Indiana Football: Into the Unknown

As the 2023 season draws closer and closer as basketball’s hope and optimism fade, Indiana football will face many unknowns in its quest for…something.

Quarterback, as a position

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Things are happening but very bluntly the plan is not so clear.

Last year, Indiana opened the season with pocket passer Connor Bazelak. After just one Big Ten victory and countless preventable losses, the Hoosiers handed the reins to Dexter Williams II. This action resulted in a victory over Michigan State and a very nice ride against Purdue.

It made sense. Williams was limited as a passer, but his mobility added something more to Walt Bell’s playcalling. It’s not like Indiana was spending much time in the air in the first place, so why not just make that switch. Next, Tom Allen specifically noted that he would seek mobility at quarterback in the future.

Williams II, of course, suffered a non-contact knee injury against Purdue and appears to be out for the duration of the 2023 season. Indiana is expected to put its future on the shoulders of double threat Brendan Sorsby or add a transfer. He did the latter.

Tayven Jackson, younger brother of Trayce Jackson-Davis, is in a battle with Sorsby to start against Ohio State in the opening months of the season. And yes, it seems like a battle as everyone made their share of games and mistakes throughout practice.

But… does Jackson fit the mobile mold that Allen mentioned? The answer may be a business. While he might very well be able to take off in a scramble or run a designed run… how willing is he to do that? He primarily operated as a passer at Center Grove High School and comes from an incredibly heavy passing system at Tennessee.

Speaking of Tennessee … Indiana had a vacancy at wide receivers coach this offseason and, notably, filled it with Anthony Tucker. Tucker had a prior relationship with Bell, but also coordinated Vols coach Josh Heupel’s passing offense at UCF. So that’s something!

But yeah, Indiana has a quarterback battle between two redshirt freshmen who threw less than a dozen passes at the college level. There’s no way of knowing what either might look like against the Buckeyes, which is probably why the Hoosiers were participated in the recruitment of transfer quarterback Casey Thompson from Nebraska.

Sooooooo is Indiana looking to add more experience at quarterback, maybe even a starter? Maybe, probably.

Last year, Indiana’s starter was officially a mystery until the very first snap, but the two guys for the job, Bazelak and Jack Tuttle, had starting experience. That’s definitely not the case this time around, so it’s mystery #1 this year.

Defensive playcalling

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When the 2023 season begins, Indiana will have had four different defensive calls in as many seasons. Not great!

  • 2020: Kane Wommack
  • 2021: Charlton Warren
  • 2022: Tom Allen
  • 2023: Matt Guerrieri

So uh, that can’t be good for continuity. Wommack left for a better job, Warren… came out of nowhere after the season, Allen took on the job while also serving as head coach and Guerrieri was brought in late in the offseason as co-defensive coordinator while supporting call duties.

The defense under Wommack was the heart of the 2020 team, generating turnovers left and right under his leadership. Things were generally good under Warren, especially against Cincinnati (don’t google who got ejected and what happened next) before the bottom hit. Then, in 2022, Allen was overstretched both as the head coach of a spiraling team and also as a defensive caller.

Transferring call-to-play duties was the right move, but Guerrieri is a bit of a question mark. He learned under Jim Knowles at Ohio State as an analyst, there are few better coaches to work with and learn from. Then Kevin Wilson (yes, that one) trusted him to lead the defense in Tulsa until Allen called him.

But Indiana has lost considerable talent on that end of the ball, with most high school and Cam Jones opting to enter the NFL Draft after the season. Their replacements largely come from the transfer portal, so it remains to be seen how they fare in the Big Ten game.

That’s a lot for a new defensive caller, but that’s Indiana football. Guerrieri must have known what he was getting into. We’ll just have to see how it works.

What is this team? Program, even? Where is he going ?

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No, literally. What.

Indiana is just… in a weird place. This is a team that over the past two years has been built largely on transfers as players leave the program in one way or another. The identities of the Hoosiers have changed many times.

They had a pocket passing quarterback! So they didn’t do it at all!

They were built on a defense that generated turnovers! So they weren’t and didn’t.

They were built for the future with star rookies! Then these guys entered the transfer portal.

So… what is this program? Allen had his identity, a defense that sacrificed sacks for turnovers and an offense that had explosive ability. Then everything from coaching to players on the pitch changed and everything fell apart.

Is this team building for the future? Not like before, because recruiting classes have slipped. Will all the roster turnover lead to an almost new team year after year? It can’t be ideal for, well, anything.

With the idea of ​​job security hovering over the program for two seasons now, has Indiana traded a long-term building that got him into the 2019 and 2020 seasons for quick fixes and activated by the portal for the last two years?

It certainly seems that the latter is true. We won’t know for sure for a while what this means for the program. Bowl eligibility in 2023 gives staff more time, perhaps to resume that long-term build.

But will the recruits be there? Is player development? Neither so far.

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