Forget, for just a moment, about basketball recruiting, the fact recruits Branden Dawson and Gary Harris are at the super-rigid LeBron James Skills Academy; that Cody Zeller, Austin Etherington and a whole bunch of other guys looking at Indiana are playing in AAU events in Indianapolis this week; and that Je’Ney Jackson has ticked off the Southern Mississippi football coach by quitting after just a couple of months on the job as a secondary coach to become, apparently, the Hoosiers’ new basketball strength coach.
Instead, focus on what really matters in July:
Okay, we know some of you will disagree. Check that. We know MOST of you will disagree. We’ve gotten used to that at home, where everybody disagrees with us except the dog, and even SHE has been giving us the eye lately.
Still, in fairness to what looms as the strongest part of the football Hoosiers, we offer an assessment of how Cream ‘n Crimson receivers stack up compared to the rest of the Big Ten.
Start with Tandon Doss. He caught 77 passes for 962 yards and five touchdowns last season. He is the second-leading returning receiver in the Big Ten behind Purdue’s Keith Smith (91 catches, 1,100 yards, six touchdowns).
Then there’s Damarlo Belcher, who caught 61 passes for 770 yards and five touchdowns. That ranks third among returning Big Ten receivers.
In fact, no other conference team returns that kind of receiving firepower.
Don’t forget Terrance Turner, who caught 46 passes for 443 yards and a touchdown. IU also is looking for big things from redshirt freshman Duwyce Wilson and junior Dre Muhammad.
Oh, tailback Darius Willis could be a big receiving factor. He caught 10 passes for 88 yards last year coming out of the backfield. Indiana also has a solid tight end in Max Dedmond, who did catch 18 passes (one for a touchdown) last season.
Is this enough to knock Wisconsin off its position of having the Big Ten’s best group of receivers (according to Phil Steele's College Football Preview Magazine)? Maybe not. The Badgers are led by Nick Toon, who caught 54 passes for 805 yards and four touchdowns.
If you’re looking for touchdown potential, pay attention to Ohio State’s DeVier Posey. He caught eight touchdown passes last year.
Iowa has the best of the returning big-play receivers in Marvin McNutt. He averaged 19.8 yards for his 34 catches, including eight touchdowns. The Hawkeyes also return Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who caught 45 passes for 750 yards, a 16.7-yard average.
Penn State has a couple of solid receivers in Derek Moye (48 catches, 786 yards and six touchdowns) and Graham Zug (46 catches, 600 yards, seven TDs).
The Nittany Lions, however, have no proven quarterback, so it might not matter if they had in-his-prime Jerry Rice running routes.
That is a discussion for another day. For now consider Hoosier receivers as a group are as good as any in the conference. They have an accurate quarterback in Ben Chappell throwing to them. If the line protects him, the passing game should thrive.
Oh, one last thing about the basketball strength coach hire. Jackson was the strength coach at Wyoming while new IU basketball assistant coach Steve McClain was the Cowboys’ head coach. Jackson went to Kansas and became an assistant strength coach there for two years, then switched to cornerback coach for his last three years before briefly moving to Southern Mississippi.
Now he’s a Hoosier. McClain is a Hoosier. Tom Crean is a Hoosier. And if, say, Cody Zeller becomes a Hoosier, well, maybe IU basketball matters in July after all.