Wilson takes responsibility for defensive woes, says Coleman could be out for OSU

Kevin Wilson has always freely admitted he’s an offensive coach and that he has viewed and probably always will view the game of football from that side of the ball. For that reason, the Indiana coach’s forays into defensive decision making have been mostly limited.

Still, rather than entertaining a discussion at his press conference on Monday about whether or not the jobs of defensive coordinator Doug Mallory and the rest of the defensive assistant coaches are safe, Wilson said that the fact that IU’s defense ranks last in the Big Ten and near the bottom of the Football Bowl Subdivision in most important categories is his problem.

“To me it’s my problem,” Wilson said. “It’s my fault because I am the head coach. As we’re sitting here playing in year three it comes down to an offensive minded guy, we have five coaches on defense and we trust them to do their job. I’m part of the offensive staff, which a lot of guys are like that. But when you’re head coach, you’re in charge of everything, and we’ve got to make some strides.”

Wilson was asked specifically if was going to consider making a change in personnel on the defensive staff. He didn’t rule it out, but also again said that the responsibility for the defense’s failings is on him.

“I evaluate everything,” Wilson said. “First of all, I’m going to start with me. If there’s a problem with the defense, there is a problem with me. If there’s a problem with recruiting, there is a problem with me. If there is a problem with the social behavior on the team, there is a problem with me, so I set the standard for it. My deal is we have not created the standard we need there. So I’ll start with myself. Then we’ll look at staff, we’ll keep looking at recruiting and player development. But the real deal is we’re going through this week, get one day better, have a good week, go after Ohio State Saturday. Do the same thing the following week, and we’ll build from there and see.”

That has been the approach all year, of course, but it hasn’t yielded much in the way of results. Indiana currently ranks not only last in the Big Ten but 122nd out of 123 teams in the FBS in total defense, surrendering a galling 534.8 yards per game. In each of the last four weeks, the Hoosiers have allowed at least 573 yards of total offense and teams have passed the 600-yard mark in three of the last four weeks. Without substantially altering the current trend in games against No. 3 Ohio State — which boasts the best offense in the Big Ten — and Purdue , the Hoosiers will shatter Northwestern’s 1981 mark of 524.7 yards per game and claim the Big Ten record for most yards allowed per game in a season.

Indiana is also allowing 38.8 points per game, which is last in the Big Ten and 116th in the FBS. They are the 11th in the conference and 120th overall in rush defense (251.1 yards per game) and also last in the Big Ten and 116th in the FBS in passing defense, allowing 283.7 yards per game. All of those numbers are actually worse than they were a season ago when the Hoosiers were last in the conference and in the bottom 20 nationally in scoring defense, total defense and rushing defense. They were in the same spots in 2011, the season Wilson and Mallory took over the prorgram.

Youth is at least part of the reason for that. There were times in Saturday’s game against Wisconsin when the Hoosiers used five true or redshirt freshmen in their front seven and that led to some missed assignments and missed tackles. The Hoosiers loaded up on defense in the recruiting class of 2013 and it was one of the best classes in school history, but it still tends to make mistakes that are costly. Wisconsin finished with 676 yards of total offense in the Badgers’ 51-3 win over Indiana and 420 of those came on a total of nine plays that went for 25 yards or more. On many of those occasions, the Hoosiers had players out of position, linebackers failing to fit gaps or other missed assignments.

“Just consistency,” Mallory said. “I keep saying that every week. We gotta be consistent in our fits. We gotta do a better job tackling. … You cannot play great defense if you’re constantly giving up explosion plays. That’s one of the first things we’ve gotta do a better job of.”

And that’s a pretty significant thing to try to fix, but Mallory said he believes it’s correctable and that with enough time to work with the talented youngsters, the Hoosiers can have a serviceable defense.

“It’s a process, it takes time,” Mallory said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. We’re playing some young kids on defense. … You’ve got to recruit the right type of kid and you’ve gotta have a staff that’s going to develop and you have to have 11 guys playing together on one page. But there’s no reason you can’t play great defense here at Indiana. That’s what we’re trying to get accomplished here.”

Time will tell if he gets the opportunity to do so beyond this season.

Offense also takes hits
Though much of the discussion at Monday’s press conference centered on the defense’s performance in Saturday’s Indiana loss, the offense wasn’t spared either after what was certainly its worst performance of the season. Indiana scored just three points in a game for the first time since 2011 and finished with just 224 yards of total offense.

“There wasn’t a position out there on the field that really executed great,” offensive coordinator Seth Littrell said. “It was a total team effort of not playing well.You can look at every position. That’s something that we’ve looked at and we’ve talked about. We gotta get over that and move on and make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Coleman still hurting
Wilson said he isn’t certain whether or not sophomore tailback Tevin Coleman will be available for Saturday’s game.  Coleman has rushed for 958 yards and 12 touchdowns this season but missed last week’s game with a sprained ankle.

“He’s still got soreness it’s going to be a stretch to get him back and get him going full speed,” Wilson said. “I know he’s working awfully hard. I know our medical staff is doing a whole lot with him. But I think it’s a smidge of a stretch, we’ll see. He has the opportunity, but I know he’s working hard. He’s had a pretty good year and he wants to get back out there.”

Wilson said linebacker Steven Funderburk blew out a disc in his back in practice last week and will require surgery. He said that right guard Jacob Bailey had a teammate fall into his knee, which created some bone chips. Wilson said he’s hopeful he’ll be able to return to action this week and hold off on surgery until after the season.

5 comments

  1. There should be no question about it. Why risk Coleman playing against OSU? Let him heal up and get ready for Purdue. Beating Purdue gives us 5 victories for the season, three Big Ten wins, and bragging rights against our arch rivals. That’s progress over last year.

  2. Agreed and beside the PUke game Coleman is the largest piece of our offensive running game future.

  3. Coleman should not play unless he’s healthy…nothing should ever trump that consideration. As much as we all want IU to win, we never want to be a school that places winning ahead of a student athletes well being.

  4. It’s an ankle sprain, not a lung contusion or concussion. Football is not a sport conducive to “a student athlete’s well being.” And in football, healthy is a relative term. I assure you, regardless of how healthy Coleman is today, or how many more years he plays, 30 years from now he’ll be dealing with the physical consequences of playing college football.

  5. If he can plant and cut in a fashion near his pre-sprain capability, suit him up. However, if he’s 75-80% shut him down. Po, your points are well taken and re-open the debate between being “injured” or “hurt”, and the aches and pains he’ll deal with down the road are a certainty. But, if Coleman’s not close to full strength we’re risking aggravating the ankle or exposing him to another injury due to compensating for the ankle. This kid has two more years in Crimson and Cream, and he’s only going to get better.
    If Coleman can’t go, I’d like to see De’Angelo Roberts get a few more carries. He’s not the home run threat that Coleman is, but he hits the hole and finishes runs with authority. All we need to do is go back to the Wisconsin game tape to see that he flat out ran over 3 different Wisconsin players. He’s a 180 lb hammer. Go Hoosiers.

Comments are closed.