Live chat transcript: Kevin Wilson, IU football, soccer

QUESTION: MODERATOR: Hello and Happy Friday, thanks for joining our IU sports chat today. Hope everyone is ready for the weekend.
Andy, Mike, and Jeremy: How are you today? Ready to get started?

JEREMY: A happy Friday, indeed, and with apologies to Disney, I’d like to think this chat is the happiest place on earth at 11 a.m. each Friday. Let’s get to this week’s happy questions.

MIKE: Morning, everybody. Let’s chat.

ANDY: Feels a bit like fall around here, given the temps yesterday and this morning. That feeling was only reinforced by watching the first 45 minutes or so of IU’s opening football practice Thursday. Conducive to chatting.

QUESTION: Hey guys, with sports upon us who is your prediction for Indiana Athlete of the year (men and women)?
Not-so Chronic Hoosier, Bloomington

JEREMY: Not-so Chronic,
That’s a tough call. I have to say I like diver Jessica Parratto’s chances of repeating on the women’s side. As for the men, I think big seasons for Nate Sudfeld and Yogi Ferrell could have them in the conversation, but diver Michael Hixon just took third at the world championships, so I think an NCAA title could put him in the mix, too.

MIKE: Hey Chronic,
Another good question. How about Brooklynn Snodgrass and Yogi Ferrell? I reserve the right to change this answer at any point within the next three weeks.

ANDY: Chronic!
Nate Sudfeld. Jessica Parratto.

QUESTION: Do you think this is a make it or break it year for Coach Wilson? I hear a ton of talk about IU B-Ball and little about football, Is it that everyone has grown accustomed to the lack of success of the football program and realize at best IU will only be able to land a low tier bowl game and we should just be satisfied with that?
Mike, B-Town

Just my opinion, but yes. There’s no doubt IU is making progress on the recruiting trail and putting a higher caliber product on the field, but the Hoosiers haven’t reaped the benefits in terms of results yet. Assuming IU avoids a catastrophic injury such as the one to Nate Sudfeld last year, this is the time to show that progress. Do so and what is already shaping up as a strong recruiting class gets even better come early February.
I think the low-key approach to IU football is a combination of its historic struggles and the fact that football doesn’t have as tangible an off-season for people to get excited about as, say, basketball. I imagine you’ll find the buzz picking up over the next few weeks as we near the opener.

MIKE: Hey Mike,
With a senior quarterback, one of the league’s top offensive lines and, what I believe, will be a defense ready to compete in conference play, I think it almost has to be a make-or-break season. But the more I reflect on this issue, I don’t think it’s so black and white. Five wins wouldn’t necessarily mean an automatic firing for Wilson. I think, to this point, he’s done a really, really impressive job getting the program at a level where it’s starting to build a foundation of depth. And by depth I mean athletic kids who can actually play. They’ve gotten bigger, faster and better at virtually every position — save, probably, corner — and, if you’re Indiana, I don’t know how wise it is to keep recycling football coaches. Glass gave Wilson a seven-year deal for a good reason, and I truly think if Sudfeld stays healthy last year, they get six wins. That probably put them a year behind schedule, but it’s there for the taking this year. That said, if they finish with five wins, it certainly depends on the quality of those five wins. To me, Wilson has built something that might be worth sustaining. Wins are the bottom line, but barring a total collapse this season, I hesitate to venture into another coaching search. Wilson’s a good coach with a pretty good staff. I’m not sure what would be out there that would make it worth blowing up if six wins aren’t found. It’ll be interesting, one way or another.

ANDY: Mike:
I just wrote a column on this topic that will run sometime in the next few days. I’ll try to summarize a bit here.
Every season is consequential, obviously, and this football season seems moreso than most. Having said that, I think the way this team shapes up on paper, it is highly unlikely it’ll fall so short of the mark as to really put coaching jobs in jeopardy. I believe Fred Glass feels Wilson and staff have made good foundational progress with the program. He supports them, and I think he wants to stay away from the revolving door regarding coaching and IU football we’ve seen over the past couple of decades.

I think the more pertinent and plausible topic would be whether or not this season will provide enough Ws so that Glass will feel comfortable offering Wilson an extension or not.

And that’s a crucial question. If the current staff is going to continue building after three consecutive recruiting classes that are more highly-regarded than IU has attracted historically, it’s going to have to win a higher percentage of games, and potential recruits are going to want to see evidence (through, say, a contract extension of two or three years of Wilson’s current seven-year deal that began in 2010) that the staff recruiting them is going to remain in place. That sense of stability is crucial for a program that has historically struggled. But this shapes up as Wilson’s best team to-date. I would postulate that a contract extension is a more likely outcome than a dismissal, though obviously neither might arise.
Hearing people talk more hoops than football around here is obviously the norm. That doesn’t mean there can’t be a new normal at some point. And I don’t necessarily think that IU or its fans will be or should be fully satisfied to perpetually only periodically make lower-tier bowl games with the football program. Iowa had something like 20 straight losing seasons before hiring Hayden Fry. I have never seen any reason why Indiana couldn’t aspire to the same sort of general status Iowa has enjoyed during Fry’s tenure and afterward — pretty regularly going to bowls and occasionally challenging the Big Ten big boys up top. The great Bill Mallory showed it can be done. It won’t be easy in this day and age, and will now be more difficult to sustain since Indiana is ensconced in the rugged Big Ten East, but it can be done.

QUESTION: Greetings from Fort Wayne. I thought we’d have better luck with the 2016 recruiting class. A lot of interest from some good players, but no commitments. Do you guys think we will meet or exceed expectations with recruiting and this years basketball season?
indianavelt, Fort Wayne

JEREMY: indianavelt,
I get where you’re coming from, as Indiana has no 2016 commitments as of this chat. And I think contributing to that disappointment was that two guys IU seemed like it had a great chance of landing chose to commit elsewhere some time ago � Kyle Guy to Virginia and T.J. Leaf to Arizona. However, Leaf de-committed on Thursday and will re-consider the Hoosiers, among many others, which is very interesting.
I would add that the trend right now is for players to wait on making decisions, which is probably better than an early decision and ensuing de-commitment (see Leaf, James Blackmon Jr., etc.). To that end, note that right now Kansas and North Carolina also have no 2016 commitments, while defending national champion Duke has just one in Jayson Tatum. So Indiana is in good company from that standpoint.
All that said, what the Hoosiers wind up with will be interesting. They are in on a ton of guys � by my best count, IU has approximately 20 offers currently out for 2016. Some of those are the five-star elites like Miles Bridges, Thon Maker, Rawle Alkins, De’Ron Davis and Leaf to name a few, some are more in the top 100-125 range. I think in an ideal world, especially with Indiana poised to bring in a class of 4-6 players, you need some of both.
I admittedly have my doubts about a lot of these upper tier guys, but I think how this season goes with Thomas Bryant could well have a significant impact on how the recruiting class turns out, especially with guys seemingly willing to wait until spring to make a decision.
Outside of unforeseen circumstances, there’s no reason this season can’t meet expectations, but I guess I’d need to see some evidence first-hand before I’m ready to talk about exceeding expectations. Besides, when we talk expectations, what we really mean is how does IU fare in March, and that’s still a ways off.

MIKE: Hey indianavelt,
Hard to say, at the moment. It feels like kids are waiting longer and longer over the last few years before announcing their decisions. Right now, Duke, Louisville, Kentucky and Maryland each only have one verbal for 2016. North Carolina, a possible preseason No. 1 or 2, doesn’t have any, I don’t think. There are at least 20 or so current offers on the table, including T.J. Leaf, who decommitted from Arizona last night. Now the Wildcats also have zero commits for 2016. The trends are changing, with kids waiting until Sept-Nov. or until the spring to make their decisions. It’s still hard to read where IU’s class will end up in the rankings, but there’s still time before anyone should start worrying. IU will likely bring in at least four or five kids, so I have to think they need to get at least one of the five or six — by my count — top 50 prospects they’re in on. It still seems early to guess whether they’ll exceed expectations, but I think meeting expectations (perhaps one five star and a couple of fours to headline the class) is still very much in play.

ANDY: indianavelt:
Still too early to worry overly much about commitments, or lack thereof, I think. Word last night of former IU target T.J. Leaf of San Diego (who has family ties in both Indianapolis, where his dad played at Lawrence North, and Evansville) decommiting from Arizona is a good example of how things remain quite fluid at this point with a lot of 2016 guys. It’s too soon to say if IU will again get heavily involved for Leaf, and west coast program such as UCLA are certain to push hard, but his announcement puts another intriguing possibility back on the board.

Thon Maker isn’t going to make his decision anytime soon, I don’t think. Same thing for Rawle Alkins. De’Ron Davis is obviously a guy for whom IU is also right in the mix. And the Hoosiers are getting a visit from five-star forward Miles Bridges and teammate Curtis Jones. Then there is Lamar Stevens and Bruce Brown. And new names keep popping up in connection with IU, such as Mario Kegler and Tyson Carter from Mississippi. There are point guards potentially in the picture, such as Jaylen Fisher and Xavier Simpson. There are still intriguing in-state guys such as Eron Gordon and Grant Gelon. There are still a ton of guys out there with mutual interest regarding Indiana. I think the Hoosiers still have every chance to end up with a really impressive class. And those chances would be enhanced by a successful 2015-16 season, which certainly seems plausible. I think the current team can shoot with any club in the country, and the key will be how well it defends.

QUESTION: Based on the practice time you got to see on Thursday who would you saying the starting ol, lbs and dbs are right
Charles, Indianapolis

JEREMY: Charles,
I humbly defer to the football dudes.

MIKE: Hey Charles,
We were only able to catch the first 30-40 minutes of the session, which really didn’t include much besides positional drills. We didn’t get to see any scrimmaging, so it was hardly revelatory. Also, it’s my understanding that much, if not all, of what we see is supposed to be kept off the record. Wilson’s open practice time, I believe, is more of a big picture opportunity for us to write from an informed perspective. I’d like to do and say more, but we’ll take what we can get.
That said, based on what folks (including Wilson) are saying, I can give you my best guesses at those positions. Up front on the O-line, right now it sounds like this: LT Spriggs, LG Martin, C Reed, RG Feeney, RT Camiel/Gardner. Linebackers, to me, would go something like this: MLB Simmons, WLB Scales, SLB Newton, BANDIT Shaw. This could be off by one or two because I think the supposed backups like Marcus Oliver, Greg Gooch, Dameon Willis and Nile Sykes are good enough to start. All of them. To me, receiver and corner are the two spots to watch just because they’re both wide open, but the depth and different possibilities at linebacker should have folks excited. We’ll certainly monitor that as the month progresses. As for DBs, sounds like Chase Dutra at free safety is the only sure thing at this point. I have to imagine that Rashard Fant, who I believe is the best cover corner of the bunch, will start outside, as will Noel Padmore. But walk-on Ben Bach will likely be in the mix, as will incoming freshman Tyler Green. Kiante Walton and Tony Fields, both of whom received a decent amount of playing time last season, will battle for starting strong safety duties. Also keep an eye on freshmen Jonathan Crawford and Jameel Cook. Wilson was quick to mention both of those guys yesterday.

ANDY: Charles:
Frankly, I wouldn’t base much on the 45-minute glimpse we got yesterday, mostly watching drills. Coach Wilson also cautioned that the current depth chart doesn’t mean much, and that he intends “to play a ton of guys.” If you ask who I might speculatively project as starters among those units as IU heads into fall camp, I’ll give that a shot.
OL: Jason Spriggs (LT), Wes Martin (LG), Jake Reed (C), Dan Feeney (RG), Dmitric Camiel (RT). Camiel was at LG in the spring but has played RT in the past and, with Ralston Evans’ unavailability due to medical hardship, will get a look at tackle alongside Tim Gardner, Delroy Baker, true freshman Brandon Knight and others. If they feel Gardner has come along well enough, Camiel might shift back to LG. But I know the staff really likes redshirt-frosh Martin, too. Coach Wilson has also repeatedly mentioned true frosh Simon Stepaniak, along with Knight. To be honest, IU is deep enough here that it could play its purported No. 2 line and probably still be fairly competitive.

LB: Zach Shaw (Bandit), Clyde Newton (SLB), T.J. Simmons or Marcus Oliver (MLB), Tegray Scales (WLB). I heard during the summer that Oliver, fully healthy, was really running well. I think he could challenge Simmons and Gooch in the middle, even though I think both those guys played hard and well last fall. Oliver was obviously impacted by injury, but he has physical tools and can really motor. Simmons, I thought, was a real rock last year, and has more experience as a two-year starter with very good production. He’s shown some leadership qualities, too, I hear. But I don’t think he runs as well as does Oliver. It’ll be interesting. Former Notre Dame commit Nile Sykes is the purported backup at Bandit, but is also intriguing, as is true freshman Brandon Wilson. I’ve heard Dameon Willis has really caught people’s eyes, too, as has newcomer Reakwon Jones. Chris Covington’s move to LB shouldn’t be overlooked, either. I could go on, but you get the idea. There are plenty of guys potentially in the mix.

DBs: Noel Padmore (RCB), Rashard Fant (LCB), Chase Dutra (FS), Kiante Walton or Tony Fields (SS). This is another area with a ton of guys in the potential playing picture. Sophomore walk-on Ben Bach is currently listed ahead of Fant at LC, and earned that status last spring. He’s got some physicality. But Fant was a highly-regarded recruit out of Georgia, is a guy long described as “our best cover guy” going back to the days when Doug Mallory was orchestrating the secondary, got some good game experience last year and has added some size and strength. Honestly, I think the entire secondary is pretty much up for grabs except for Dutra’s spot. It’s quite interesting that the staff feels true freshman Tyler Green, who initially committed to Ohio State, is best suited to play corner at 6-foot-3. That sort of size to go with a corner’s skill-set is prized, indeed. So watch out for him. And I’ve heard for a while that fellow true frosh Jonathan Crawford is a definite possibility at strong safety. Fields and Walton both got some experience there last year, though. Will Dawkins has also played. Mario Swann is in the mix. Ty Smith might get a look. True frosh Andre Brown and Jameel Cook might, too. And it’s not out of the question that other true freshmen, such as Isaac James and Mike Magette, might shift over from offense. And if Donovan Clark’s back issues clear up to the point he can play, which seems a bit dubious at this juncture, he’d be another definite candidate at corner.

I think the biggest question-mark heading into the season is whether or not Indiana can defend the pass. Obviously, mounting a good pass rush is a big part of that, but the biggest key is going to be how the secondary shakes out. There is talent, but not much experience. The fact that Brandon Shelby and Noah Joseph are now considered co-coaches for the secondary, rather than specifically assigned to cornerbacks or safeties, is instructive. Wilson knows the importance of having a cohesive unit back there. Stay tuned.

QUESTION: I’ve heard rumors that Athletic Director Fred Glass is thinking of making a run for the Democratic nomination for governor. He has political experience and he has proven to be an excellent administrator at IU. What are the chances he’ll throw his figurative hat in the ring.
Randall Bychkov, B-town

JEREMY: Randall,
Hard to say what the chances might be, but it’s at least a believable rumor. That said, I don’t know if Fred Glass wants to go from the IU frying pan into the political fire. Guess we’ll see.

MIKE: Hey Randall,
Good question. It’s difficult to discern just how much smoke and/or fire surrounds such a rumor, but I don’t think it would come completely out of left field. To be honest, I haven’t heard anything. Glass, as you mention, has the background of political experience and it always seemed to me that his role as IU athletic director was not something he viewed as his final job. That’s my take, at least. But I also don’t know if the timing would be right for such a move. To answer your original question, my guess is that the chances are low.

ANDY: Randall:
Intriguing rumor, though I hadn’t heard it until you raised it. Fred Glass does have a background in politics. He was Evan Bayh’s chief of staff and, as such, reportedly worked well with people from both parties. He was certainly a mover-and-shaker up in Indy as a member of the Capitol Improvement Board and the influential law firm of Baker & Daniels (from which Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick also emerged, I believe.)

Fred has always said he intended to stay at IU as long as the school wanted him, though that doesn’t preclude the possibility of other alluring possibilities arising. But there are already major Democratic politicians who have formally announced campaigns to challenge incumbent Republican Mike Pence in the 2016 gubernatorial race: John Gregg (the former House Speaker who ran against Pence in 2012), state superintendent of schools Glenda Ritz (who has long feuded with Pence) and state senator Karen Tallian who has a good power base up in The Region. All those folks are already raising funds, and any new candidates would be behind in that regard. There is still enough time for others to jump into the race, but anybody who does would already be playing catch-up to some degree.

Polls indicate vulnerability for Pence in the wake of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act dust-up that became a national-level fracas (and he could well draw some challengers in the Republican primary, with popular Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard, who seemed mortified by the RFRA, a possibility.) But there are several other fairly prominent Democratic names that could also throw their hats into the ring, including former Indy mayor Bart Peterson, with whom Glass has ties. I would think it unlikely Glass would get in, at this point. But he’s a lifelong Hoosier who loves the state, is interested in politics and who has been at IU since 2008. So I guess I wouldn’t totally discount the possibility, either, without having talked with him about it.

QUESTION: 1. 14th for IU Soccer is a major shaft in preseason poll. I know that is fairly high but based on the roster and what I saw in the spring this looks to me like at least a top 10 team if not top 5.
2. Is the south lobby going to be closed all year at Assembly Hall? I just got my basketball seat selection notice and it came with a map talking about the construction and saying “Closed due to construction” where the south lobby is. Is this going to be all year? Also with
I-69 will football and basketball games have lane closures or are they going to keep them open during the season? Its a good thing IU is good or else between the Assembly Hall mess and the road construction people would just skip the games.
Darren, Martinsville

JEREMY: Darren,
1. I admit that I was a little surprised to see the Hoosiers only come in at No. 14 in the NSCAA poll, but then again, that poll in the preseason is generally based on how the previous year finished. Indiana was 17th in the final poll last year, so 14th isn’t so surprising from that standpoint.

That said, with seven starters returning and some very talented newcomers blending in with some experience on the bench, I don’t think it unfair to categorize this as a top-five caliber team. Of course, the thing with IU soccer is it always gets a chance to prove it on the field, and this year will be no exception, particularly since No. 4 Notre Dame is the opponent in the second game of the season on Aug. 30 at the IU Classic.

By the way, practice officially starts Wednesday, so we’ll have some coverage starting then.

2. It was my understanding that the South lobby area will be closed all season. As for the I-69 construction, I think it’s just going to be something folks have to suffer through. Perhaps the lane closures will be lessened on the weekends, but I imagine it’s still going to be messy.

MIKE: Hey Darren,
I’ll let Andy and Jeremy speak to soccer, but I was a little surprised. From what I was hearing over the summer, it sounded like IU was poised for a top 10 preseason ranking. Meh.
Yeah, I do believe the south lobby will be closed all season. I think we’re all still waiting to see the logistics of how it all will shape out. Fred Glass admitted this spring that it’s going to be a bit of a mess. I think there will be some sort of update once October — and Hoosier Hysteria — nears.

ANDY: Darren:
1. Completely concur. Anxious to get a gander at this club. On paper, it seems potentially among the national elite. The potent returning roster is augmented by an initial six-man recruiting class that already included a U.S. U-17 and U.S. U-18 Men’s National Team camp participant, a NSCAA All-American honoree, a Gatorade State Player of the Year and guys worthy of sundry other honors — and then IU added Rees Wedderburn from England. Word is his parent West Brom club really wanted to sign him but he opted for a different and, hopefully for him, broadening and successful experience overseas with the Hoosiers. If the newcomers acclimate smoothly and the team stays healthy, this could be fun to watch.

2. Haven’t heard any recent updates on the Assembly Hall arrangements, but I do recall that there will be periodic times during hoops season that fans will be asked to utilize the West entrance rather than the South lobby. I didn’t get the impression that was going to be an all-season arrangement, though. The I-69 construction to Bloomington from the south hooking into 37 is supposed to be done by the end of this year, but the construction around Bloomington itself, and between Bloomington and Martinsville, will likely take at least another year. There will be lane closures but, for the most part, crews have kept two lanes open in either direction, and I would imagine some coordination might be attempted on at least football game Saturdays to keep 37 with four lanes open.

QUESTION: MODERATOR: That’s all the time we have for today’s chat. Thanks for joining us.
Mike, Andy, Jeremy what’s on the agenda this weekend? What should IU fans know about?

JEREMY: IU football hitting the ground running, IU men’s soccer starts practice Wednesday and so on. We’ll try to cover it all. Check us out on the Hoosier Scoop and on Twitter. Thanks for chatting and happy Friday!

MIKE: Andy and I are back to football. We’ll have the local version of football media day on Saturday morning, so that’ll be our first chance since April to catch up with the assistant coaches and a whole list of players. Looking forward to that, so stick with us on HTO and the Scoop. Thanks for checking in, everybody. See you next week.

ANDY: IU football media day is Saturday, so Mike and I will glean some material from that we’ll be happy to pass along.Excellent, challenging questions this week. Thanks to all who chatted and/or checked in.