Hoosier Scoop Sage Take of the Day, for Oct. 24, 2012

It says here that Indiana’s football team would be at least 4-3 if Tre Roberson hadn’t gotten hurt. And current conversations outside (if not inside) the program regarding this season would be radically different.
That’s not meant as a knock on Cam Coffman and Nate Sudfeld, both of whom have generally performed very well in Roberson’s stead. Indiana leads the Big Ten in passing. But Roberson, whose own throwing had improved markedly over the off season, added that extra and crucial element of making plays with his feet from the quarterback spot, even when plays didn’t seem there to be made. He was the starter for several reasons, perhaps none bigger than that one.
And that additional rushing element alone, which would likely have kept Indiana from having long lulls on offense and given opposing defenses another major element for which they had to prepare, would have probably meant wins over Ball State and Navy, and possibly even Northwestern and Michigan State.
IU’s offense essentially wasted the entire third quarter of the Ball State game, the first half at Northwestern and the second half against Michigan State. And it couldn’t make a play when it really needed to at crunch time against Navy. With Roberson, all that would have been far less likely to happen, and IU still nearly won or was very competitive in all those games, anyhow.
Indiana is 2-5, having lost five straight. That seems quite sobering. But four of those losses have come by one, two, three and four points. And while Northwestern finished with a 15-point margin over IU, the Hoosiers were within a single score in the fourth quarter at Evanston.
With Roberson, that 2-5 record might even be reversed.
That should not be over-looked when evaluating how this season has gone, or when gauging the trajectory of the program. Obviously the Hoosiers haven’t yet turned the corner. But they’ve clearly closed in on it. And with their starting quarterback available, the corner might already have been in the rear-view mirror.

38 comments

  1. Immediately after Roberson’s injury, I came to the same conclusions this piece by Andy. Dustin was basically dismissive and didn’t seem to think we were losing much with Coffman filling in for Roberson.

    When Roberson went down, it was obvious a very dynamic element of the Hoosier team had been lost.

    I think it’s highly likely the record could be reversed with the Roberson run and pass threat..And it’s even more interesting to extrapolate where a couple big wins(possibly getting over the hump with MSU and Northwestern)and some infectious momentum could have taken this team….A bowl appearance was not out of the question if early confidence had a chance to root.

    Season’s can truly hinge on singular moments..The devastating early injury to Tre kept us far more predictable to plan for and defend.

  2. “What if” games are difficult to play. Who knows what would have happened with Tre. We will never know. The game plans would have been different by both us and our opponents. Playing the “what if” game serves no purpose.

  3. Mike P, I am curious as to your take on this? I don’t know and you might know better as I have only made it to one practice this year…is Roberson as good a passer as our back ups???

  4. The mind games of “what if” are fun to play but who knows for certain how many Coffman passes would not have been completed if TR was unhurt and used his feet vs attempting a pass. The street is 2 way. Also if TR was playing what do you do with those positive plays Sudfeld created. Erasing the positives of CC and NS create negatives. A “what if” story is not 100% w/o those 2 being considered. Even if he had not broke his leg he is very well as likely to get his bell rung and that scenario would still look much like we have today. We are 2-5 and that is the story.

  5. I agree with HC, “what if” games are fun to play. And at times, Coffman has looked very good. However, when it’s clutch time, he completely disappears. Tre is very talented and having the running threat at the QB position is very dangerous for the opposition. While TR looked a little better throwing the ball this season, I believe Coffman and Sudfelf are still better passers.
    With that being said, I feel it is time for Sudfeld to start. He has that “it” factor and seems to ignite the entire offense. Might I add, unlike Coffman, Sudfeld makes clutch plays in clutch times. The receivers seem to play harder when Sudfeld is under center. A spark for this team is needed more than ever and the Illinois game is a must-win. How much more losing can the team handle before the wind is completely out of the sails? A win,this week will bring morale back up and give us some momentum going into the final stretch of the season.

  6. I’ve been trying to block out this point, I said after the UMASS game that my greatest fear was Tre’s injury costing us a winning season/bowl game, particularly if it resulted in a lot of close but no cigar games. Welcome to my world, Murphy’s law, especially as a longtime Hoosier fball fan. Could see it coming a mile away. Still need to win though, much to accomplish despite frustrations.

  7. Damnitt, now you’ve got me going. We’d be at least 4-3, probably 5-2. What about the OSU game? We really could be 6-1 & a heavy favorite this Saturday. Just imagine. All for not cuz’ of a freak injury. Doesn’t seem fair, but I know that it is, injuries are in play all the time for every football team, sure feels like we deserve a GOOD break though. Maybe some day. Soon. One day at a time, 1 play at a time, 1 game at a time. I go through life the same way. I’m 1 of those people that have a very good but difficult job. If I think about what the entire week is going to entail, all of the work, it’s overwhelming, but I say every day,”1 day at a time”, & it helps.

  8. I agree with phenom… Imagine this Sudfield starts with a fresh team and wins against Illinois, Iowa, Penn State, and the toiletmakers. It is Bowl time! Given the way he has played in clutch situations it could happen! Win some games, have some fun, go to a bowl game, and get those recruits. Wilson is building the machine!

  9. Ha! I thought I was the only 1 to say “toiletmakers”, you’re the only other person I’ve heard use that. I don’t see us beating Penn State though, probably not Wisconsin either, but, you never know! Maybe we can get some of the “good breaks” I was talking about.

  10. Oh man, I must respectfully disagree in regards to Tre’s passing skills. He was so massively improved this year, that was what made him so valuable to us, along with the running ability. He obviously kimprovednowledge of he offense in the off-season, & it showed big-time the 1st 2 games this year. He has enough arm strength, at the very least, quick release, & his accuracy this year was fantastic. Perhaps Coffman &/or Sudfeld have more potential that he as passers, & I emphasize PERHAPS, but all in all, he was easily the best we have this year, in every way. I think what we’re starting see, most of all, is CKW’s QB friendly system taking effect. Sets passers up for success, relatively simple throws, easier decisions. IMHO, ofcourse, & as always you’re opinions are respected & valued.

  11. Chris K,

    I am sorry I stole your phrase or whoever came up with it… I saw this on the Star blog. I don’t think the Star knows that IU is still playing football. Wilson would agree with this… Anyway, I laughed and laughed when I heard the toiletmakers phrase…. very appropriate. Ha! Ha!

  12. J Pat, in a word, no.

    Tre is the best athlete of the three, hands down. His ability to make plays with his legs would have made a difference in a couple games this year, especially at Navy with the 2 broken plays that Coffman had no clue how to react! To say we would be 4-3, or any record other than what we are is asinine at best. I remember the ISU game where we struggled to move the ball against a FBS school with Tre running the show. UMass has been throttled by every team they’ve played this year, so Tre’s performance there is hard to use as a catalyst for things that could have been.

    Back to their arms and being the prototypical QB, if I was ranking them I would put Roberson’s ability as a passer 3rd among the three.

    My personal opinion is Sudfeld is the best QB we have available. Look at him and Coffman together, he is a better physical specimen, just on looks. Watch their mechanics in warm ups, Nate has better mechanics.

    I can’t say Coffman has been bad, he has put up great numbers. If you watch, he gets happy feet way to often. I have seen him drop back and not even get through his progression and start to scramble for no reason and that actually puts more pressure on himself and leads to bad decisions and off balanced throws.

    That said, I don’t see what coaches see in practice as I don’t attended them everyday. I don’t know what goes on in the football “classroom” when they are watching film, etc. So it is hard to second guess the coaching staff who works with them everyday, but I personally have seen enough of Coffman and want to see more of Sudfeld running the show.

    Just my thoughts.

  13. I have no vote in the QB ‘controversy’ and don’t care either way but…Coffman was playing lights out most of the game and in the last series we have since learned that two of the three plays were blown up by a running back running the wrong way and a receiver running the wrong route.

    Coffman was far from perfect but what’s a guy supposed to do if there’s no one to hand off to and the receiver goes the wrong way?

    Maybe Sudfield will be awesome but it’s a crap shoot. I can’t help but wonder how many of Coffman’s ‘mistakes’ over the past few games were similar in nature to those two? He might be a lot better than any of us (except the coaches) realize.

    Just food for thought.

    Chris K., I was impressed with the improvement in Tre’s passing skills, too. Really, really impressed. Usually, when you hear a ‘running quarterback’ is going to focus on his passing you rarely see significant improvement. I saw a LOT of improvement in Tre.

  14. Chet–#15

    I also have no vote in who starts at QB and pretty much agree with your overall assessment of the situation.

    Tre should definitely be improved for the 2013 season. Supposedly, he is watching the games from the press box with the coaches. This gives him a unique vantage point to see plays to develop succesfully or go astray. He also receives the coaches’ point of view at the same time. This mental experience should be invaluable for him in the future. Just as Will Sheehey likes being the 6th man because it gives him time/insight as to how he fits into the game, this should give Tre insight as to how he fits into being the QB of our FB team.

  15. Mike P. Thanks for your thoughts on Sudfeld. I think the same regarding Nate’s abilities and potential. I also thought our efforts to take a few shots downfield against Navy were non existant. Mike, do you think that Sudfeld is a deeper pass threat, which could create more space for an even better running game? Please indulge, ye resident football guru.

  16. Rather than a “Sage” take, this seems like what a substantial portion of the fans of teams with losing records would say — if my team didn’t have this key injury or that key injury, it would have a much better record. Yet, good teams usually find ways to win, despite key injuries, and mediocre ones find ways to lose. I would call this a wishful take, not a sage one.

  17. If we were a good team I’m sure we would find a way to win. I don’t think anyone is making that claim…yet.

    I’m holding out for average this season.

  18. Mass Hoosier,

    I can’t really say with any accuracy. He has the arm strength, but I haven’t seen him go deep enough times to say if he is better than Coffman on this.

    One of the things I look at is overall production. The sample set for Sudfeld is small, but I think it gives an accurate snapshot of him.

    As of now, he has 50 attempts compared to the 204 for Coffman. They both have close to the same accuracy (62.0%/63.6%) giving the edge to Coffman, but the difference in yards per attempt (8.68/6.32) are Sudfeld the edge there.

    Now I look at this, Sudfeld throws a TD once ever 10 attempts, has thrown 0 interceptions and only been sacked once. By comparison, Coffman throws a TD once every 29.86 attempts (3x that of Sudfeld), has thrown 3 interceptions and has been sacked 7 times, which is almost twice the rate (1.67x) that of Sudfeld.

    While I think the numbers show Sudfeld with the edge, as I’ve said before I don’t see what the coaches see daily, and the numbers alone are not significant enough on their own to warrant the change.

  19. Most approach the ‘what if’ game as if seeing it operating in a vacuum(much like only studying stats of a leader/shooting threat/playmaker on a basketball team and viewing his absence in terms of just the stat line).

    If it were only that simple. A QB is the centerpiece to an offense. The confidence in the huddle can electrify a team. One run can move the chains…One miss by a defender a slippery move by Tre could can change a game.

    Keep pretending you know it all within the simple world of observation. Sports functions in worlds never observed..Momentum, unrealized potential, confidence, collective belief feeding from one, can spread through a team like wildfire once a taste of victory against an opponent thought superior within the deep reserves the long and troublesome inferiority complexes of losing.

    Yes, they are all “what ifs,” but they live no differently than a basketball season that may have never sniffed the NCAA tournament, or a Sweet 16, last season without a buzzer-beater falling in December at Assembly propelling a team to a different fate most the pundits had already written in their “I’m ready to write you off” premonitions housed in flawless perception men proven over, and over, and over again, a universal lack in understanding the mysteries of sport operating in the heat before the smoke and the smoke before the fires.

    The unobserved changes in the bonds of synergy and chemistry on a team operate long before manifestation on a scoreboard. The effect of singular game-changing moments upon the fluctuating energy of a team can never be quantified or fully understood. The differences in talent are exaggerated. Final scores are given far too much weight..One lopsided loss is perceived as stone tablets in a final assessment a teams’ death sentence..

    There are very few analysts that felt the internal transformation undergoing with Indiana hoops last season. They were lost to the energy of a volcano ready to erupt. They make their predictions based on the faith their limited view and extremely limited pulse on the teams and players dissected in their autopsies of dead past events and performances.

    Every team has the potential a seismic storm unforeseen. Every life has the potential to turn on one spark of hope a singular event.

    Sports is no different than the cosmos. Immeasurable, unquantifiable, forever indiscernible energy at its foundation and core. We only scratch the surface and pretend to have it harnessed at the command of our pens pushing out the words and numbers of the leftover dust.

    We can believe we’ll spend eternity in the clouds, but we can’t begin to grasp the possibility that the pictures we paint serve to fool us a place in constant; our earthly observations dipped into deceptions of colors of mystery we have no clue.

  20. Mike, that is what I thought you would say. I watched 7 on 7 drills and Roberson was much more off target with out routes, even short ones and especially the long ball. It was obvious Roberson was the best athlete but not the most accurate passer but I only saw that one practice. All in all…Coffman has stepped in and stepped up…not sure at this point if I would go with Sudfeld but I have not seen enough to judge. I will say if they are going to make the switch it should be now. Anyway, take care!

  21. In what little in-game action I witnessed in Tre’s shortened season, I saw a very dynamic player, a player with speed, and a growing accuracy to complete passes while running out of the pocket.

    That is not a game-changing ability I’ve seen in Coffman. Tre was the type of QB that could compensate greatly for deficiencies in size up front and breakdowns in plays/protection/holes in the line.

    You can’t quantify that ability in simple comparisons of drop-back accuracy on throws. Put Tre into that no-huddle style that Wilson has been using with greater regularity and you may have had a very different season evolve…These things don’t operate in a vacuum of snaps taken at practice.

  22. …or you may have had a very similar season evolve…TR did not always run because of issues of protection, he often ran because he trusted his feet more than the results his arm could accomplish… One thing is for certain he will be a more valuable QB next year because he has found out what happens to a running QB.

  23. Just a brief comment on Sudfeld and Coffman; I like Sudfeld a lot, but I think another factor to consider when comparing him with Coffman is the fact that most of Sudfeld’s playing time has been at the end of games with nothing to lose. Yes, he did a great job getting us back in the BSU and OSU games, but can he manage a game from beginning to end; it’s got to be different feel, but we won’t know if he’s not given a chance?

    That said, I’m not unhappy with Coffman and am happy with coaches; so I’m happy to defer to the coaches and support the Hoosiers whoever is QB.

  24. J Pat,

    I could be off base with Sudfeld, but when I look at him, his physical stature and mechanics I see a true QB. What little I’ve seen him in the game, I see a more mobile QB that makes better decisions. I also see a team that picks up when he comes in late, like a renewed energy so to speak. Again, these are just my opinions, but I’m ready for the change and I think this week would be a perfect time. Keep him on a short leash but don’t tell him he is, if he struggles, pull him in and let Coffman loose.

    H4H,

    Very true, Tre has that ability to move that Coffman just does not have. That ability to extend and change a play on the fly.

    That said, you can also say that the style offense Wilson is currently running is one better suited for a pocket style QB that makes quick reads, plants his feet and delivers a more accurate pass than one who is trying to extend the play by scrambling and throwing on the run. The pocket style QB is what he used at Oklahoma more.

    The “what if” scenarios can run all directions. That’s why I said it is asinine to say we would be 4-3 or anything other than 2-5 if Tre never got his leg broke. We simply don’t know if that would hold true. I would like to think we would be 5-2 or 6-1 with him, but who truly knows?

  25. Mike-

    Solid points regarding the hurry-up. I just think Tre was bringing another dimension and new level of excitement with some insertion of speed. A dynamic run/pass/option QB(as opposed to a more traditional pocket-style QB) can’t run the hurry-up? Can’t he intermittently change up the style and create even more havoc and confusion in the defense?

    For this less devoted fan that doesn’t follow Hoosier football as intensely as IU hoops, Tre also brought me briefly back to a television that had long tuned out to IU football. In all honesty, once Tre was injured, I started tuning out. I expected the same old product and it once again looked the same.

    Dynamic players with infectious athleticism extend beyond the playing field. The injury to Tre not only required time to recover in terms of leadership and strategy on the field, it burst a bit of a balloon in some hopes the tired fans.

    I tend to believe the “what if” positives for the team would have far exceeded the substituted happenstance results of a dangerous player left sidelined for the entire season. You removed a QB with more experience that was showing rapid maturation in his vision and decision making at the infancy a new season full of anticipation.

    It may be “asinine” to attempt to quantify it in the win-loss column, but it’s no less asinine to declare the mere availability of styles, dynamics, confidence level, experience, and athletic skills/threats to have available against each varied style in your opponents defensive capabilities is meaningless to a coach strategizing for the best opportunity for victory.

  26. Coffman has been pretty good all in all, & I would like to see more of Sudfeld, although I trust KW’s judgment there, but I’d bet my house that we would have more wins if Roberson hadn;’t gotten hurt. I’d probably bet the house that we would have at least 2 more wins, actually. We’ll never know, but I wish I had a time machine…I’m very surprised anyone doesn’t think Tre is the best QB we have, but to each his own. We can’t all have the same opinions, & who knows for certain anyway…

  27. There are also different levels of on field experience. While he’s no Peyton Manning I have seen Coffman look off a safety or corner more than once. I haven’t seen Sudfield do that, nor would I expect a guy right out of high school to have that kind of skill.

    I guess the bottom line is that the decision is being made in practice and none of us have access to that.

    I suppose we’re fortunate that both guys have been playing pretty well. At least we don’t have 2 QB’s and they both suck.

  28. Losing histories does this, doesn’t it? Midway through a season it hits…; if Hoepp hadn’t so tragically and sadly passed away; if Lynch had not been hired without opening the job up to other candidates;…if Lynch had not been fired; if he had fired his defensive staff; if the big end had caught the ball in the end zone; if the Keil kid already here had been shown some love; if the juniors and seniors had grown some ‘cojones’ rather than walk away weeping the moment they were pressured; if lil’ brother Gunner had come; if the big running back hadn’t decided he’d rather go watch pro-wrestling matches; if some returning upperclassmen had not decided to smoke the carpet at Memorial Stadium; if it didn’t turn dark at 8pm; if we had faster defensive backs and shorter urinal lines; if there were bigger linesmen and smaller tailgating parties…iif Roberson hadn’t gotten hurt; if Coffman were 6 inches taller, 34 lbs heavier and were a sprinter… if Sudfeld were 34 years old… if Elston played football…if Coach Wilson weighed 138 lbs…

    Here’s what winning teams do. Roberson broke his leg. He can’t play this season. Coffman and Sudfeld have done a good job, as has coach Wilson preparing the team and getting Coffman to follow Roberson and Sudfeld to follow Coffman …

    This is who we are. Now. It’s good enough! We have a game against Illinois Saturday. We prepare to win.

    Not much left to sage for? Oh yeah!

  29. “And What IF” (#18) and “Lou4IU” (#26), great posts… if you could only multiply yourselves…!

  30. What if Tsao wouldn’t have torn into JPat such with vehement hostility…? What if he could then look at this team with an honesty absent his preachy ambitions finding home in his guilt..? What if he actually was hired by the Herald Times? What if he had no need to fill his own voids through constant condescension upon the journalists of Scoop..? What if he could smell the arrogance his own breath? What if he felt enough honest devotion in his own heart for something that he had no need to make himself secure by questioning and doubting others he accuses not on board his passion train..?

    You know what winners do? They don’t blog about winners.

  31. You know, after all these months trying to read between the lines and interpret what the politicians really mean you would think I would be good at this.

    Three reads and I’m still not sure what HH said.

    More coffee.

  32. Chris K.,

    Can you honestly say that Tre is the best QB on the roster?

    I honestly can’t.

    I can say that for our offensive personnel, Tre is the best we have to run the offense, he brings a different dimension to the game. That doesn’t mean he is the best QB on the roster though. Just like Kellen Lewis and Ben Chappell, for the personnel we had, Kellen was the more dynamic player, Ben was the superior QB, and it showed on the field.

    Again, just my opinion, right or wrong.

  33. That’s a great point. Kordell Stewart was obviously the best athlete the Steelers had at the QB position but the organization never really bought into him as a quarterback.

    Perhaps it was with that knowledge that they so effectively utilized the talents of Antwaan Randle-El.

    Tre does, as you said, bring a different skill set. One which, in the absence of a balance of talent, probably means more to a team like Indiana than it might in other situations.

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