Sunday, October 30, 2011

No Foul -- Zeller Gets a Teaching Point; Offensive Defense

Cody Zeller as a foul machine?

Could that be right?

Let’s take a deep breath.

Indiana’s talented freshman forward had five fouls in just 22 minutes of the Haunted Hall of Hoops scrimmage, four in what seemed like the first four minutes. Does this mean he tapped into the spirit of the departed Bobby Capobianco, who fouled at a legendary rate the two previous seasons?

No. It does mean, assistant coach Tim Buckley said, that Zeller has to play defense with his feet and not his hands.

“It’s a teaching point,” Buckley said.

Zeller will have other such points, probably in today’s double secret scrimmage against Indiana State that no one is allowed to see except players, coaches and the spy we have embedded in Conseco Fieldhouse.

But we digress.

Here’s what we know after Saturday’s Assembly Hall scrimmage:

1) Zeller will be an inside-outside force. He had 12 points, four rebounds and ran the floor really, really well.

2) Will Sheehey continues to show huge improvement. He totaled a scrimmage-high 14 points, plus five rebounds and three assists.

3) Derek Elston is finally healthy and playing like a major contributor. He had 12 points and 10 rebounds, plus a team-high three steals. Oh, he, too, needs to work on his defensive footwork. He had six fouls.

4) Austin Etherington showed off his three-point shooting with a pair of three-pointers en route to 10 points.

5) Jordan Hulls runs the push-the-pace show well with totals of 10 points, three assists and one turnover.

6) Victor Oladipo remains a human highlight. He had 10 points and three rebounds.

7) Finally, if you’ve forgotten about Matt Roth, get a clue. He nailed three three-pointers to show what happens when defenses forget about him.

What does all this mean? There’s a lot to look forward to in basketball, and heaven knows Cream ‘n Crimson fans could use it after the debacle that is IU football.


At least Indiana has a football offense. It has guys who offer hope, play that suggests maybe, just maybe, Hoosier football might one day be something you’d want your children to see.

The defense?

It’s a horror show.

Consider that quarterback Tre Roberson ran for 121 yards and a touchdown, threw for 169 yards and a touchdown. Tailback Stephen Houston rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns. IU totaled 319 rushing yards.

All that and it wasn’t nearly enough in Saturday’s 59-38 Homecoming loss to previously reeling Northwestern. IU is 1-8, 0-5 in the Big Ten, and now it has to play at Ohio State and at Michigan State in the next two weeks.

Oh no!

Historically bad defense is no way to turn around a program. Granted, Northwestern has a good offense. There was Heisman contention talk floating around Wildcats quarterback Dan Persa that was squashed because Achilles tendon and turf toe issues sidelined him for much of the season.

Still, this is not an offense for the ages -- until it met the Hoosiers. The Wildcats did whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. When they wanted to rip down the field via the pass, they did. When they wanted to run it down the Hoosiers’ throats to run out the clock, they did. They scored their first 52 points in just 59 plays. They totaled 616 yards and it could have been 200 more if they had pushed it.

This was not an aberration. IU has allowed at least 40 points four straight weeks. It has given up at least 450 total yards five straight weeks.

IU defense is a myth.

Here’s how bad it was. Northwestern faced a third-and-5 situation at their own 9-yard line. Cornerback Greg Heban gave the Wildcat receiver an eight-yard cushion, then moved back another eight yards. The result -- a 23-yard completion and a first down.

Heban said it was a busted coverage, that he and the linebacker played one call, the safety and the nickelback played another.

“It just comes down to communication,” Heban said. “We all have to be on the same page.”

Maybe it’s the consequence of starting seven true freshmen on defense, something no other program in the country has done this season. Maybe these guys go into games and experience the fog of war. Maybe the coaches aren’t teaching it well enough.

It’s not like Northwestern was using some exotic, never-seen-in-history formation or trick plays. A lot of it was basic stuff Hoosier defenders treated like quantum physics.

“I don’t have excuses,” coach Kevin Wilson said. “We’re playing some young guys, but (it was nothing unusual. I understand that you’re a young guy and you don’t hear (the defensive call), and you have some (busted coverages) to some degree, but that’s an excuse. It’s your job to know your job. To know your assignment. To get the call and be on top of it.”

Some day, you’d like to think, it will get better. But then, it’s always like that at Indiana. Man, is that getting old.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Look for Hoosier-Wildcat Shootout; Zeller Plays to Hype; Is $2,000 Fair?

Figure a shootout is coming Saturday with Indiana and Northwestern knocking heads in a Hoosier Homecoming.

Both teams have defenses no coach wants to take credit for. The Hoosiers can’t defend the pass or stop the run. The Wildcats can’t defend anything.

So that’s a wash.

Northwestern has a strong offense with its spread attack that even a defense as formidable as Penn State struggled to deal with. It can run and pass, but it’s a better passing team.

IU might have an offense now that Tre Roberson has taken control at quarterback. The Hoosiers showed something at Iowa by scoring 24 points and racking up long drives. They should be able to get in the end zone often enough to make things entertaining, anyway.


Cody Zeller makes other guys better. Is there a more positive comment you can here about a player, especially a freshman?

In truth, no. A guy who makes others better is rare. To do it at such a young age, is special.

Zeller has benefitted from having two older brothers play major college ball. He knows what he has to do, and he’s doing it. Granted, it’s early and he’s only doing it against teammates. We’ll see what happens when he faces Kentucky and Ohio State, and the other prime-time opponents on the schedule.

For now, though, the early optimism seems accurate. It’s even more reason for Hoosier fans to get excited.


A lot has been made about all the players leaving the football program since Kevin Wilson took over from Bill Lynch.

That’s not usual. Different coaches have different player needs. Not every player responds favorable to a new coach.

It’s obvious Wilson wasn’t the coach for some of the veterans. It’s also obvious some of the veterans weren’t the players for Wilson.

Doug Mallory, the co-defensive coordinator, remembers when his father, Bill, took over the IU program in the early 1980s. Three new coaches in three years had decimated the talent pool. The elder Mallory installed a disciplined, tough-minded approach that also didn’t suit the veterans. No matter. When he had taken over the Colorado program a decade earlier 35 players left his first year.

“Any time you come in with a transition you’ll have guys who won’t buy into the work ethic,” Doug Mallory said. “You hope it’s a smooth transition. Sometimes, it’s not. You get buys who want to be part of this program.”


How is this $2,000 extra money the NCAA Division I board of directors just approved anything but a way for the elite schools to have an even bigger advantage over their mid-major competitors?

Yeah, we know. The supposed purpose was to help athletes pay for the extras they need to make it in college, like laundry, food, dates and, at certain schools, tattoos.

The powers in the power conferences worked out a deal sure to boost their recruiting edge.


Because mid-major conferences such as the Horizon (Butler thrives there) and the Mid-American (Ball State is a member) likely don’t have the financial resources to pay that money. The Big Ten certainly does because of the lucrative Big Ten Network, although figure league athletic directors would have preferred to keep the money for other uses.

Say you’re a stud high school player. Your choice is Butler and IU. Not only do you consider the usual criteria, you have to think about money. Go to IU and you’d get an extra $8,000, $10,000 if you stay for five years.

Yeah, that matters.

You’d better believe Tom Crean and his staff will mention that if they’re in a recruiting battle with the Butlers of the college basketball world.

They will be, and they will win. That’s good for the Hoosiers, bad for mid majors.

Is that fair? No. But that’s not the point. Now, if the power conferences were about fairness, they’d have some sort of revenue sharing so every Division I school would be able to afford the $2,000 benefit.

That ain’t gonna happen. So if you’re a BCS school, you’re in control. If you’re not, you gripe, just as you do about the lack of a football national playoff.

Then you hope things will get better.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

For Roberson, Youth Not Wasted on Young; Football Intrigue

Just in case you forgot how special Trey Roberson’s first career start as a college quarterback was, consider that it earned him Big Ten freshman of the week honors.

He went 16-for-24 for 197 yards and a touchdown against Iowa, and didn’t throw an interception. He also rushed for 84 yards, the most by a Hoosier quarterback since Kellen Lewis ran for 148 against Ball State.

Oh, yes. He’s also the first true freshman quarterback to ever start for Indiana.

And he did all that at Iowa, a place that is not visitor friendly. It is the home of the famous pink visiting locker room, after all.

For the season Roberson is 29-for-46 (63.0 percent) for 355 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He’s also rushed for 146 yards and a TD.

Roberson will start on Saturday when IU (1-7) faces Northwestern (2-6) for a Memorial Stadium Homecoming. The Wildcats are 0-5 in the Big Ten, but they have shown a strong ability to score.

Under quarterback Dan Persa, they are a dangerous passing team. If you’ve seen the Hoosiers play defense lately, particularly pass defense, you know this is a scary thought.

Still, this might be IU’s best chance to win a Big Ten game this season. We’ll see if it can make the most of it.


Do you like intrigue? Do you enjoy seeking deeper meaning in the words of others?

That consider Kevin Wilson’s comments during his radio show Monday night. He was asked about the number of players who have left his program since he took over from Bill Lynch.

More than 15 players have left for a variety of reasons. For instance, tailback Darius Willis is done because of knee injuries. Tailback Nick Turner and defensive end Kevin Bush have left by their own choice.

“We do have some attrition, guys going by the wayside,” Wilson said on his show. “But I’m kind of a stickler on you gotta go to class, you gotta go to study hall, you gotta practice hard, and we do some mandatory drug testing. Some things are happening where some guys don’t want to stay with us. I think as it goes through, we’re cleaning up the house a little bit.”

Does the mention of mandatory drug testing -- and “cleaning up the house” -- suggest it was a factor with some of the departed players? Sure it does. Let’s face it. When you have more than 100 players on a team, including walk-ons, some guys are going to mess up. To no one’s surprise, some college students drink before they’re 21. Others do drugs. College athletes are not immune. But they, unlike regular students, can be tested for drugs.

When they do, and depending on the kind of drug and the number of positive tests, it can lead to a parting of the ways.

And so, apparently, it has.


Now it’s official, Indiana will play at Ohio State on Nov. 5 with a noon kickoff.

Ohio Stadium has not been a friendly place to the Hoosiers (or to any visiting team) over the years. They have only won there once since 1951 -- in 1987 when they won 31-10. They’ve been outscored 82-13 the last two times they’ve played there.

Just saying.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Look Out -- Oladipo Is Pumped; Weight-Gaining Hoosiers

Victor Oladipo is pumped, and if you’ve seen this sophomore guard play basketball, you know what that can mean.

This is a guy who dunks with the greatest of ease. He’s a guy capable of electrifying a crowd with his passion and play.

IU fans will get plenty of chances to see that, starting with Saturday’s Haunted Hall of Hoops, but for now Oladipo is getting his buzz from a campus buzzing about Hoosier basketball prospects.

With four returning starters and an elite freshman in Cody Zeller, optimism is everywhere you look and Oladipo can’t help looking as he goes to classes.

“People have been excited since the season ended last year,” he said. “They can’t wait for us to get started. That’s why I love it on this campus. The atmosphere is always ready for basketball. Students can’t wait to come to games.”

The 6-5 Oladipo averaged 7.4 points and 3.7 rebounds while shooting 54.7 percent from the field as a freshman. He’s looking for more this year. He helped improve his game over the summer by playing in the Indy Pro-Am league that features pro players and top-notch college players.

“It gave me a lot of confidence working with those guys,” Oladipo said. “Playing with pros and other college guys and being able to match up with them. It was fun.”


Kevin Wilson isn’t fooling around when it comes to this weight-gaining stuff.

Indiana’s football coach is determined to change the mindset of the entire program, and that includes getting guys to put on pounds.

There comes a time in a person’s life when adding pounds is not a good thing, but that isn’t when you’re an under-sized football player.

Take defensive ends Javon Cornley and Ryan Phillis. Cornley is a 6-5, 235 redshirt sophomore. Phillis is a 6-3, 244-pound redshirt freshman. If they were, say, music students specializing in the harp, they’d be giants. But if they want to compete in the Big Ten, that’s not enough.

“Those guys weigh 240 pounds and that’s too small,” Wilson said. “To me, when we’ve got a guy on a weight-game plan, and he’s not gaining weight, that’s no different than a guy not going to class. That’s part of your commitment to get big and strong enough. Those two defensive ends are a little bit light.”

With a 1-7 record, IU has a whole bunch of other problems. Now Northwestern comes to Memorial Stadium for Homecoming this Saturday, which will give the Hoosiers perhaps their best shot at winning a Big Ten game.

The Wildcats are 2-5 overall and 0-4 in the Big Ten. They have a potent offense behind quarterback Dan Persa, but their defense stinks.

That means IU quarterback Trey Roberson should be able to follow up his strong Iowa performance with another good game. However, the Hoosiers’ mistake-prone secondary could get torched if it can’t stop messing up.

Still, in what has become a build-for-the-future season, this is a rare chance to get a much-needed victory. The Hoosiers can’t afford to blow it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

IU Quarterback Found – Roberson Equals Hope, And More

Trey Roberson offers hope.

Now that the freshman quarterback has shown he can handle the job -– and, boy, did he do that at Iowa -– it’s time to let him grow.

No more rotation. No talk about you’ve got quarterback No. 1 and No. 1A and No. 1AA. No hints that Kofi Hughes will get more quarterback work.

Yes, you still might use Hughes for the Wildcat formation option, but Roberson is the man. He needs as much experience as he can get, which means as many snaps as he can get. Edward Wright-Baker and Dusty Kiel are backups from this point forward, playing only if there is an injury.

Quarterback is, by far, the most critical position in football. It might be the most critical position in any sport. If you have a good one, you have a chance. If you don’t, it’s grim.

IU spent the first seven games showing how grim it can be.

Roberson was 16-for-24 for 196 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He rushed 15 times for 82 yards. He drived five drives of 70 or more yards.

No other quarterback has done that this season. No other quarterback has been close to doing that.

Yes, it was a huge blow to lose Gunner Kiel, the Columbus East High School senior rated as the nation’s No. 1 pro-style quarterback. He reopened his recruiting last week and might have been on hand to watch Notre Dame botch its chances to beat USC with, among other things, a mind-boggling quarterback turnover.

There’s speculation that IU coaches started Roberson once it was obvious that Gunner Kiel was no longer in the picture. In fact, it’s possible it was the opposite. Roberson reportedly was told he would start last Monday. When word of that reached Gunner Kiel, that might have been the last straw in what was obviously not an etched-in-stone commitment because of indications that Roberson would be switched to receiver. To be clear, it wouldn't have been because Kiel was worried about the competition.

Hey, don’t you love rumor and behind-the-scenes drama?

It doesn’t matter. When you’re an elite quarterback with NFL aspirations, which Gunner Kiel is, you have to do what’s best for you. That means a program such as Notre Dame or Michigan or Alabama or, perhaps, Ohio State. Those guys sure could use quarterback.

Anyway, back to the Hoosiers. The defense is a disaster. IU lost 45-24 which seems like the 100th straight game it's given up at least 40. The Hoosiers have gone with youth, especially in the secondary, and it shows. Maybe today's experience becomes tomorrow's sound play.

Coach Kevin Wilson can’t emphasize that enough in recruiting. Defensive players and offensive linemen are an absolute priority.

Roberson offers hope in the way Antwaan Randle El did. If IU had had ANY kind of defense under Cam Cameron, it would have gone to a couple of bowl games.

Roberson has that kind of potential offensive impact. He has to grow. He needs more skill players around him.

It’s time to maximize that. It starts, and certainly doesn’t end, by playing him.


Quick question -- when was the last time IU had a USBWA-sponsored Wayman Tisdale Award winner, which goes to the nation’s top freshman.

Quick answer –- never.

The award started in 1989 with LSU’s Chris Jackson, included Michigan’s Chris Webber in 1992 and honored Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger last year.

Now IU’s Cody Zeller gets his shot. He’s one of 12 preseason candidates. He’s also the only Big Ten player on the list.


Tom Crean has this thing about basketball and Halloween, and because he does, the Hoosiers offer another edition of the Haunted Hall of Hoops. No, it’s not about scary basketball, but a chance for kids (and adults who remain kids at heart) to dress up and parade around Assembly Hall.

Oh, yes. Also get to watch a basketball scrimmage involving this year’s Hoosier team.

It’s set for next Saturday shortly after the Homecoming football game with Northwestern, which has a noon kickoff.

The scrimmage is set to start around 4:15 p.m., with the parade about 45 minutes later and then a chance to get a group photo with IU players. The players also will pass out bags of treats.

“This event has grown each year,” Crean said in a university release, “and it is something our players and coaches enjoy being a part of. Anytime we can play in front of a crowd this time of year, we want to do it to help prepare us for down the road. This really serves as a second public exhibition game for our fans.”

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Man Up – Wilson Seeks More Physical IU Approach

Kevin Wilson has a vision for where he wants Indiana football to be and it absolutely ain’t where it is now.

He pushes a hard-hitting, relentless style. He wants a ferocity that follows the rules while intimidating opponents.

It’s the way Wisconsin does it now. The way Iowa, Saturday’s opponent, has done it in the past.

It’s a be-more-man-than-the-other-guy mindset that has yet to take deep root.

So Wilson lets the Hoosiers know with a direct approach not big on worrying about a guy's feelings.

“As I told the guys, I’m disappointed that we have not developed more physical toughness. We don’t hit. We can do that as we mature, get bigger and stronger. To some degree we can do it with recruiting. At the same time, the more you play, the more comfortable and confident you get.

"The big mode is to try while we’re in-season to build physical toughness. We’ll move forward after the season. Right now, in the short term, it’s guys getting off blocks on defense. On offense it’s staying on blocks, running hard like Stephen (Houston) has been doing. It’s receivers being more competitive. It’s the D-line getting off blocks. It’s DBs when they get there (to the ball carrier) really striking and clubbing up.

“We can’t beat our team up in practice, but I’m disappointed we don’t show a more physical style in all phases.”

This is Wilson’s message now, and for the rest of the season.

“As we move forward these next four to six weeks, that’s what we’re looking for in practice. Not just smash mouth and beating us up, but work on being a tougher team. That’s the essence of football.”

It also looks like reciver Damarlo Belcher won’t get a shot to set IU’s career receiving record this Saturday, and center Will Matte’s consecutive-game streak is about to end.

Knee sprains have kept both from practicing this week, and Wilson isn’t big on playing if you haven’t practiced.

Belcher remains IU’s top receiver with 25 catches for 286 yards and a touchdown this season.

“He’s been out there a little bit (practicing), but I don’t think he’s going to play,” Wilson said. “He’s half-way jogging and running, but he really hasn’t timed-up plays.

“To me, when a guy hasn’t timed-up reps and we have enough other guys, he’s probably out of the mix.”

That means Duwyce Wilson and Kofi Hughes will start, with Dre Muhammad, Cody Latimer, Jay McCants, Jamonne Chester and Shane Wynn getting lots of action.

Matte, meanwhile has started every game in college, a streak of 31 games. While Wilson didn’t go overboard with praise, he did acknowledge Matte’s accomplishments.

“He’s always been reasonably steady with the snap,” Wilson said. “You’re losing a guy that’s played a couple of years pretty steady. Hopefully he’s just a week or two away.”

Redshirt freshman Collin Rahrig will replace Matte. He has started at rigt guard.

IU is 1-6 overall and 0-3 in the Big Ten.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dangerous Info – Gary Harris, Dustin Bieber, Gunner Kiel and IU, Plus Bob Knight

So what’s up with Gary Harris in the aftermath of Hoosier Hysteria, the greatest spectacle in college basketball if you like rap, rock and romp?

Here’s what we know. Harris already has all the information he needs about the coaches, facilities, academics, academic support, talent level, tradition and fans. All four schools on his list -– Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State and Kentucky –- are top-notch in those areas.

What Harris is using his official visits for is to determine how he fits in with the players. Does he like them? Do they like him? Is there good chemistry, both athletically and socially, with the guys? You want to be around people you like, who you have things in common with.

And of course, can win with.

A diabolical schemer might suggest secretly implanting an imposter to Harris’ upcoming visits to Kentucky and Michigan State. The imposter would pretend to be a potential future basketball teammate for those teams and do really annoying things, like singing Justin Bieber songs for fun or have the Barney the Dinosaur theme song for his smart phone’s ring-and-text tone.

A realist would understand that Harris comes from a good family (his mother is a former Purdue basketball standout) with the kind of patient perspective rare in these make-a-decision-immediately times. He’ll make the best choice for him and no matter what it is, it will be well thought out.

You never know. Justin Beiber might some day sing a song about it.


Gunner Kiel, the all-world high school quarterback from Columbus, Ind., told Dustin Dopirak of the Bloomington Herald-Times that his commitment to IU is solid and that he still plans to enroll at IU for the winter semester, which means he’d be able to participate in spring practice and get a huge jump on next season.

Given the quarterback play the Hoosiers are getting lately, Kiel couldn’t join the program soon enough. He’s the nation’s No. 1 pro-style quarterback. If he’s as good as his buzz, he’ll provide instant impact.

That assumes, of course, the offensive line can block, there’s at least an average running game (tailback Stephen Houston is really coming on) and the receivers are productive.

In the last two weeks IU’s passing attack has been virtually non-existant. It hasn’t helped that Dusty Kiel (Gunner’s brother) is out with an ankle injury, or that Ed Wright-Baker has been hindered by his own bad ankle, but really, neither of these guys looks are long-term answers.

Trey Roberson is too young and hasn’t had enough playing time to know if he can do the job. It’s gotten so bad that IU coaches are experimenting more and more with receiver Kofi Hughes as a Wildcat formation quarterback. Hughes was a very good high school quarterback at Indianapolis Cathedral.

Coach Kevin Wilson was very critical of the receivers and veteran offensive linemen during Tuesday’s press conference. Co-defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler had equally strong words about the defensive effort demonstrated against Wisconsin.

What does this mean for Saturday’s game at Iowa? Probably more grim news, because if it hasn’t been fixed by now, it likely won’t be until next season, when new players join the program.

That starts, and certainly doesn’t end, with Gunner Kiel.


Did Bob Knight break NCAA rules by helping his son recruit a pair of Indianapolis basketball players?

Reports in the Indianapolis Star and Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise indicate Knight spoke with Manual’s Jason Smith and Northwest’s Donnell Minton on the phone for about five minutes regarding Lamar University, when Knight’s son, Pat, is the head coach. Smith and Minton have verbally committed to Lamar.

That is an apparent NCAA violation because only basketball coaches are allowed to contact and recruit players.

Apparently, neither Knight knew this was a violation.

Given the NCAA’s recent emphasis on focusing on major violations, such as paying recruits to attend a school or academic fraud to get a recruit eligible, this wouldn’t seem to be a big deal. It likely would be considered secondary violation.

But that’s up to the NCAA to decide.

Needs Fixing – Youthful IU Defense Remains Work in Progress

What do you do if you’re Doug Mallory and your defense plays the way you absolutely don’t want to see it, certainly not coach it?

Prayer might help, but for now it comes down to old-fashioned work.

Sure, at times the Hoosiers get things right, but as the Wisconsin beat down showed, you’ve got to get it right most of the time.

Indiana (1-6) isn’t close to doing that, which is not good news entering Saturday’s game at Iowa (4-2).

“The inconsistency is killing us right now,” Mallory said. “I’m really disappointed in the effort. I didn’t feel the kids played as hard as they’re capable of playing. We struggled getting off blocks. We were poor fundamentally. We did not tackle well, particularly on the back end (secondary). As a result, (Wisconsin) had big plays. Those are the things we’re trying to fix.”

Because this isn’t the NFL, Hoosier coaches can’t hit the free agent wire and try to sign new players. They have to use the guys they’ve got, and a lot of those guys are true freshmen who sometimes get confused.

When they do, big plays if not touchdowns often result.

The good news is, these guys are learning.

“The plays we screwed up, (Wisconsin) came back and ran them again and, at times, we played them well,” Mallory said.

True freshmen defensive backs Michael Hunter, Mark Murphy, Kenny Mullen and Forisse Hardin, plus redshirt freshman Drew Hardin, are playing major minutes, and it shows.

So how do you minimize the mistakes?

“We try to keep it simple,” Mallory said, “but we don’t want to make it too simple that you’re not giving the kids the chance to be successful. Sometimes (mistakes) happen.

“Sometimes you have to live a little bit with making mental mistakes, but we’ve got to get that our of our system.

“The biggest thing we have to improve on is fundamentals. Our effort was very disappointing. We had more more loafs (non-hustle plays) in that Wisconsin game than we had all year. That’s not getting off blocks and not tackling. Those are the essentials of playing good defense. We’re not doing it right now”

IU has played 16 true freshmen overall, which was not the way coach Kevin Wilson envisioned it when he pushed his “Win Today” theme.

“Some of it is through injury,” Mallory said, “and some of it is the young kids continue to get better. We’re going to play guys who bust their butt, who prepare and produce on the field. Those are the guys we’re going to try to win with. You never think you’ll play that many young kids, but sometimes that’s how it works out.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hoosier Hysteria Exceeds Hype; Football Team Does Not

So what did Hoosier Hysteria tell us about Indiana’s basketball prospects?


That’s fine. Basketball, like life, is about mystery and anticipation. And Indiana basketball, with its never-ending drama, has plenty of that.

Anyway, Hoosier Hysteria has evolved from just a public practice under Bob Knight to a dramatic event full of videos, rapping, rocking and a little basketball thrown in.

It’s about selling the program and boosting enthusiasm, and it works, big-time. Saturday night was raucous entertainment with the goal of convincing some of the Midwest’s top talent, including one Gary Harris, to join the Hoosier program.

Will it work?

That’s the million-dollar question. Harris already has visited Purdue. He’s set to visit Kentucky next weekend and Michigan State on Nov. 5. After that, he’ll announce his choice, and we’ll go from there.

Harris was around two dozen recruits to attend Hoosier Hysteria. Another one was 6-9 junior forward Derek Willis, who had committed to Purdue last spring and then de-committed over the summer. He’s still looking at the Boilers and attended a Purdue practice before heading to Assembly Hall.

As far as the current Hoosiers, Will Sheehey has emerged as the best dunker on the team, supplanting Victor Oladipo with a soccer header pass from Daniel Moore (a former high school soccer player from Carmel) that bettered Oladipo leaping over people.

Oladipo, by the way, showed his entertainer potential with a strong performance of Usher’s “U Got it Bad” song. It is a song of which we at Hoosier Hoopla can say we’d never heard before, although we think it’s a remake of a Frank Sinatra classic.

Anyway, Oladipo was very good.

IU officials put the crowd at 16,100. It was as big as anyone could remember, a reflection of the optimism for the season and the stronger hunger for a winning team.

The drive is on for the Hoosiers to return to their winning ways. How likely is that to happen? If you believe former Hoosier greats Eric Gordon and D.J. White, who both attended Hoosier Hysteria, it might come this season.

The bottom line –- it can’t come soon enough.


IU’s football team needs to stay far, far away from Camp Randall Stadium. It is so out-gunned by Wisconsin right now that it’s hard to believe that could ever change.

It can, you know. Nothing stays the same except the are-you-kidding-me tans on Jersey Shore.

For now, though, Hoosier fans have to live with a 59-7 beat down, which is better than last year’s 83-point debacle, but still not nearly good enough.

IU still needs a quarterback. Ed Wright-Baker and Tre Roberson were a combined 8-for-20, with Wright-Baker throwing two interceptions when he wasn’t holding onto the ball too longer.

The youth in its secondary continues to result in broken coverages in which opposing receivers set NCAA records for getting open.

It doesn’t help that receiver Damarlo Belcher tweaked an already gimpy knee and didn’t play in the second half against Wisconsin.

The Hoosiers did get a big rushing day from tailback Stephen Houston, who busted out for more than a hundred yards. That reflects his improvement as well as that of the offensive line.

IU now gets to travel to Iowa, which is coming off a victory over Northwestern. Is it a winnable game? Sure, if this was Michigan State. The Hoosiers are firmly in build-for-the-future mode and playing the young guys more seems the best approach.

It won’t be pretty, but IU football fans are used to that.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Forget Limits – Basketball or Football, IU-Recruit Harris Puts on Show

BIG SCOOP -- This morning Gary Harris beat Usain Bolt in the 100 meter dash, knocked out Floyd Mayweather AND Manny Pacquiao in boxing, hit for the cycle in the major league baseball playoffs, got Republicans and Democrats to agree on health care reform, and ...

Sorry. It’s just, after hearing about Harris setting a Hamilton Southeastern record with 189 receiving yards in a 52-0 victory over McCutcheon, we’re wondering what he CAN’T do.

Not that we’re bitter or anything considering Harris can go to just about any elite program in the country in basketball or football, and that he’s about to be treated like royalty in tonight’s Hoosier Hysteria.

No, we’re WAY bigger than that, although, did we mention we hit TWO clutch jumpers in Assembly Hall last week in the Media Challenge and …

Sorry, again. We’ve gotten a grip. Harris is very, very good, which is why Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State, Louisville and, maybe, Kentucky, are after him.

IU, Purdue and Michigan State are pushing hard. Harris already has visited Purdue (yes, it went well), is visiting Indiana this weekend and will visit Michigan State later this month.

While Kentucky coach John Calipari has expressed interest, it’s hard to know how serious he is given he already has a commitment from Archie Goodwin, who is a shooting guard like Harris, only better. Goodwin is ranked No. 12 nationally and No. 2 at his position. Harris is No. 25 and No. 3.

Does Calipari really want TWO guys who are basically the same player? Is he just being greedy?

Who knows? IU coach Tom Crean is doing everything he should, and even things he shouldn’t (that NCAA secondary violation was embarrassing) to convince Harris that Indiana is the place for him.

We’ll know in a couple of weeks if it works. In the meantime, we have one last question about Harris, and we ask this with total sincerity and maturity:

Can he conjugate a verb?


In case you’re on pins and needles waiting to see what will happen at Hoosier Hysteria, we finally have the answer.

Sort of.

On Friday night IU released the participants for the skill contest. In three-point shooting, it’s Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, Daniel Moore, Austin Etherington, Taylor Wayer, Remy Abell, Matt Roth, Derek Elston and Cody Zeller.

In the dunk contest it’s Oladipo, Zeller, Sheehey and freshman Raphael Smith.

Unless it’s not. The IU release said everything is subject to change.


Look for Ed Wright-Baker to start at quarterback today when the Hoosiers (1-5) play at No. 4 Wisconsin (5-0). Dusty Kiel is battling an ankle sprain that coach Kevin Wilson said could keep him out a couple of weeks. Tre Roberson is a true freshman who will almost certainly play. How much he plays rests in part on how well he can handle the atmosphere of rocking and rolling Camp Randall Stadium.

The Hoosiers don’t need this game. It’s likely to go as well as Ball State’s trip to Oklahoma, which was like a 50-point blowout.

IU, by the way, is a 40-point underdog.

Anyway, Roberson doesn’t need a lot of Badger defenders in his face, so unless the offensive line really picks up the pace, it’s probably best to keep him on the sidelines most of the time to keep him safe.

Yes, that means Wright-Baker is going to get a lot of action, and a lot of it won’t be pretty. In fact, it’s going to be brutal. The only way the Hoosiers win is if the Badgers commit like seven turnovers, most involving botched snaps with Heisman Trophy contender Russell Wilson.

Other than that, senior safety Donnell Jones and senior linebacker Leon Beckum won’t play against Wisconsin. Beckum hasn’t played since hurting his knee during the season-opening loss to Ball State. Figure he’ll be back for the next week’s game at Iowa.

Iowa, as you can guess, is no Wisconsin.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

No Intent -- Crean Sets Record Straight on NCAA Violation

Tom Crean has hit the damage control circuit. Breaking NCAA rules, even secondary ones, is not something he wants as part of his legacy. It doesn’t reflect the way he, or Indiana University, runs the basketball program.

So he went on Dan Dakich’s radio show on 1070 The Fan. He spoke to a media gathering in Assembly Hall. The message was clear about meeting with stud recruit Gary Harris during a no-contact period -– he screwed up, but there was no intent to do wrong.

“I made an inadvertent recruiting mistake the other day," he said. "I had a miscommunication on the dates. I thought I was doing it right. Fifteen minutes later I found out that I wasn’t.”

To be specific, Crean was told by assistant coach Tim Buckley that last Thursday was the last day of the fall contact period. In fact, the last day was Wednesday. Thursday started an evaluation period during which coaches could observe athletes (like watch Harris practice or play football for Hamilton Southeastern), but not meet and talk with them.

People wonder how this happened. Fellow coaches privately question it. Was this a way for Crean and his staff to try to gain an edge on Harris? The competition is fierce with Purdue, Michigan State and now Kentucky in the mix. Was Crean so intent on making sure he was the last coach to talk to Harris before contact ended that he broke the rules to do it?

His emphatic answer -- no.

“As soon as (I found out), as soon as I could drive myself off the road in anger, I guess, at myself, we called it in immediately to the people who needed to know. Most importantly, we handled it with compliance. We moved rapidly to get it in, not let it linger. We tried to move forward as quicly as we could.”

IU self penalized itself by cutting its two days out of the 120 its allowed to contact players during this academic year. It also forfeited one of its three days it can contact Harris.

It’s beyond belief to think Crean or Buckley would deliberately break the rule. Yes, the NCAA calendar has been out for months, which means coaches should know when they can and can’t contact players.

But the risk-reward doesn’t justify intentional breaking the rule. Plus, after the sanctions IU has endured from the Kelvin Sampson era, deliberately breaking rules is the last thing you’d expect.

Harris has talked with Crean a ton, and one more meeting, about 10 days before he takes his official visit to IU and attends Hoosier Hysteria, doesn’t have make-or-break status. Only a desperate coach or program would do that, and with Crean already poised to sign the nation’s No. 1 class for 2012, desperation isn’t part of the mix.

Crean told Dakich that, “There’s no excuse or let’s try to rationalize it. It just happened …

“That’s not how you break a rule if you’re looking to break a rule… If you’re looing to circumvent something you don’t do it that way, but it happened. As direct as I can put it, it was an honest misake.”

Crean is a non-stop wave of energy. He’s always cramming 30 hours worth of stuff into a 20-hour window. You have that much going on and things get forgotten or jumbled. That’s almost certainly the case here. There are a lot of rules and a lot of other things pertaining to the program and life to consider. On that Thursday, Crean had scheduled the media challenge, plus other recruiting beyond Harris.

“We had other (recruiting) things planned that day, all of it thinking we were still in a contact period. It was an inadvertent mistake. I’m glad we caught it when we did. It’s my responsibility. We’ve answered it. That’s as much as I can say. Obviously there’s a recruit involved. It was handled and processed before I ever got back to Bloomington.”

Now it’s time to get back to basketball. The Hoosiers expect a huge crowd, perhaps close to a sellout for Saturday’s Hoosier Hysteria. Optimism is high for a turnaround season. Assuming this is just a one-time glitch and not a pattern, it’s time to move on. If it’s not, well, we know what that can do to a season and a program.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What’s Up With IU’s NCAA Violation, Harris and Calipari

Here’s the biggest thing about the lastest Indiana basketball drama that includes Tom Crean’s secondary NCAA violation and Maurice Creek’s torn Achilles tendon that should keep Hoosier fans up at night:

John Calipari is in the Gary Harris mix.

Oh, no!

If you’re Crean, Purdue’s Matt Painter or Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, it’s time to sweat. All three have busted their tails to land Harris, a standout shooting guard from Hamilton Southeastern who is so tough he plays football as a receiver. Now Calipari rolls in near the end and look out. Like him or not, Calipari is a great recruiter. He was great when he was at Massachusetts and Memphis, and now that he’s at powerhouse Kentucky, well, it’s almost not fair.

Just ask Louisville's Rick Pitino.

The word is Calipari was at one of Harris’ recent football practices and he wasn’t there just to work on his tan.

Still, IU has a great chance to land Harris, one of the nation’s top players in the Class of 2012. Harris is coming to Bloomington this weekend for an official visit and will attend Saturday’s Hoosier Hysteria, an event that was moved from Friday just to accommodate him because his Friday nights are tied up with football games. It's the last real chance to impress him, and figure IU will, although whether it's enough to make a difference only Harris will know.

This is a fierce recruiting battle, which is why none of the participating programs can afford to screw up. That’s what makes Crean’s secondary violation for reportedly visiting Harris after the contact period so odd. It’s no you-blew-it screw-up, but it's still odd.

IU calls it a mistake and it has to be. Assistant coach Tim Buckley messed up and incorrectly told Crean that the last day of the fall contact period was last Thursday. So Crean used that day to see Harris. In fact, Wednesday was the last day. Thursday was the first day of the evaluation period, when contact is not permitted.

Based on IU’s official release and report to the NCAA, Buckley realized his mistake on Thursday while talking to another coach. He quickly told Crean –- after Crean had already visited Harris. Both coaches immediately reported the violation to the school’s compliance office, which then reported it to the Big Ten and the NCAA. Hoosier officials penalized the program by cutting two days from the 130 recruiting person days it has for this academic year (130 to 128) and forfeited one contact of the three contact days it’s allowed with Harris. Buckley was given a letter of admonishment for incorrectly advising Crean.

What does this mean in the big picture? Nothing. Schools commit secondary violations all the time. People make mistakes, particularly when there are a gazzilion rules to follow. The NCAA is unlikely to add to the self-imposed sanctions.

In addition, the NCAA has said as part of its new way of doing things, it’s only going to worry about the big stuff, like paying off recruits. Small stuff is no longer a concern, as long as it doesn’t reflect a pattern of behavior, such as Kelvin Sampson’s excessive impermissible phone calls.

Oh, by the way. The NCAA no longer worries about impermissible phone calls.

So while you’d think coaches would know when contact periods begin and end (it’s easy to mark on calendars), they sometimes mess up. It seems beyond belief that Crean and Buckley would deliberately break a rule –- especially given what IU already has gone through the last couple of years -- because they were so focused on doing everything to get Harris, who is very good, but who is not the second coming of Michael Jordan. Only a desperate program would do that and with the nation's No. 1 class for 2012, the Hoosiers are a million miles away from being desperate. Even if they don't get Harris, they have all the recruiting pieces for big-time success.

Still, it adds drama to what's been a tough week for the Hoosiers. But then, there's always drama around IU basketball. It's part of what makes it so intriguing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Still A Lot For Creek To Accomplish; Big Ten Honors Wynn

So what do you do if you’re Indiana junior guard Maurice Creek and life slams you with yet another body blow? How do you handle a third major injury that forces you to face early what all of us face eventually:

Reality doesn’t always match dreams.

Creek’s torn Achilles tendon –- he had surgery on Monday -- doesn’t end his basketball career, although it almost certainly ends his season. Let’s face it. Peyton Manning has a better chance of playing for the Colts this year than Creek has of playing for the Hoosiers.

Surgery to repain this kind of injury normally takes six to nine months to recover from. And that’s just to get healthy. In terms of regaining your basketball form, strength and conditioning, it probably will be longer.

In truth, there’s no rush. The No. 1 priority is to get back to full healthy and Creek has the advantage of a IU’s powerhouse training staff directed by Tim Garl.

It’s hard to know what kind of factor Creek would have been this season anyway. He still wasn’t fully recovered from last year’s knee surgery for a stress fracture in his right kneecap, which might have been the result of the previous year’s fractured left kneecap.

All these injuries have basically cost Creek three years of development. That’s a shame, but it’s not tragic.

Creek had shown All-America flashes as a freshman, when he put up 31 points against Kentucky in Assembly Hall and led all freshmen scorers in the nation with a 16.4 average.

Then he got hurt, missed the entire Big Ten season, then got hurt again. In 30 career college games he’s averaged 11.5 points and shot 37.1 percent from three-point range.

The official IU release said the torn Achilles tendon has not affected his knee injuries. It obviously stops his rehab from that, which is another hurdle he faces.

There is the tendency to ask, “Why me?” That’s a question Purdue’s Robbie Hummel has also asked after two blown ACLs. There is no good answer. In life, you face adversity. You can’t control that, but you can control how you respond to it.

Creek might eventually overcome all these injuries and become a major basketball force.

He might.

For now, it’s all about healing and supporting his Hoosier teammates, who have a chance for a return-to-glory season. Coach Tom Crean will make sure Creek is part of the process, perhaps as a quasi coach as Hummel was last year.

When you get old life takes things away from you. That’s the way it is. Creek isn’t old, but he’s still lost some things. No matter. He hasn’t lost everything. There are still a million things he can do if playing basketball is no longer in his future.

Here’s hoping he achieves them.


Shane Wynn got the reward for his huge game against Illinois by winning Big Ten freshman of the week honors. He’s just the third Hoosier to ever win the award, joining tailback D’Angelo Roberts and kicker Mitch Ewald.

He returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and wound up with 148 kick return yards. That’s a true freshman school record and the seventh-best total in IU history. He also had one catch for eight yards for 156 all-purpose yards.

His kickoff return was the fourth longest in school history behind three 100-yard efforts.

For the season Wynn has 10 catches for 95 yards, 432 kick return yards and 527 all-purpose yards.


Quarterback Dusty Kiel’s ankle injury suffered against Illinois kept him from practicing on Monday. However, quarterback Ed Wright-Baker, who has had his own ankle injuries, did practice. So did freshman quarterback Tre Roberson.

Figure Wright-Baker will start Saturday at No. 4 Wisconsin.

Also, linebacker Leon Beckum might be back. He’s been out since the season-opening loss against Ball State because of a knee injury. Co-defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler said Beckum practiced on Monday.

“I’m not sure if he’s going to be able to play, but he was flying around out there. It’s pretty encouraging. Before he got hurt he was one of our best defensive players by far. Our objective is to put the best 11 on the field and he’s definitely one of them.”

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Indiana Has To Get Offensive, Or Else

Kevin Wilson wants more offense. Does that surprise you? Specifically he wants more points. He’s been known as a coach who gets that done, who runs uptempo, hard-to-stop attacks that break the will of opposing defenses.

He did it at Northwestern and Oklahoma, big time. He's had the most prolific attack in the history of college football.

That ain’t happening at Indiana. At least, it ain’t happening enough.

Take Saturday’s 41-20 Illinois loss. The Hoosiers scored 20 points, but seven came on a kickoff return for a touchdown, seven on a late drive when the game was decided and the Illini had dialed back the intensity. Of the remaining six points, three were on a field goal that came after forcing a turnover that gave them the ball inside the Illini 5-yard line.

That won’t work against any team, let alone a nationally ranked one, as the Illini are.

“I think our defense is battling,” Wilson said, “but we’re still putting way too much stress on them.”

The offense even allowed Illinois to score a touchdown when a blitz forced a fumble the Illini scooped up and returned 66 yards for a touchdown.

“We had a nice drive across midfield,” Wilson said, “and we had maximum protection and they brought a blitz and one of our linemen went to pick up a guy who wasn’t his and didn’t stay on his guy. They got a sack and a scoop. A guy made an error, just messed up, shouldn’t have, but did.”

Here’s an example of IU offensive inefficiency. Defensive end Bobby Richardson, a true freshman by the way, recovered a fumble on the Illinois 3-yard line in the second quarter. The Illini led 14-10 at the time. IU ran once for a 2-yard loss, then again for a 2-yard gain. Wilson wanted to give tailback Stephen Houston another crack at it (he was planning on going for it on fourth down if Houston didn't score), but quarterback Dusty Kiel thought the defensive end was going to go at Houston, which would have left the perimeter free. So he kept the ball, the end didn’t bite and stuffed Kiel for no gain. Instead of a touchdown, IU got a field goal.

Kiel accepted the responsibility for that.

“That was frustrating. I’ve got to keep working. As a quarterback I have to get better in that area. I thought (the defensive end) was closing and he didn’t. That was all on me. I should have given it.”

Wilson did say it might not have been the “proper call,” that he was trying to go against IU’s passing nature to catch the Illini off guard. Still, he would have liked to have seen what a Houston run could have done.

“I think a little bit of our offensive issues were some guy pressing, trying a little too much, didn’t trust themselves, didn’t trust the scheme, didn’t trust the guy beside them. When you’re a little out of synch and you’re a competitor and you’re getting a little antsy, you’re playing outside the framework of the offense. It wasn’t a huge mistake. It was a guy trying to do something well.”

So now the Hoosiers are 1-5 overall, 0-2 in the Big Ten, and have to take a trip to unbeaten Wisconsin, which has the look of a national championship squad and a coach who doesn’t mind running up the score.

IU’s only chance is to hope the Badgers commit seven turnovers, and convert red-zone opportunities into touchdowns.

If not, well, it won’t be pretty.

Friday, October 7, 2011

No Fear – Oladipo Looking Good; Coaching Drama Down South

Victor Oladipo is ready for a big basketball season, both as an individual and for the Indiana Hoosiers. The sophomore guard made significant impact last year, and wants to do more this year, and that goes beyond rim-rattling dunks.

Oladipo benefited from a summer trip to China to play basketball, playing in the summer pro-am event in Indianapolis and just another year in IU’s strength training program. He’s stronger, fitter and more experienced.

All that’s good, but Oladipo also has an edge he didn’t have before. What is it? We’ll let him explain.

“I’m more confident. I don’t want to say I was scared last year, but I had fear in my mind. I was nervous. I was very nervous.

“This year I’m a little nervous, but I’m more confident than I was. I know what to expect. I know I’ve been working hard enough that when I go out there, I can be just as good as anybody and I can help my team win.”

In the end, it’s about winning. Look for Oladipo to help make that happen.


Welcome to Basketball Coaches of the Big Ten, a new show that features high-profile, highly paid coaches tapping into their inner Housewives of New Jersey.

The premise is simple –- take shots at each other, but do it subtlely rather than dramatically like some of the women’s reality TV shows.

Let’s face it. Nobody wants to see men cry or claim their feelings got hurt or accuse each other of back-stabbing nastiness. What people REALLY want to see is WWE theater or mixed martial arts mayhem, but you can’t get away with that in a college setting.

So instead you have the apparent drama between Louisville’s Rick Pitino and Kentucky’s John Calipari, with Indiana Tom Crean now getting into the mix -– sort of.

Yes, it should all make for terrific TV ratings and program publicity when these coaches and teams meet.

Calipari started things off with a TV interview promoting UK’s Midnight Madness. It was innocent enough until Calipari threw in this little jab:

“There’s no other state -– none -– as connected to their basketball program as this one,” Calipari told TV station KSTV, “because those states have other programs. Michigan has Michigan State. California has UCLA … North Carolina has Duke.

“It’s Kentucky throughout this whole state, and that’s what makes us unique.”

Now you could argue that Calipari was just speaking the truth. UK is huge throughout the state and certainly has more in-state fans than any other in-state program.

Still, it does have a big rival in Louisville, which won national titles under Denny Crum and gone to Final Fours under Pitino. It has a big, new, expensive arena. It is a member of the Big East, which at least in basketball is saying something.

Reading between the lines could lead a person to conclude Calipari was taking a shot at Pitino's program. The two coaches were once close, but iciness now dominates what’s left of their relationship.

Here’s what Pitino told as far as a reaction to Calipari’s comments:

“Four things I’ve learned in my 59 years about people. I ignore the jealous. I ignore the malicious. I ignore the ignorant and I ignore the paranoid.

“If the shoe fits anyone, wear it.”

The word in cyberspace and beyond is that the coaches don’t like each other and that Calipari is jealous of Pitino’s success. Pitino has a national title. Calipari does not. Pitino has taken five teams to the Final Four and none of those achievements were stripped from the record book, as Calipari’s was for Final Four trips while at Massachusetts and Memphis.

Is the word true? That's what speculation is for.

Crean entered the picture, not from jealousy or pettiness, but to promote his Hoosier program and the Dec. 10 game with UK at Assembly Hall.

“I think on Dec. 10th at 5:15 in Assembly Hall (Calipari) is going to see he forgot about how The State of Indiana feels about this program,” Crean tweeted, “No question the UK fans are behind the program, but there is NO WAY OUR FANS TAKE A BACKSEAT TO ANYONE! GO HOOSIERS!”

Now, somebody from Purdue or Butler or Notre Dame might find that irritating, but that wasn't Crean’s purpose. He’s totally focused on restoring IU’s basketball tradition, not on slamming others, and promoting a game in which he wants a huge, raucous crowd shaking Assembly Hall as it's never been shaken before.

As for what’s going on with Calipari and Pitino, you can decide for yourselves.


Indiana is looking for instant impact on defense in its Class of 2012 football recruiting, and that includes junior college players.

Consider defensive back Ladarius Gunter, who is originally from Alabama and who spent last year playing at Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College. He’s good enough to have gotten an offer from North Texas (yes, the same North Texas that roughed up the Hoosiers a few weeks back) and strong interest from Nebraska, Texas A&M, Iowa State and Baylor.

The 6-2, 200-pound Gunter is set to make an official visit this weekend as IU hosts No. 19 Illinois.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

IU Coaches Set Bar High; Drane Shows Leadership; NBA Dream Ends

IU defensive coaches still seek full-throttle football hustle. They don’t want excuses; they want results because you never know which play could be the game-deciding one.

The Hoosiers basically had the same number of loafs (no-hustle plays) and missed tackles against Penn State they had against North Texas. Here’s what co-defensive coordinator Doug Mallory had to say.

“Sometimes, when you’re out there for 91 plays, when you’re not rolling guys through, there’s a point where fatigue will set in. We’re still not getting the effort we want, the way we want it.”

That’s why the coaches continue to play younger guys. Sixteen true freshman have played this season, twice as many as played in the three previous seasons combined. Are they all ready? Absolutely not, but if the veteran players are messing up, and they are, Kevin Wilson and company would rather go with young guys.

“Effort is the fist thing we talk about from a defensive standpoint,” Mallory said. “We’ve set a standard and we’re going to make sure we uphold that standard. We won’t come down to their expectations. They have to come up to our expectations. It’s still a process.”

That process would be helped by playing a few more guys. For instance, safety Drew Hardin had 91 plays on defense, plus was on three of IU’s four special teams. His brother, safety Forisse Hardin, had 81 plays and also played on three special teams.

“I’ve got to be able to roll some other guys through to keep them fresh,” Mallory said.

He’ll get a chance Saturday when IU (1-4) hosts No. 19 Illinois (5-0).


Indiana senior safety Jarrell Drane will likely miss two to three more weeks with a sprained ankle, but that hasn’t affected his attitude. He missed the Penn State game, a big blow considering he’s hardly played in his career because of injuries, but spent his sideline time working closely with the Hardin brothers to ensure they knew their assignments.

Yes, the coaches noticed.

“That says a lot about him that he’s injured and out, but he’s still locked into the game trying to help the younger guys out,” co-defensive coordinator Doug Mallory said.


My NBA dream died today.

Indiana’s media challenge/fantasy camp -- a great idea by IU assistant athletic director-media J.D. Campbell and coach Tom Crean -- proved that basketball is not in my DNA, or my shoes or my elbow brace. And I was SO set on buying a Ferrari with the check sure to come as a NBA replacement player if the league decides to go that route in the wake of its lock-out shutdown.

Anyway, we had eight people on our Brian Evans-Chris Reynolds-coached team and I ranked 88th. Yeah, it’s a downer.

For the record, Ross Kinsey of WANE-TV in Fort Wayne and Scott Agness, an IU freelance broadcaster, were huge in our getting third place. Both can shoot, handle the ball and play defense. The Bloomington Herald Times’ Dustin Dopirak came up big, as did Inside Indiana’s Zach Osterman, Sports Journalism Institute’s Lara Overton and Gary Post-Tribune’s Andy Proffett. By the way, we finished third out of four teams, but let’s not downplay the significance of a performance that set standards that might never be equalled.

By the way, any video of the media performance should never be shown, much like a Nancy Grace dancing clip.

Also for the record, for one moment I entered the Dane Fife never-fouled-in-my-life zone after being called for fouling IU assistant athletic director Jeremy Gray on a three-point attempt. One person’s foul is another’s legally aggressive play. Video evidence would show I got all ball, and if I also got shoulder, chest, arm, elbow, wrist, knee and foot, well, what makes contact such a dirty word.

Did I mention my NBA dream has died?


If you’d like to know who’s going to win the Heisman, or at least who are the favorites, consider the weekly poll put out by It polls as many of the Heisman voters as it can (this week that means 49 voters from 29 states), and that includes us.

The poll shows Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson top the list. Behind them are Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, Alabama running back Trent Richardson, Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III and Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones.

Moving On – Hoosiers Leaving IU Football Program

It’s been a tough week on the Indiana football front if you were fans of tailback Nick Turner, tailback Antonio Banks, defensive tackle Marlandez Harris and cornerback Peter St. Fort.

Turner, Banks and Harris all left the program this week. St. Fort was indefinitely suspended after being arrested last weekend for DUI and marijuana possession.

Turner was the biggest surprise departure because coming out of spring practice he was the No. 1 tailback, and had rushed for 157 yards last season. But he got passed on the depth chart by a pair of newcomers -- JUCO transfer Stephen Houston and true freshman D’Angelo Roberts -- plus redshirt freshman Matt Perez. He was moved to safety for a while, put on special teams, then taken off of them. He played running back briefly against Penn State, rushing once for minus-three yards.

Wilson said Turner’s lack of playing time had to do with his practice effort. Wilson, like every coach, is big on that sort of stuff.

“He came in (on Tuesday) and said he didn’t want to play,” Wilson said. “Thought it was a good choice because he hadn’t been practicing hard.”

Wilson said Turner had been “going through the motions” and that he wasn’t physical. He said Turner was a “nice kid” with “good talent” and wished him well.

If you’re counting, that’s five running backs from the Bill Lynch era who have departed in the last nine months, including Darius Willis.

It’s not unusual for players to leave when there’s a coaching change. Sometimes it’s a talent or playing time issue. Sometimes it’s a bad fit -– in other words, somebody doesn’t like somebody.

Wilson is not a warm, fuzzy, “I-love-you-man” coach, which puts him on par with a lot of guys in the profession. He’s demanding and tell-it-like-he-sees-it honest, which some can find abrasive. He has an edge that Lynch did not, and not everybody wants to deal with it.

Let’s face it. No matter who the coach is, life ain’t fun when you’re losing. And with a 1-4 record, the Hoosiers are losing more than they have in a decade, which is saying something given the program’s struggles.

Figure this won’t be the last time a player leaves. You would like to think the exodus would slow once Wilson gets all his players into his system. That will take a few years.

Now, if Wilson-recruited players start leaving, if the losing continues, well, we know how that will turn out.

Oh, for those who gotta have more quarterback news, Ed Wright-Baker is back to practice. Look for Dusty Kiel to start in Saturday’s game against No. 19 Illinois because he’s healthier, but Wright-Baker will play.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

On IU Quarterback Debate, Basketball Exhibition and Jim Delany

Are you like us? Are you struggling to sleep this week wondering who will start on the offensive line for the Indiana Hoosiers?

Wait. We meant quarterback. Now comes what figures to be the weekly twists of the Ed-and-Dusty debate. Should Edward Wright-Baker return to the starter’s role he had before hurting his ankle? Did Dusty Kiel do enough against Penn State to stay No. 1? And is it time for true freshman Tre Roberson to show what his hyper athleticism can do?

Quarterbacks coach/co-offensive coordinator Rod Smith said the quarterbacks are getting enough practice reps to be read to play, if not start, each week.

Head coach Kevin Wilson said Wright-Baker, who got hurt in the second half against North Texas, looks close to full health.

“I think as we go though the week,” Wilson said, “he looks good. Looks like he’ll have a shot. That being said, Dusty’s played. I don’t know if it’s so much a controversy as it is that one guy’s a little more healthy. They’re both capable of playing well. We’ll see how it plays out as it goes forward.”

Against Penn State, in his first ever college start, Kiel was 22-for-45 for 184 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and that was with receivers dropping seven passes.

“I thought Dusty competed,” Wilson said. “I don’t think he hurt us, but I think we could have been better from an overall execution standpoint.”

As far as Roberson, he hasn’t thrown a pass yet, but he has run three times for seven yards. Wilson and Smith said they have packages to use him every game, but haven’t gotten him in much because of the closeness of the games. All four of IU’s losses have been by seven or fewer points.

“We’ve got to do a better job of getting him involved,” Smith said. “He might not have the entirety of the playbook that Dusty and Ed have, but he’s got a lot and it’s enough. We’ve got to say, ‘The hell with it, we’re going with him,’ and get him more reps.”

Is No. 19 and unbeaten Illinois, Saturday’s opponent at Memorial Stadium, the best time to do that?

We’ll have to see.


Are you ready for some basketball? Of course you are. And after we get through the pomp and fun of Hoosier Hysteria, the real basketball begins. A preview will come on Saturday, Nov. 5, when IU faces the University of Indianapolis in an exhibition game.

The Greyhounds, a NCAA Division II program, were 19-9 last year and return three starters.

IU has twice before played Indianapolis in exhibition games. In 2006, the Hoosiers won 83-46. In 2005, they won 96-49.

“Our goal in scheduling our exhibition games is to find programs that will best prepare us for the season,” coach Tom Crean said in a university release. “Having the opportunity to schedule a team with strong local ties is an added bonus. (Coach) Stan Gouard and his staff have done a great job in a short period of time, which is evident by their win at Tennessee last year.”

Tipoff is at 7 p.m. at Assembly Hall. The game will be streamed via the Internet at

IU opens the regular season Friday, Nov. 11, against Stony Brook.


Do you want to grill Jim Delany on when he’ll see the light about a national football playoff, what’s up with paying players or just give the Big Ten commissioner a hug?

Well, we don’t know if you can do all that, but you can hear Delany speak when he comes to an IU Varsity Club Speaker Series luncheon on Oct. 26 at Memorial Stadium’s Henke Hall of Champions.

Delany is only the fifth Big Ten commissioner since its founding in 1896. Does that mean he’s really old? It depends on your perspective. Thirty once seemed old and now …

Sorry. Delany has had the job for 22 years. Among his many accomplishments is helping guide the addition of Penn State and Nebraska to the conference. He helped create the Big Ten Network and aided in the expansion of women’s sports. He’s a national leader on all the major issues facing college sports.

“We’re thrilled that Jim Delany -- one of today’s most influential leaders in college athletics -- is kicking off our series,” IU deputy athletic director Scott Dolson said in a university release.

Advanced tickets are available to Varsity Club donors and a guest for $15 a person. Donors can register by contacting the Varsity Club no later than Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 812-855-0866 or

“(Jim) is a leading voice in intercollegiate athletics,” IU athletic director Fred Glass said in a university release. “The Big Ten is extremely fortunate to have him as its commissioner and we are fortunate to have him as our speaker.”

Monday, October 3, 2011

Can You Believe It -- Nation To See IU at Wisconsin

Does the nation REALLY want to see Indiana play at Wisconsin in football?

Thanks to ESPN2, the Oct. 15 game will be televised nationally.

Oh, no!

Last year the Hoosiers went up to Camp Randall Stadium and suffered one of the worst defeats in school history. The 83-20 score contributed to the eventual firing of coach Bill Lynch.

Now we have a Wisconsin team for the ages. Not only does it have its usual assortment of NFL-caliber offensive linemen and break-your-will running backs, it also has the kind of dual-threat quarterback in Russell Wilson it’s never had before. Wilson is a strong Heisman Trophy candidate and we say that with confidence considering we vote for the Heisman.

The Badgers also have a stout defense that shut down Nebraska’s powerhouse attack. It is a strong national title contender. And coach Bret Bielema is not known as a mercy coach. If he can hammer you, he will.

What does this mean for Indiana?

Nationally televised disaster.

The only thing that could keep the score reasonable is if Bielema, after taking some heat for running up the score last year on IU, backs off in the second half.

In truth, though, he shouldn’t. He doesn’t have to have Wilson play the whole game launching passes; this likely will be the perfect game for the backups to see significant action; but the play calling should still feature the Badgers’ best plays. It’s up to the Hoosiers to be man enough to stop them.

Now maybe it’s not a blowout. Maybe IU plays Wisconsin tough as nobody has this season. Maybe it finds a level that can compete with the nation’s best and then sustains it the rest of the season.


Nothing lasts forever. Ohio State faces a beat-down season that will provide some payback for its recent dominating ways. Perhaps the Hoosiers can some day do to the Badgers what was done to them. For now, though, the nation will get to see what we already know:

Wisconsin is really, really good, especially at home.

IU will be in big, big trouble.


Hoosier Hysteria is going to have a lot of high-profile recruiting action. All five members of IU’s Class of 2012 (Yogi Ferrell, Hanner Perea, Ron Patterson, Jeremy Hollowell and Peter Jurkin) will be there along with Gary Harris and Derek Willis (ranked No. 23 in the Class of 2013).

The 6-9 Willis, from Louisville, is the former Purdue committed player who has re-opened his recruiting. The Boilers, IU and Louisville top his list, with Kentucky and Illinois in the mix.


According to’s Brian Neubert, Harris’s official visit to Purdue this past weekend went well. He spent a lot of time getting to know the players, something the standout shooting guard will also do during his upcoming visits to Indiana, Michigan State and probably Kentucky.

Not only did Harris spend time with current players and coaches, Neubert wrote, but also with Boiler recruits from the Class of 2012 and 2013. The goal is to get as complete a picture as possible, and by the time this official visit process is over, Harris will have all the information he needs.

Choosing a college is one of the most important decisions a person can make after deciding on a favorite NFL team and …

Sorry. Everybody knows picking a NFL favorite is WAY more important. Still, college is a big deal and Harris obviously wants to get it right. Wherever he ends up, he’ll be in a great program.

Consider this. IU changed its Hoosier Hysteria night to accommodate Harris’ football schedule. Coach Tom Crean gets to as many of his football games as he can. If he doesn’t land Harris, it won’t be because of lack of effort.

In about a month, we should know.


If you like intrigue, consider IU’s football depth chart doesn’t list a starting quarterback. There is an “or” between the names of Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker.

Maybe that means Wright-Baker is still questionable with his ankle injury. Maybe it means this week will be a battle royale between the two redshirt freshmen.

Whoever starts will have a formidable challenge Saturday against unbeaten Illinois, which is ranked No. 19.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

On Indiana’s QB Situation and Code Reds

Is there now a bonafide Indiana quarterback controversy? Should an injury cost a starter his job?

History provides some answers. Wally Pipp and Drew Bledsoe lost their jobs to injury and never regained them -- Lou Gehrig for Pipp, Tom Brady for Bledsoe. Yes, Pipp sat out a game because of a headache and never got back in, so is a headache really an injury, but that’s missing the point, which is should Dusty Kiel replace Edward Wright-Baker as the starting quarterback for the Hoosiers (1-4).

Here’s what we know. Wright-Baker missed the 16-10 loss to Penn State because of an ankle injury. He missed all of last week’s practices, which we didn’t find out until after the game, when coach Kevin Wilson confirmed it.

Kiel went 22-for-45 for 184 yards, one touchdown and one interception. That’s not exactly Brady like, until you realize Kiel’s receivers dropped at least four passes that would have gone for at least 50 yards.

That was a follow-up to his North Texas performance, when he went 7-for-12 for 145 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. That he did it against a pass defense that disappeared quicker than you can ask, did Darius Willis have another pro wrestling adventure while IU played, doesn’t diminish the fact that he did it.

Penn State, by the way, might not be the greatest team in coach Joe Paterno’s epic tenure, but it does have a good defense. Kiel showed promise against it, although he was not flawless.

“He was okay,” Wilson said. “He went the wrong way some times, but he played well.”

For the season Wright-Baker is 80-for-129 (62.0 percent) for 925 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Kiel is 33-for-63 (52.4 percent) for 356 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

Neither of them reminds anyone of Peyton Manning. Some of it is inexperience (this is their first major playing time), some of it is nobody on the planet can do what Peyton Manning does.

Anyway, Wilson figures Wright-Baker will be healthy for Monday’s practice, which should lead to all sorts of speculation further fueled by the fact IU’s practices are closed, so no one knows what’s going on except those with access to satellite technology, not that we’re admitting to such things.

“We’ll have both of them as we move forward,” Wilson said, “and if there is an issue of a controversy or who we got, we’ll figure that out Monday.”

Wright-Baker beat out Kiel because of fewer turnovers in preseason camp. Ball security is the key component to the quarterback position and Wright-Baker, apparently, had the edge.

Kiel seems to have closed that gap.

“He needs the supporting cast to play better,” Wilson said. “He also has some glitches, but he’s coming along. When we got in rhythm, when we blocked, when the protection was there, the offense was solid.”

What does Kiel think? There’s no way to know. Kiel revealed nothing in his post game comments other than he’s really good about saying nothing. That’s probably smart, but it does nothing for those of us looking for the next big thing now that Brad-Jen-and-Angelina Jolie are in a quiet phase.

Anyway, what did Kiel say? Here’s a sample:

Media: What about the competition between you and Wright-Baker?

Dusty: “Ed is a good friend of mine. We’ll push each other every day and get ready for Illinois.”

Media: What did you learn (from the Penn State game)?

Dusty: “Those Big Ten guys are pretty big. We’ve got to keep working.”

Media: Why was the offense better the last two drives?

Dusty: “I’m not sure. We’re working trying to get better. Guys are making plays.”

Media: Did you order the Code Red?

Dusty: “You’re God-damned right I did!”

Ah, hah. We knew it. Now we can …

Okay, the tape recorder got a little fuzzy on the last question and answer, but you get the drift. Enlightenment will have to come from seeing who starts against Illinois (yes, that’s unbeaten and nationally ranked Illinois) next Saturday, and then who performs better, because figure both will play.

In the meantime, where’s Jack Nicholson when you need him?