By Mike Castiglione, Associate College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: After jumping out to a 3-0 start, Indiana fans had visions of making it to a second bowl game in three years. But things quickly unraveled for the Hoosiers, who stumbled to a 1-8 finish.
However, head coach Bill Lynch doesn't feel his team is as far off as the
record would indicate, as three of those losses came by three points or less.
"Coming off the season, we thought we made great strides," Lynch said at the
Big Ten's media day. "We certainly didn't from a win loss record, but we
learned how to compete, particularly on the road, and I told our guys in
January when we got back together we were really 12 plays away from having an
outstanding season and playing in a pretty good bowl game. And I think that's
been the motivation throughout the off-season."
OFFENSE: Quarterback Ben Chappell is back for his senior season, after a
productive junior campaign in which he completed 63 percent of his passes for
2,941 yards and 17 touchdowns. His leadership will be valued, although he
needs to cut down on his 15 interceptions from a year ago. Chappell has plenty
of weapons to work with in the passing game, as his top three receivers
return. Junior Tandon Doss (77 rec, 962 yds, five TDs) headlines the group,
while junior Damarlo Belcher (61-770-5) and senior Terrance Turner (46-443)
will provide some familiarity. All three are listed at 6-3 or taller.
Leading rusher Darius Willis returns after registering 607 yards and six
scores in only nine games as a freshman. He figures to have a much bigger role
this year. Freshman Antonio Banks was a highly productive high school running
back in high school, and he has been enrolled at IU since January.
Up front, three starters return from last year, along with another starter
from 2008. However, the most dependable two starters from '09 have moved on.
DEFENSE: The strength of the defensive line is at tackle, where the Hoosiers
have a solid three-man rotation in sophomores Nick Sliger (6-3, 285), Larry
Black (6-2, 309) and Mick Mentzler (6-4, 317). At linebacker, two starters
must be replaced, although senior Tyler Replogle returns after finishing
second on the team in tackles. He'll move from middle linebacker to the weak
There is a lot of depth in the secondary, as a couple of offensive players
have moved over to the defensive side of the ball. Highly regarded junior
Chris Adkins holds down the free safety spot after playing corner the past two
seasons. Junior college transfers Lenyatta Kiles and Andre Kates could also
force their way into the mix at corner. In all, there will be seven new
starters on defense when the season starts.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Hoosiers were one of the Big Ten's top return teams last
year, ranking second in the conference in both punt (10.3) and kick return
average (24.2). Doss will handle both duties, although Ray Fisher (two return
TDs) is no longer around to scare coverage teams. Kicker Nick Freeland will be
given a shot to hold down the job, although he made only 14-of-25 attempts
last year, including 0-of-5 from beyond 40 yards. He'll be pushed hard by
redshirt freshman Mitch Ewald. Punter Chris Hagerup ranks second on the
school's career punting average list and will try to prove he's fully
recovered from knee surgery two years ago.
OUTLOOK: When coach Lynch took over for the late Terry Hoeppner two years ago
and took the Hoosiers to their first bowl game in 14 years, he quickly won
over the fans. But the love affair will fade with another trying season. Then
again, if IU can find a way to pull out those close battles, the buzz could
just as easily be restored around campus. Lynch has spent the last year
emphasizing the importance of finishing, and he said that has helped foster
"Our theme has been to finish, because we had so many games last year where we
were competing and had the lead in the fourth quarter in the Big Ten and
didn't finish the job," Lynch said. "That certainly has been our theme. And I
think our guys have responded well."
The early schedule opens up the possibility for a 4-0 start, but where will
the conference wins come from? The Hoosiers will play road games at Ohio
State, Illinois, Wisconsin and Purdue. They sacrificed a home game to play
Penn State in Landover, MD. Therefore, it is imperative Indiana does not
stumble out of the gate.