Wilson pushing players to add bulk in offseason

One of Kevin Wilson’s most extensively worn personal cliches is that the first word in Big Ten is “big.” The Indiana football coach has been pointing that out since his first press conference in his current position to make it clear that he considered it necessary for IU to have an exceptional strength and conditioning program to compete in the conference.

In his first three seasons at the helm, Wilson saw his squad become a lot more physically fit than what he inherited and he saw his players increase in size after initially slimming down and cutting body fat, but he still didn’t think they were quite big enough. In his fourth season, he’s had the strength and conditioning program altered somewhat to focus more on building bulk, especially up front.

“We haven’t done as much heavy running so we could lift more,” Wilson said after a conditioning session on Tuesday in preparation for the beginning of spring practice on Saturday. “We just did some testing yesterday on the bench and we’ve done pretty well with 225 (pound) reps on the bench, squat and clean maxes. I’ve got four guys now that are under their target weight for Friday on the whole team, and it’s by a pound. When we played our last game, we probably had 25 guys under the weight we wanted them at, keeping their strength level on their size.”

The Hoosiers weren’t necessarily tiny last year and they were much bigger than they were in Wilson’s first two seasons. Still, all five of their starting offensive linemen by season’s end were just under 300 pounds. They had three 300-pound defensive tackles listed on the depth chart, but only one of their depth-chart defensive ends were over 270 pounds.

“We ran the ball decent last year,” Wilson said. “We were fourth in the league. But competitive third downs, short-yardage plays, (we could use) bigger tight ends for goalline stuff. One of the the reasons we don’t go to two and three tights is our talent hasn’t been as strong and as good as you want there. We lose a couple of big receivers. You gotta develop the next crew of those guys. Then the same thing defensively. You’ve got 10 guys back, playing six or seven freshmen, five in the front end and this is their first really offseason, so there’s a lot of gains.”

IU’s head strength and conditioning coach Mark Hill said the entire offseason program has been geared toward weight gain, starting with the nutrition and going on from there.

“Coach Wilson thought we needed to be a little bit bigger,” Hill said. “We attacked that with nutrition and some other areas and just gaining more muscle mass.”

Said offensive tackle Jason Spriggs: “It’s just gaining muscle mass. The first word in the Big Ten is big. We have to play big, and I think that’s something we kind of lacked last year. It’s about getting stronger and getting bigger so we can play with the big boys in the Big Ten. That’s where we are and that’s what we need to do.”

QB battle remains the same

Not that it’s any surprise or anything new, but Wilson was asked about his quarterback situation again and didn’t give any indication that he was in a hurry to settle on one guy. It’s only a two-man race this year with former starter Cameron Coffman having elected to transfer but last year’s co-starters Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson are both back for their junior seasons. Sudfeld threw for 2,523 yards and 21 touchdowns last season while Roberson threw for 1,128 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 423 yards and five scores. They combined to help Indiana lead the Big Ten in passing yards with 306.7 per game.

“It kind of is what it is now,” Wilson said. “Their body of work, they’re different, but their performances levels are very similar. In a perfect world, you’ll have one guy. We didn’t last year, it wasn’t by design. They’re a part of the answer, part of the problem, but they also led the conference in touchdowns. … We got a lot of problems, quarterback ain’t one of them.”

Wilson pumping brakes on 3-4

Indiana’s new defensive coordinator Brian Knorr hasn’t been shy about saying that even though he wants his defense to use multiple fronts, he expects to heavily incorporate the 3-4 defense he used when he was the defensive coordinator at Wake Forest. Wilson isn’t necessarily against it, but he does want him to take more time evaluating personnel before he starts into that. That’s a big part of the reason why the Hoosiers will have four practices before leaving for spring break, because it will allow Knorr to see what he has in action, then step away from it and evaluate.

“I don’t know if he knows that yet,” Wilson said when asks what Knorr thinks of his personnel. “… To say right now, we’re going to tell a guy to play a certain spot, I don’t know if he’s got enough football information to make those decisions yet. I think those first four days are going to probably be more for him and (defensive line coach Larry McDaniel) and (safeties coach Noah Joseph) and coach (William) Inge and (Brandon) Shelby all to just eval where we’re at.”

Wilson said he doesn’t want the defensive coaches to get too caught up in scheme early in the spring practice schedule and instead wants them to work on basic fundamentals, terminology, and general style of play.

“There’s a way you play that has nothing to do with schematics, what the play call is,” Wilson said. “I think the worst thing that we can do is emphasize scheme and don’t get good at getting off blocks and tackling. Keeping leverage on the ball, having good eye discipline and gap structure discipline and getting lined up where we need to.”

11 comments

  1. Vindication! Wilson’s comments in this story vindicate the opinion I’ve expressed for three years. I’ve been saying, to the chagrin of Hoosier Clarion and a few others, that IU was simply not big enough, especially on the Offensive and Defensive lines, but also at linebacker. We just were not as big (i.e., heavy) as most of the other Big Ten teams. It was obvious when you watched IU line up against MSU, OSU, MI, WI, PSU, Iowa and MN. And even more obvious when you compared the stats from each team’s rosters. Part of that was recruiting, part of that was playing underclassmen, but part of that was the the weight training program, which focused more on conditioning and stamina over increasing size. Slimming down an Offensive lineman is great for his conditioning, but it does not improve his ability to push his defender off the line of scrimmage.

    As Wilson builds the team’s depth, he can afford to make his O and D linemen much bigger. While their increased weight will reduce their stamina, having quality backups that can give the starters a breather once in a while will reduce injuries and make for better overall performance. This is good news for IU football.

  2. Po, Your exclamation for vindication is about a 1/2 bubble out of plum. Trying to beat your chest at my expense has me ROTFLMAO. What you forgot, or more likely conveniently failed to mention is my repeated statements about the OL/DL size was and still is the goal for them to look more like Sooners, not like the bratwurst loving Badgers. Spriggs is never going to be 333, Shaw and Mangieri are not going to weigh 285. Kenney was way to heavy last year at 290. Conditioning will still be the top priority even for the “big uglies”.

  3. Dustin, thanks for the article, you made my day. Love those Hoosiers, and can’t wait to read more.. And as always love to read the expert comments.

  4. Guys, this is not a size trumps stamina or stamina trumps size argument. Fact is to compete at this level, we need both and for the most part, we haven’t had either! Just as important, we are now thankfully putting athletes on the field who have been trained in solid football fundamentals (blocking, shedding, tackling etc.). I for one am becoming increasingly convinced that in Coach Wilson, we have someone who knows how to build a program from the ground up. We still don’t know if he is a game day coach yet but I am very encouraged by what we are seeing.

  5. Exactly HC, Wilson was more concerned with playing fast and getting OL blocking downfield which prioritizes quickness and endurance over size.

    Also, there is a tradeoff between size and speed. Yes we could have bulked up on defense on DL and LB, but that would have slowed those guys down, especially at LB (and they weren’t fast for their position to begin with). While that may have helped us marginally with a team like Wisc, it would have hurt us with teams like Navy, NW, and Mich.

  6. Just how great a disparity was there between the weights of IU’s players and our opponents?

    Podunker you make it sound like IU was playing 99 pound weaklings against 300 pound goliaths.

    I didn’t think IU’s issues this past season was necessarily one of size. I thought there weere issues with experience, injuries and in some rare cases ability.

    If CKW believes that adding more weight is what is needed to get us to a bowl game who am I to argue?

  7. Did not mean for my comments to be at anyone’s expense, and no offense was intended. You don’t have to agree with my opinion about IU needing to get bigger, but it appears that Wilson now does.

  8. Waiting, about two years ago, I compared IU’s O-line to WI and a couple other teams. I don’t remember the exact details and stats, but at the time, IU’s O-line was, on average, about 40 pounds lighter than Wisconsin’s O-line. It was not a 99 pound weakling going up against goliath, but IU was definitely in a different weight class compared to the elite Big Ten teams at the time. Comparing the weight of IU’s linebackers to other Big Ten teams showed an equally disturbing disparity at that position at the time.

    When you evaluated the size disparity, it was no wonder IU has been getting steamrolled by Wisconsin and others over the last decade. We were just too small to compete in the Big Ten. Glad to see Wilson is turning that around through better recruiting and weight training.

  9. …again Bratwurst U is not the benchmark for size of the uptempo O at Bloomington…

  10. Podunker, I’m sure playing so many true freshman hasn’t helped any. When an 18 year old kid fresh out of high school can displace a player who has been in the program several years that definitely says a great deal about the quality of athlete IU was recruiting. I believe Wilson’s recruiting has changed that.

  11. PO and others- not sure how much confidence I’d place in reported height/weight info of players. First, self-reported data are subject to manipulation (a/k/a “hype”). Second, I imagine that a player’s weight could change significantly throughout the course of a four-month season.

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