Goshen News, Goshen, IN

December 3, 2013

Fixing defense is Indiana's top offseason priority

Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Kevin Wilson spent most of the season trying to defend the indefensible.

It's time to find solutions.

Moments after Wilson's Hoosiers completed their season by winning the Old Oaken Bucket and setting a dubious Big Ten record for yards allowed, the Indiana coach made it clear he expects changes.

"When you're not doing things the way you need to do them, you need to make improvement," Wilson said after Saturday's 56-36 victory over Purdue. "So the first change we'll do is me reflecting in the next couple of weeks in recruiting where we're at and what's correctable, what we can fix."

For Wilson and the Hoosiers (5-7, 3-5 Big Ten), there's no hiding the obvious.

Indiana has finished last in the league in scoring defense and yards allowed per game during each of Wilson's three seasons in Bloomington. Indiana has gotten progressively worse in the yardage department, too, going from 458.7 in 2011 to 463.5 in 2012 to 527.9 this season. This year, they gave up so many yards in league play they shattered Northwestern's record-setting mark (524.7) from 1981 by allowing 560.2 yards in eight league games.

Some fans want Wilson to fire defensive coordinator Doug Mallory, the son of Indiana winningest coach Bill Mallory.

"The first thing I will address is me and what I can do first," Wilson said before hitting the road for two weeks of recruiting. "I'm going to point more thumbs at me than fingers at people, and then from there we'll start looking at what we need to do."

Poor defense has become part of Indiana's identity.

The Hoosiers have allowed more than 400 yards and 31 points per game six straight seasons, finishing in the conference's bottom three in both categories all six times. Even in 2007, the last time Indiana was bowl eligible, it still gave up 417.7 yards per game, eighth in the then 11-team league, and 32.8 points, ninth in the conference.

And this year, when Wilson was asked about making midseason changes, Oklahoma's former offensive coordinator typically answered by saying the offense had to do more. But Wilson has some different ideas heading into an offseason that could create a philosophical shift.

"One of my comments on the field (Saturday) was that some of our guys aren't big enough in body weight.," Wilson said. "We have to keep working on getting bigger. One of my comments again, we need more speed. Can we recruit it? Do we look at offensive players on defense?"

Those inside the locker room believe things will change — if fans, boosters and administrators remain patient.

Players and coaches point out that only one defensive starter, safety Greg Heban, is graduating and that five of Saturday's starters still have at least two or three more years of remaining eligibility. Experience, they insist, will help as will the foundation laid by the 21 players who are graduating.

"We've just been working so hard at making this team accountable for their actions," senior receiver Kofi Hughes said. "I know that the wins and losses don't really show the production in how far this team has come, but I think behind the scenes, these seniors really set the standard really, really high and I'm going to be excited to see how this team does next season."

Both of this season's starting quarterbacks, Tre Roberson and Nate Sudfeld, return, though the third quarterback, Cam Coffman, is expected to transfer. All five linemen who started Saturday's season finale should return, too, along with starting running back Tevin Coleman. The Hoosiers will have another deep cadre of receivers, though junior Cody Latimer may leave early for the NFL.

If the Hoosiers are going to make a bowl game next season, Wilson acknowledges the defense must improve.

"Our goal is not to be competitive, our goal is to win and we weren't quite good enough this year," Wilson said. "It's my job to look at the whole picture of what we can do, and not make excuses, not point fingers anything but keep pushing to win games."

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