indiana’s projected starting safeties, Antonio Allen and Chase Dutra, came on strong last season and there’s reason to believe they’ll build on those gains this fall. It comes down to whether or not corners like Rashard Fant, Noel Padmore, Tyler Green and others can keep up with Big Ten receivers and make plays on an island. Green, a 6-foot-3 incoming freshman, has yet to arrive in Bloomington, but Fant and the others gave no reason to think they won’t be better this fall. But, as it goes, it was merely a spring game. We’ll know much more when IU hosts Southern Illinois on Sept. 5.

3 comments

  1. THANKS, for the information…love this news about the IU football team…i can only hope this is a break out year for IU football..that we win 6 games an go bowling…i am really looking forward to this seasons…..If injuries stay away (esp at QB) i can see this team going to a bowl game.

  2. I too really look forward to reading about the Hoosier Football Team. Here in Knoxville it’s all about the Vols’ literally everyday. I guess that’s one way to help get fans out to the Games, is to keep football news in front of them.. Keep up the good work.

  3. Pete, the difference between the football news coverage in Knoxville (and really throughout TN) and Bloomington is like night and day. I don’t think we can count on any of the newspapers throughout Indiana contributing to the attendance at IU football games. Too many “fans” have experienced too many years of disappointment to base their decision on attending a game on the amount of coverage provided by the media. If IU gets to 5 -1 this year, then you might see some folks start jumping on the bandwagon, but otherwise, IU’s fan base will remain skeptical and attendance will remain sparse. People living in Missouri have nothing on IU fans when it comes to the “show me” philosophy.

    How many “fans” showed up to the spring game?

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