Indiana’s offense got a minor overhaul in the offseason, with the addition of new coordinator Seth Littrell at the top of the coaching staff. Working alongside Kevin Johns, who now coaches Indiana’s quarterbacks as well as its wide receivers, Littrell has introduced what he insists are relatively subtle changes on his side of the ball.
IU coach Kevin Wilson, speaking in the spring, called his and Littrell’s offensive philosophies “cousins,” with their shared roots at Oklahoma, where Littrell played fullback. It does seem likely, from Wilson’s comments and what we saw and heard in the spring, that the passing game will become an increased focus this fall.
We’ve previewed Indiana offensively, position by position, over the last few weeks. Here’s a big-picture look at the offense heading into fall camp this week.
Key talking points
Improved accuracy — Wilson and Littrell want serious improvement on the 55.8 percent pass completion number from one year ago. Excelling in this area would move a quarterback a long way toward winning the starting job.
Embracing leadership — Players like Kofi Hughes and Stephen Houston offered surprising contributions on the field last year. The coaching staff will expect them to be bigger forces as team leaders in 2012.
Improved pass blocking — A pretty basic need, but Indiana allowed 2.58 sacks per game last season. If the Hoosiers are going to pass more, they’re going to have to block better.
Need a quarterback — Sean Morrison touched on this at Big Ten Media Day; Indiana’s quarterback depth chart is wide open heading into the fall.
Will Tre Roberson (pictured above) win the starting quarterback job this fall?
Where might youth be served? — Could true freshman Nate Sudfeld win the starting quarterback job? Will Tevin Coleman make an instant impact at running back, or Kevin Davis at wide receiver? Indiana won’t need a lot of quick impact from freshmen, but a few will have the opportunity to shine early on.
Position by position looks
Where they rank: Roberson is the incumbent, but Coffman had good moments in the spring, and Sudfeld has plenty of tools at the position. This race is wide open.
Prediction: Far too murky at this point to call. Roberson and Coffman have time on their side, but don’t count Sudfeld out.
Stephen Houston (12) will be expected to lead a strong, talented running back corps this fall.
^Ineligible last year due to transfer
Where they rank: Houston is the obvious incumbent, but Roundtree, Roberts and Coleman will all push him for snaps. One key will be which backs can embrace the increased responsibilities in the passing game as well.
Prediction: Houston is the workhorse back, but Roundtree, Roberts and Coleman should all carve out some reps, particularly through individual personnel match-ups. Perez’s health is a question mark, as he’s still hampered by a back injury picked up in the spring.
Candidates: Too many to mention
Where they rank: The top returning wideouts include Hughes, Cody Latimer, Shane Wynn and a now-healthy Duwyce Wilson. Jay McCants and Jamonne Chester return as well, and Nick Stoner should be more comfortable at the position after a late-season move over from cornerback. Freshmen Kevin Davis, Caleb Cornett and Ricky Jones could all push for time as well.
Prediction: Based on the spring, expect Latimer and Hughes to lead the way. At least one freshman should feature at some level, perhaps the explosive Davis, and if Wilson is indeed returned from his torn ACL, his athleticism will be helpful as well. Chester looked good in the spring, after a solid but not spectacular end to last season.
Indiana needs players who can embrace the route adjustment approach Littrell and Johns have preached, running less specific routes and more to open space. With a potential added emphasis on passing, there will be plenty of passes to spread around to this group.
What we’ve written: Kofi Hughes, Cody Latimer lead a competitive core at wideout
Where they rank: Bolser is easily the frontrunner, and really the only player with significant experience at the position. His coaches said the redshirt junior had a strong offseason, and IU will need that improvement — and good health — from Bolser this fall. Who fills in behind him will also be an important question to answer in the fall.
Prediction: Expect to see lots and lots of Bolser. Kearns could play some H-back, and Spriggs, if he stays at tight end, might serve as a blocking tight end. None of the returners outside of Bolser have distinguished themselves much, but Indiana could stand to have a player like Phillips emerge as at least a role player at tight end.
What we’ve written: Will Matte leads another young offensive line into 2012
Candidates: Too many to mention
Where they rank: Some of last year’s big contributors are back, including Will Matte, Bernard Taylor, Peyton Eckert and Collin Rahrig. Bill Ivan and Charlie Chapman will be needed to help anchor the tackle spots, and a number of freshmen, including Jacob Bailey, Wes Rogers, Dan Feeney and Spriggs could all contribute as well. There should also be room for the likes of Cody Evers, Greg Lewis and others to win some snaps.
Prediction: Matte is again the anchor at center, and though the rotation will again be young, Indiana looks strong at guard, at least on paper. Tackle is a big question mark, both in terms of quality and in terms of depth. Questions will need answering there in the spring.
Stephen Houston — Most productive back at IU in nearly a decade will need to embrace added responsibilities in passing game
Kofi Hughes — Explosive playmaking receiver with enough talent to be used in Wildcat formations as well.
Will Matte — One more season left to anchor yet another young offensive line.
Unsung but important
Peyton Eckert — Showed promise at tackle as a freshman, will need to build quickly upon that to lock down the right side of the offensive line.
Ted Bolser — Greatly improved, according to his coaches; Hoosiers will need production and health from him, with no proven options behind him.
Candidates for instant freshman impact
Kevin Davis — Soft-spoken but explosive receiver with great hands and acceleration.
Nate Sudfeld — Don’t count the 6-foot-5 quarterback out of the starter competition at his position; has excellent pedigree, tools.
Tevin Coleman — Staff has high expectations of explosive, athletic back from the Chicago area. Will push for snaps at running back and kick returner.
Pre-camp depth chart
5 Tre Roberson, 6-0, 181, So./So.
2 Cameron Coffman, 6-2, 187, So./So.
12 Stephen Houston, 6-0, 220, Sr./Jr.
20 D’Angelo Roberts, 5-10, 192, So./So.