Wilson holds genuine optimism as spring game looms #iufb

Not long after Indiana’s penultimate practice of the spring on Thursday, Kevin Wilson made a familiar pronouncement.

Wilson hopped onto the Big Ten coaches teleconference and told all who were listening that his team is putting the finishing touches on its best spring to date. Virtually every football coach in America has probably said something similar this spring, but Wilson seems to mean it.

The IU coach can be a bit of a curmudgeon at times, and he doesn’t often go out of his way to deliver praise that he doesn’t mean — just ask his quarterbacks. But Wilson sees a team this spring that’s worth following, and he’s looking forward to showing it off publicly during tonight’s Cream and Crimson spring game at Memorial Stadium at 6:30 p.m.

“I think, cosmetically, for our fan base, we’re going to put on a really good show and they’re going to see a lot of good things and see a football team that’s getting better,” Wilson said.

Progress must be apparent to Wilson, who a year ago declared that Indiana’s 2015 spring practice sessions accumulated to the best looking football team he had seen in five seasons in Bloomington.

It turns out, that wasn’t bluster. Indiana won six games, took four top-15 teams to the wire and made its first bowl appearance since 2007.

Now entering Year 6 at IU, Wilson believes he has a team that’s ready to build a bridge toward preseason practice and make its biggest gains to date.

“I had a coach here the other day who said, ‘Man, I’ve been to this school, and this school in a major conference recently, and your energy, your enthusiasm – (those other places are) not even close. You guys are buzzing around,'” Wilson said.

“It starts with the coaches, but also starts with, whether it be (senior receiver) Mitchell Paige, or (senior defensive lineman) Ralph Green, those old guys, or (senior linebacker) Dawson Fletcher. You need those old guys, and they’re getting it going.”

So, too, are the quarterbacks.

Two weeks ago, Wilson acknowledged that the race to replace Nate Sudfeld wasn’t where he needs it to be come the start of the season. Junior college transfer Richard Lagow needed time to learn the playbook and establish rapport with his receivers. Redshirt sophomore Danny Cameron showed the most consistency, but lacked some of the physical gifts of his teammates. Redshirt freshman Austin King needed to refocus. Zander Diamont, meanwhile, was unable to participate this spring as he recovers from a minor procedure on his ankle.

But during the last week and a half, Wilson says the trio of Lagow, Cameron and King have each made strides that bode well for the summer. While Wilson would like to be in position to name a frontrunner for the preseason, he isn’t going to rush the process.

Progress is apparent, and that seems satisfactory for now.

“The quarterbacks are getting better (with) some things we’ve wanted to see,” Wilson said. “That’s been good.”

The quarterbacks — and the throws they’ll make — are the top storyline heading into this evening’s spring finale. Elsewhere, Indiana will be showing off its depth.

That’s another reason to be bullish on these Hoosiers, who lost a chunk of the production along last year’s defensive line, but otherwise return a cadre of battle-tested players at nearly every other position.

Though injuries will prevent guys like running back Camion Patrick (knee), All-American guard Dan Feeney (ankle) and safety Chase Dutra (foot), among others, from participating in the final scrimmage, there are others worthy of attention.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Johns says sophomore receiver Nick Westbrook has authored a standout spring in a loaded field of receivers. Cornerbacks coach Brandon Shelby believes redshirt junior corner Rashard Fant is on his way toward becoming one of the better cover corners in the Big Ten and offensive line coach Greg Frey sees sophomore left tackle Brandon Knight making All-American Jason Spriggs’ former spot his own.

There is also guarded optimism about Indiana’s defense under new coordinator Tom Allen. As Allen implements his new 4-2-5 base, which is tailored toward positioning defenders in space to stop the modern spread offense, players and coaches seem to be responding. After last Saturday’s scrimmage, Wilson told the school’s official web site that the also saw the defense tackling much better. If that’s true, Indiana may be well on its way toward fixing one of its deepest perennial problems.

Though it will take further practice time this fall to install Allen’s concepts, like the Bull position — a defensive line/linebacker hybrid — and the Husky position — a hard-hitting safety/linebacker hybrid — all accounts have the defense heading in the right direction toward the next phase of Indiana’s off-season.

And just like the rest of the units within IU’s football team, that has Wilson excited.

“We’ve had a great winter, a great spring, a lot of guys are back, our team is stronger (and) it’s the best we’ve looked,” Wilson said. “We have a long way to go, but we really had a positive spring. As we’ve worked hard, it’s really enjoyable working with this team and I like our progress to date.”

Cream and Crimson game
WHEN:
Friday, 6:30 p.m..
WHERE: Memorial Stadium.
ADMISSION: Free.
IF YOU GO: Children ages 5-12 are invited to participate in a one-hour non-contact youth football clinic on the Memorial Stadium practice fields at 5 p.m. … The first 1,000 fans in the stadium will receive coupons for free hot dogs and soft drinks … IU players will begin warming up on the field at 6 p.m. … Wilson will run players through 40 minutes of fundamental work before beginning a one hour scrimmage of 70-80 plays. The first-team offensive will play against the first-team defense, followed by the second-string units.

8 comments

  1. If I understand it correctly the spring game will be televised on BYN2Go.

    Of course, I still haven’t figured out exactly how the NFL is going to have Thursday Night Football on Twitter. You may as well tell me the game will be on cornflakes.

  2. So wish I could attend this. But just not gonna happen . Hope v13 is up to attending as I would enjoy his perspective as a coach. As far as I’m concerned Allen and Hagen hold all the marbles for the team. Wilson has done an outstanding job getting to this point with staff adjustments along the way. He now has a staff that rivals near any program in the country. I equate it > Oklahoma, Texas, L’ville, Georgia, Mizzou, Meatchicken and = ND, Auburn, Clemson, MSU, Baylor, USC. Teams take on the flavor of their coaches.

    Will it be played later on BTN?.

  3. I agree. We won’t know for sure until next fall but, on paper, we seem to have the staff in place we have been waiting for.

  4. HC, I love your enthusiasm and agree that Wilson has improved his coaching staff a lot, but I think it’s a reach to say Wilson’s staff “rivals near any program in the country.” Some of the schools you listed have coaching staffs the rival the best NFL teams. But if you’re right in that assessment, we should see recruiting improve dramatically in the next two recruiting classes.

  5. It’s no reach at all. Look at what Johns has done with WR’s and QB’s. Frye cannot be questioned. Nor would anyone disparage the coaching results of Deland. Inge is no sloth coaching at LB. Patton brings as much Sooner attitude as does Wilson. Shelby and Joseph have done yoeman work under varying degrees of DC philosophies. Adding Hagen and Allen from the programs and successes they helped establish resoundingly uplifts this staff to national attention. I’ll bet Urban is paying attention. No, rival is the correct word and reaching has nothing to do with it.

  6. HC, I was able to make the Spring game; it was a great evening for football and I got a good look at the team. I wrote more on the Spring Game report but overall I think Lagow established himself as the #1 QB and the defense showed improvement.

    I agree IUFB has a much improved staff, only the next few years will really show us how good they are. It will take several years to see if the new defensive coaches can improve recruits for the defense.

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