Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hoosier Happiness – Deflecting Way To Success; Football Honors

In case you haven’t noticed, Tom Crean is REALLY into defense. It is the cornerstone of his program, not only because it stops opponents, but if done well enough it generates offense.

And almost all players love to score.

Crean charts defense with something called deflections. He said the Hoosiers had 74 against Butler, which are the most of any team he’s ever been a part of as a coach.

That’s a big reason why the Hoosiers forced 21 turnovers and held the Bulldogs to 38.2 percent shooting.

The stat is not official and is not mentioned in box scores. So what is a deflection in Crean’s view?

First, it’s any ball that a Hoosier gets even a fingertip on, regardless of whether or not it leads to a turnover. That’s true even if the ball goes out of bounds without a change in possession.

“It’s not a rebound,” Crean said. “For us, it’s a charge. A shot-clock violation. It’s a tip. I tip it, you grab it, deflection for me, deflection for you. If it’s a blocked shot, if it’s a steal, if it’s a loose ball, but if it’s just not a rebound. If the ball’s loose off the board — now if it bounces off to midcourt, that’s another story — but if it’s loose off the board, that’s just a loose ball rebound, that’s a 50-50 ball.”

The bottom line is that deflections reflect how active the Hoosiers are on defense. In theory the more active they are, the better the defense, the fewer points opponents score, the more points the Hoosiers score, the more victories they get and the happier everybody in the Hoosier Nation becomes.

And after the past three years of basketball misery, happiness is a wonderful thing.


IU might have gotten shut out in terms of Big Ten victories, but it did get enough solid performance to earn some all-conference recognition.

Senior linebacker Jeff Thomas and sophomore kicker Mitch Ewald got honorable mention honors, while junior defensive tackle Adam Replogle was IU Big Ten sportsmanship honoree.

Conference coaches and media recognized Ewald while just the coaches honored Thomas.

Despite playing with banged up shoulders, Thomas led the Hoosiers with 80 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. He also had one sack, one fumble recovery and three pass breakups despite missing one game because of injury. He ranked 12th in the Big Ten in tackles (7.3 a game) and 13th in tackles for loss.

Ewald has evolved into one of the Big Ten’s best kickers. He was 13-for-16 in field goals (9-for-10 in conference play) and made all 30 of his extra points. He is 63-for-63 in extra points for his college career. The 13 field goals ranked eighth in school history for a season.

For his career Ewald is 29-for-35 in field goals, which is 82.9 percent. He’s even better in big Ten action at 20-for-23 (86.9 percent).

Replogle is one of 10 finalists for the ARA Sportsmanship Award and is also a Capital One Academic All-District V selection. He led IU with four sacks. He finished with 49 tackles, seven tackles for loss, forced a fumble and broke up two passes.


IU had its football team banquet where awards are given out. Interestingly enough, there were no MVP honors. Of course, you could argue, when your team goes 1-11, nobody earned it. You could also argue that record or not, some guys busted their behinds and did deserve the recognition, but that’s a debate for another day.

Anyway, here are the awards that were given:

Specials Ops Player of the Year: Greg Heban
Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year: Isaiah Roundtree
Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year: John Laihinen
Outstanding Walk-On Player of the Year: Collin Rahrig
Academic Excellence: Adam Replogle, Greg Heban & Teddy Schell
Teammate of the Year: Leon Beckum
Team Captains: Max Dedmond & Adam Replogle

Saturday, November 26, 2011

IU Braces for Butler; What's Next for Football Hoosiers, Part I

Are you wondering why Indiana is doing this Hoosier Invitational basketball thing when it could have gone to some exempt tournament at some tropical paradise setting?

The No. 1 reason, it seems, is money. The Hoosiers, like a lot of athletic departments around the country, need more of it. That’s true even with the Big Ten Network pumping in millions to each conference school.

The Hoosier Invitational, which was spread out over two weeks, allowed IU to get four more home games. It also featured three, and we’re being nice here, not so strong opponents in Chattanooga, Savannah State and Gardner-Webb. The Hoosiers slaughtered them.

“We have to play so many home games every year because the department is dependent on the revenue,” coach Tom Crean said in a university release.

As far as scheduling, IU wants to keep a balance between home games and away, from really challenging games and those that are as close to guarantee wins as you can get in this parity driven era.

“We really look at scheduling on a year to year basis and we already have the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the Kentucky series, and the Crossroads Classic for next year,” Crean said, “so we have to look for an exempt tournament and home games each year moving forward.”

Now comes Sunday night’s finale against Butler, the national runner-up the last two seasons doing some major rebuilding under coach Brad Stevens.

Stevens seems up to the task. He won 117 games in his first four seasons as a head coach, which are 10 more than any coach in history. The previous record holder, if you’re wondering, was North Carolina State’s Everette Case.

Anyway, Butler has struggled to a 3-2 record. It was lucky to escape Gardner-Webb after trailing by 17 in the second half.

No matter. Crean has plenty of reasons for concern.

“Their veteran guys have experience winning at the highest level, and have done a great job transferring their experience to their younger players,” Crean said. “They play very well together. They execute their offense and cut hard. Defensively they will get into you and make you work for everything you get.

These Hoosiers seem to enjoy such work. Figure they will handle the Bulldogs.


Is Kevin Wilson the coach to lead the Indiana football program out of the wilderness of never-ending losing?

It’s way too early to tell.

Still, early signs aren’t good.

He directed one of the worst teams in program history, capped with a competitive 33-25 loss to rival Purdue in Saturday’s season-ending finale. The Boilers won back the Old Oaken Bucket and became bowl eligible. The Hoosiers won nothing but, perhaps, hope.

“(Indiana) has a lot coming back,” senior tight end Max Dedmond said. “They have great, quality guys coming back. I have confidence in them and that they’ll do fine.

“I feel like we did a great job since Coach Wilson got here to build our program up. I have confidence that they’ll do well.”

The Hoosiers played 32 freshmen. No other team in the country played as many. Sixteen of those were true freshmen.

It wasn’t necessarily by choice. Some of it was due to injury, some because veterans left (biggest reason -- they didn’t like Wilson) or were asked to leave. Some because the younger guys practiced harder and Wilson and his staff weren’t about to compromise their standards.

So IU got younger and got worse. It lost its last nine games to finish 1-11. It is the only team in a Bowl Championship Series automatic qualifying conference to not beat a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent.

What does that mean?

The Hoosiers stunk. The defense was miserable, which has become a Cream ‘n Crimson tradition. Still, this one might have been the worst in a generation, or a century.

All that youth doesn’t guarantee future success. Inconsistent younger players can become inconsistent older players if they don’t improve and grow. Wilson said as much.

“If they play the same, you’ll get the same results,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll be smart enough by playing to realize their deficiencies and what they need to work on.

“Do I lack strength and size? Do I have the knowledge to be a capable, quality player?

“You because you play as young guys doesn’t mean you’ll be better as you move forward unless you use that as motivation, as a learning tool.”

IU showed some learning against favored Purdue. Three times it built seven-point leads, gave itself a fourth-quarter chance with a 76-yard touchdown drive (capped by a 2-point conversion) just when the Boilers were poised to take control.

The Hoosiers still had a chance near the end of the fourth quarter until Tre Roberson’s deep pass to Nick Stoner was intercepted by cornerback Josh Johnson. Both players seemed to have possession as they hit the ground, with Johnson then ripping the ball away. Officials said it wasn’t a reviewable play.

Perhaps the bigger issue is that Stoner has to get strong enough so that nobody rips the ball away from him. Lack of strength was a MAJOR problem this season, perhaps because of the Hoosiers’ off-season emphasis on “leaning” the players up.

It sounded good in theory. Make guys fitter so they could handle Wilson’s full-throttle tempo. Wear down opponents. Win games.

In reality it was a disaster. The Hoosiers lacked the size and strength necessary to handle major college ball. Even Ball State, for goodness sake, an average Mid-American Conference team, manhandled IU up front on both sides of the ball.

Strength building will be a major off-season point of emphasis. It will start on Monday.

Yes, the Hoosiers can’t afford to take much of a break. When you’re this bad, you need all the work you can get.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bucket Rivalry Matters; Groundhog Futility; Against the Odds

Purdue’s coming to IU on Saturday for the annual Oaken Bucket Battle and coach Kevin Wilson gets it. He understands the whole rivalry deal because he’s played in them and then coached in them.

Still, the battle for the Bucket is a new experience and Wilson said he’s ready for it even if the 1-10 record makes you wonder if his players are.

“The uniqueness is it’s a state rivalry,” Wilson said. “You’ve got the two institutions of the state, the state institutions. You grow up in the state. For the most part, I’m assuming the majority of the fans are pulling for whoever the family has or their grandfather has. For decades or 100 plus years it’s one school or the other.

“But again, to me what makes a rivalry great is there’s a natural love. There’s kind of a respect that you have for the school. The families know each other, the communities know each other. That being said, it’s family going against family. That makes for a little heated, bad blood rival. I’ve tried to tell our kids. I don’t think every school has that. I’d say that if you’d look at 120-some (major college) schools, there’s probably 70 to 75 that have some natural true rival. Some others are searching.”

The only thing the Hoosiers are searching for is a victory to wipe a really bad season. Saturday at Memorial Stadium, they’ll get a chance to find it.


Wilson continues to push the play-as-you-practice concept. He wants player to go as hard in practice, that’s EVERY practice, as they do in games.

He also wants guys competing every day. If you get beat out, do something about it by practicing so hard and so well the coaches have to put you in. In the same way, if you win a job you have to keep winning it by your practice effort.

Wilson mentioned the quarterback situation. Freshman Tre Roberson has won the job, beating out veterans Ed Wright-Baker and Dusty Kiel. Both had injuries that gave Roberson a chance.

“My whole thing with Tre was, what are Dusty and Ed going to do?” Wilson said. “As a competitor, that’s what you want. You want to get back in the mix. You want to get your job back. You keep competing.”


IU is a 7.5-point underdog against Purdue. It hasn’t won since September. It likely won’t win again until next September.

No matter. This is a rivalry game, and it distorts, if not shatters, the mantra you hear about treating every game the same. It sounds good in theory, but in reality it doesn’t work. There are some games you get more jacked about. This is one of them, and it alters the every day pattern coaches find so reassuring.

“I like groundhog day,” Wilson said. “I live everybody to be the same.

“But if I’m a senior, this needs to be a special (time). There’s the rivalry, the Bucket, Purdue. There are all kinds of uniqueness that should make this one of the best weeks of you life.”

Wilson has one last shot to get these Hoosiers to play their best. Can he do what he basically couldn’t do all season?

“We might have struggled,”said, “but our kids have worked hard. They’ve invested greatly. That’s why I keep getting frustrated with my inability to connect with them.”


You might think Rod Smith, IU’s co-offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, might develop an interest in heading to Arizona now that Rich Rodriquez is the new coach.

Yeah, that’s the same Rodriguez who was fired at Michigan, and who has spent this season in coaching pergatory. Smith and Rodriquez have known each other for years, starting at Glenville State in West Virginia when Rodrigez was the coach and Smith was the quarterback. The men worked together at Clemson, West Virginia and Michigan.

Anyway, is Smith interested in going to Arizona?

Absolutely not, he said. He’s focused on Saturday’s Bucket game and beating the Boilers.”

After Saturday, things might change. For now, though, it’s all about beating Purdue.


IU figures to sign 27 football players in February. The NCAA allows 25 a year, but because the Hoosiers signed only 23 last year, it can get a couple more.

Indiana has 21 commitments so far, with 14 listed on the defensive side. If you’ve seen the Hoosiers play defense this season, you know how badly they need defensive help.

Anyway, 13 of them have three stars out of five. Five are nationally ranked at their position and one –- offensive lineman Wes Rogers -– is No. 7.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wilson Looks In IU Football Mirror, Sees Disconnect

Kevin Wilson is taking a good, long public look in the mirror. Coaching perhaps the worst team in IU football history was not part of the master plan when he was hired about a year ago. He wanted to be demanding. He wanted to change the mindset that kept the Hoosiers stuck in a whirlpool of losing that a revolving door series of coaches couldn’t stop.

John Pont stopped it briefly half a century ago. Bill Mallory did the same thing a generation in the past. Even Lee Corso had a few winning-season moments around the time the BeeGees ruled the airwaves.

Wilson arrived with his super-stud offensive credentials and tell-like-it-is approach, and as so often happens when a new coach arrives, all things seemed possible.

Then Cream ‘n Crimson reality hit, as it so often does. The Hoosiers lost at an unprecedented rate. They didn’t just lose, they got BURIED. They got physically roughed up by Ball State, for goodness sakes

Wilson demanded more, which is not a bad thing, which, in fact, makes him like every successful coach in America. But along the way, there came a disconnect.

Thirty players had enough and moved on, 19 of them on scholarship, some because of injury, some because, well, they didn’t like Wilson. One of them, perhaps the best of them, Damarlo Belcher, was kicked off the team after he and Wilson kept butting heads. His actual transgressions remain private.

It wasn’t the outcome Belcher or Wilson wanted, and both came off looking bad.

So now the Hoosiers get one last chance to win a game, this time Saturday against Purdue, their biggest rival. The Boilers have extra motivation because they need a win to become bowl eligible, but that motivation works both ways. Nothing would salvage a miserable season more than ruining Purdue plans.

Still, nobody figures IU to win. It can score some points against a sometimes vulnerable Boiler defense, but it has shown no sign of stopping anybody. It has played some of the worst defense known to man. Defensive backs get beat so badly at times, it’s like a bad comedy skit.

Except no one is laughing except, perhaps, opposing offensive coordinators who get their shots at making the Hoosiers look silly.

Again, this is not what Wilson and his staff wanted, not what athletic director Fred Glass wanted when he made them the highest-paid football coaches in school history and provided them with resources no previous staff had ever enjoyed.

So Wilson looked in the mirror and, in public, found fault. He mentioned it while talking to the media. He said it on his radio show.

“The real deal is our inability as coaches to connect and get more out of our kids more often,” Wilson said. “So we’ll keep moving with that.”

And then he said it again.

“We have not done a good job connecting. I have to do a better job of reaching our guys. We’re trying to reach our guys. We’re working at it, trying to work positively at it.”

On Saturday against Purdue, we’ll get one last chance to see if that work can produce results.

You don’t need a mirror to understand that.


Remember Indiana’s 1987 national championship, when Keith Smart hit the shot the rocked the college basketball world and Steve Alford had a song about him that resonated with a 1960s’ classic.

We’d sing it, but you can’t sing on a blog.

Anyway, that team will have a reunion to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the program’s fifth, and last, national title. It’s set for Sunday, Dec. 4, when the Hoosiers play Stetson.

In that year IU stunned No. 1 UNLV 97-93 in the Final Four semifinals when coach Bob Knight scrapped the patient, motion offense approach because he didn’t think it would work the Runnin’ Rebels’ attacking defense.

Then the Hoosiers beat Syracuse 74-73 on Smart’s last-second shot.

Former players Steve Alford and Todd Meier organized the reunion along with deputy athletic director Scott Dolson, who was a team manager on that title team.

The first 7,500 fans in attendance of the IU-Stetson game will get a replica calendar poster from that 1987 championship season. There also will be an autograph session between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. (the game starts at 4:30).

More information is on its way.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Beating Up Cody; Corso Apologizes; Football Folly

The meek might inherit the earth, but they don’t hang out in the paint trying to stop Cody Zeller. Instead, Indiana’s heralded 6-11 freshman deals with a coarser group of guys who aren’t above smacking him in, well, a sensitive area.

“I know they’re going to try to beat me up a little bit,” Zeller says with a smile. “I just try to keep my head up and keep going at it.”

After four games Zeller has been roughed up in all sorts of ways, some that might get you arrested if done on a street corner.

The key is, this is just against mid-major players. What happens when the really big, really strong guys from power conference teams show Zeller what major college ball is really like?

Zeller, it seems, is ready for it just as he’s been ready for just about everything else this season. He’s lifted, run and played at a veteran level, and it shows in stats that include a team-leading 15.0 points, a team-leading 7.3 rebounds and an eye-popping 82.6 percent shooting from the field.

“One of the things I need to work on is getting stronger and getting lower on rebounds,” he says. “It’s a work in progress.”

Zeller is noticeably bigger and stronger than he was last year, the benefit of IU’s strength and conditioning program

“It was a lot of hard work in the summer,” he said. “It’s paying off.”

Coach Tom Crean knows teams are targeting Zeller, but he doesn’t want any retaliation other than by playing better and harder.

“I wouldn’t just single Cody out in that,” Crean said. “I think our guys are doing a very good job in handling that. They know the ramifications. Who knows what is going to happen down the road? I don’t think we have any wallflowers.

“Cody is a tough young man. Those guys have a determination about them. They understand what is at stake.

“I would have a bigger issue with some of that if the referees weren’t on top of that, but there’s no reason to believe that they’re not.

“We want all of our guys to play with a real intensity, a real determination, but to play with emotion, not emotional. For the most part, we’re getting that.

“Cody certainly epitomizes that. He plays with some emotion. He plays with a lot of intensity, but you never look at Cody and think he is getting emotional about anything, which is good.”

How good? We're about to find out.


Are we getting so soft in America that a man can’t use the F-word on national television while putting on a mascot head without apologizing?

Apparently so.

ESPN, in its infinite wisdom, directed Lee Corso to apologize for blurting the Word That Shall Remain Unwritten during a College GameDay bit.

Lee, Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and former Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis were wrapping up a segment from Houston. The Cougars were about to play SMU and Corso was set to pick who he thought would win. He saw a megaphone that had SMU’s logo on it and shouted.

“How can you pick against SMU? Look at that one there –- red, white and blue!”

He picked up the megaphone and shouted “USA!”

Then he tossed the megaphone and picked up the Houston mascot head of Shasta the Cougar while saying, “Ah, (bleep) it!”

Fowler went face down onto his desk. Herbstreit pushed back from the desk as if concerned it would burst into flames. Lewis just laughed and applauded.

And then the whole thing went Internet viral. Corso later apologized on the air and said he would never use that word again.

But the video remains forever.


Did you think Michigan State was rubbing it in when it let senior offensive lineman Joel Foreman run the ball against the Hooisers?

It happened in the third quarter with the Spartans ahead something like 200-3. Foreman is 6-4 and 315 pounds. He’d never carried the ball before, but coach Mark Dantonio wanted to give him a chance because, well, why not? It was Senior Day, which means it was Foreman’s last ever home game.

Why not have some fun?

Foreman rushed for three yards, and later got the game ball. It was a moment he’ll likely never forget.

In fact, it was not rubbing it in. The Hoosiers have become everybody favorite patsy. The only reason why they didn’t get slaughtered at Ohio State is because the Buckeyes, with all the issues they’ve faced, including losing their quarterback and head coach to a tattoo scandal, aren’t very good.

If you don’t want offensive linemen running on you, play tough enough so it doesn’t happen. But, as we have seen through the course of this long, long season, toughness is not yet a Hoosier strength.

Will that change? There’s no guarantee when it comes to Cream ‘n Crimson football. Just because IU plays a lot of young guys now doesn’t mean they’ll become good veterans down the road.

The Hoosiers have a chance to wipe out some of the sting of this painful season by beating Purdue. It would give the Boilers a losing record and ruin their bowl hopes. It would bring a measure of pride to an Indiana program that badly needs it.

The Hoosiers have one last chance to get it right. We’ll see what they can do with it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Few IU Limits – Oladipo Stays Hot; Defend and Score Works

When it comes to defense, Victor Oladipo has his limits.

Bring on the point guards, the shooting guards, the small forwards, even the power forwards. But when it comes to centers …

“I don’t know about that,” he says. “Other than that, I’ll do whatever it takes.”

Oladipo is the 6-5, 215-pound sophomore who has emerged as Indiana’s best early player. That can change in a season in which so many Hoosiers are poised for big-time play, but for now Oladipo is the leading scorer, top defender and best dunker.

The defense isn’t a surprise. He was known for his prowess in that area while thriving at DeMatha High School in Maryland. He dominated then because of his physical skills. Now it takes so much more.

“When you got to college everybody is going to be as strong as you,” he said. “I learned I can’t gamble as much as I used to. I learned I have to stay solid and keep my man in front of me.”

He learned it well enough to get opposing teams’ best scorers. And if during a game somebody else gets hot, he’ll switch to them.

“That’s my job,” he said. “I have to guard the best player from the other team and stop him from scoring.”

Oladipo is a catalyst in IU’s improved defense. The coaches stressed it last year, but the Hoosiers weren’t mature enough to handle it. Now, they are.

“It comes down to our mentality,” Oladipo said. “Every day our first thing is defense. Defense will create out offense. That’s what we’ve been working on in practice.

“Coaches have put great emphasis on that. Not that they hand’t before, but they’ve been putting even more on defense and defense creating offense. That’s what we’ve been trying to do.”

It’s worked. IU is shooting 57.1 percent from the field, which ranks second in the nation. The Hoosiers have four players averaging in double figures in scoring. Three more average at least seven points.

IU scored 94 points against Evansville even though nobody took more than eight shots. Of their 33 baskets, 24 came via assists.

That’s impressive.

“The balancing act of how it’s turning out is really not by design,” coach Tom Crean said. “It’s not where we look at it and say, Let’s hope this guy gets X amount of shots and that guy gets this group of shots. No, it’s, Let’s play. Let’s see what we get out of our defense. Let’s get the ball moving.”

Eventually it moves to forward Cody Zeller in the post and from there, well, it’s anybody’s guess. Which is what it leaves defenses doing because the Hoosiers are evolving into a team that has scoring threats at every position. You lay off someone at your own risk.

“We’re heading there, there’s no doubt,” Crean said.

Last year against Evansville the Aces could pack in their defense because IU didn’t have enough perimeter weapons to loosen them up.

Not anymore.

“We’ve got to continue to improve at that pace for that to happen,” Crean said.

As for that whole better-offense-through-better-defense approach, the players have bought into it.

“It’s becoming more natural in every game we play,” Oladipo said. “We need to keep doing it.”

IU Basketball – Time to Get Excited? What’s Up With Jones?

So what do we make of this Indiana team that has crushed the likes of Stony Brook, Chattanooga and Evansville?

Is this really a team capable of NCAA tourney relevance?


The Hoosiers have shown consistency of effort. They defend well, push the pace and hit the open shot. They cut and pass with precision. They play with passion and purpose.

The fact they are burying teams they should bury is a good sign. Last year they struggled against mediocre teams, a sure indication of vulnerability.

Take, for instance, Purdue this season.

The Boilers are 3-0, but they barely beat High Point and Iona. A huge reason, besides both are solid teams, is that Purdue is struggling to make free throws. It is 17-for-39 in its last two games. If that doesn’t improve, it has no chance in the Big Ten.

The Hoosiers have shown no such vulnerability. They are not a powerhouse in the manner of, say, North Carolina, but the potential is obvious.

They do not play a brutal non-conference schedule like Michigan State. They face Butler, which is not the contender it was the last couple of years, and that game is at Assembly Hall. The real tests come back to back, with Notre Dame in Indianapolis as part of the Close the Gap Crossroads Classic and Kentucky in Assembly Hall.

Oh, yes, a Big Ten/ACC matchup at North Carolina State, a good but not great team.

This is, in almost every way, Tom Crean’s first real Indiana squad, a group that can play the game the way he wants it played.

If you’re an IU fan, it’s time to get excited.


Are you like us? Do you see Verdell Jones go 4-for-4 from three-point range against Evansville and think that’s one of the signs of the Mayan End of Days?

Are you, also like us, convinced that the Green Bay Packers only beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl because of a conspiracy that reached to the highest levels of government?

We digress.

Jones, Indiana’s senior guard, is a career 29-percent three-point shooter. Yet suddenly he looked like Steve Alford at Evansville’s brand new Ford Center. Jones hadn’t made four three-pointers in a game since he was a freshman.

In his first three seasons Jones made 58 three-pointers. He was 0-for-2 from beyond the arc in his first two games this year. Then he couldn’t miss.

The obvious reason, Crean said, was defense.


Crean pointed out that Jones had 10 pass deflections on defense, which reflected his aggressiveness in that area, which reflected that he was in tune to the flow of the game, which made everything better.

“His defensive intent from the beginning was outstanding and all of a sudden, he nails four 3s,” Crean said.

“When you've got guys really setting the tone for themselves and their teammates on the defensive end, it's amazing how many good things can happen on the offensive end."


Kevin Wilson needs football help. Okay, that’s not rock the world news, but work with us here.

Wilson needs good players physical enough and tough enough to handle Big Ten battles.

Specifically, he needs good defensive players because if you’ve seen the Hoosiers play defense this season, you know how far they have to go. They are last in the Big Ten in scoring defense (36.0 points), total defense (452.6 yards) and mental breakdowns (250,000).

So Wilson has gotten three junior college commitments recently, all of whom are defensive players.

No, that is not an accident. Wilson will lose two starting linebackers and three safeties, and he’s got to recruit for that.

Defensive backs Tregg Waters out of Arizona and Shaine Boyle out of California, have joined Kansas middle linebacker David Cooper as oral commitments to IU. Wilson had earlier gotten junior college linebacker commitments from Darrius Stroud and Jaccari Alexander.

Boyle had 57 tackles and three interceptions last season. He has 37 tackles, including 4.5 for loss, this season.

Wilson prefers high school players because they have four or sometimes five years in the program. Junior college guys usually just have two, but they can bring a mental and physical maturity to produce early impact.

When you’re in the early rebuilding stage, you look for whatever edge you can find.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hoosiers Hit the Road; Belcher Apologizes

IU faces a formidable task tonight when it plays at the University of Evansville.

Any time a major-conference school travels to a mid-major program, it’s a test. And the Aces have a new arena (11,000-seat Ford Center) and are fresh off an overtime victory there over Butler.

As you might have heard, Butler has been kind of decent the last couple of years.

Anyway, the Hoosiers have steamrolled the likes of Stony Brook and Chattanooga, but that was at Assembly Hall. They’ve started 2-0 for the fifth straight season, but again, that’s at Assembly Hall.

The road has not been kind to IU under coach Tom Crean. The players insist that was then, this is now. The Hoosiers have a much better team. They’ve got Cody Zeller playing to his hype, Victor Oladipo playing like an All-Big Ten force.

This will be a game and an atmosphere that will steel them for what they’ll face in the Big Ten. But if this is really a team poised to bust out of a three-year funk, it has to win.

“It will be a great challenge,” guard Jordan Hulls said. “We have done a good job thus far of making it about the task at hand and nothing more. Every year is a new year. If we play with the mindset we have thus far, we can be successful.

“We need to be at the top of our game for 40 minutes.”

IU has thrived with aggressive defense and fast-break offense. It’s going to have to shoot well and minimize the turnovers.

“We are going to have to be at our best defensively and force them to take tough shots,” coach Tom Crean said. “We have to have good movement and spacing on offense and attack the glass at both ends.”

As for the road woes:

“Winning on the road certainly is a step that this group of guys knows it needs if it hopes to reach our goals,” Crean said.

Bottom line -- this is a winnable game. IU needs to win it.


It took a couple of weeks, but Damarlo Belcher has finally provided some insight into his dismissal from the football team. It came via texts provided first to Justin Albers of the Indiana Daily Student, then to the Bloomington Herald Times.

It said:

“I’m sorry. I know I let a lot of people down, including myself. I take full responsibility for my actions because I could have went about them in a better way, but me and (coach Kevin) Wilson wasn’t seeing eye to eye on some things, but I respect his call. This is a lesson learned. I also want to say sorry to my teammates. I know I had a lot of young guys looking up to me and to my fans. I plan on finishing school and looking forward to training in a couple weeks to get ready for the next level.”

We still don’t know exactly what Belcher did. Coach Kevin Wilson booted him a couple of weeks ago for what was described as a violation of team rules.

Apparetnly Belcher never adapted to Wilson’s demands. He never bought into the every day intensity that was expected of everybody, certainly for a senior who was, at least on paper, IU’s best player.

Last year Belcher led the Big Ten with 78 catches. This year he had 25 in six games. Injuries limited him as did a suspension.

He decided to stay for his senior year, rather than leave early for the NFL as teammate and friend Tandon Doss did, to improve his draft stock. That didn’t happen.

At 6-5 and 215 pounds, Belcher has NFL-caliber size. He doesn’t have break-away speed. Is he physical enough and mentally tough enough to make it in the NFL, which put premiums on those attributes? He’ll have to prove that in the coming months.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Early or Not, Oladip and Zeller Rule; Moore Thrives

We know it’s early and that Indiana has a long way to go to prove its basketball struggles are over.

But the Hoosiers’ 2-0 start got an added boost when the Big Ten honored Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller. Oladipo was Big Ten player of the week. Zeller was conference freshman of the week.

Yeah, it’s a big deal.

All Oladipo did was average 18.5 points and 5.5 rebounds, shoot 72.2 percent and leap over tall buildings in a single bound.

Okay, it only seemed that way given the way Oladipo elevated on some of the dunks he delivered against Stony Brook and Chattanooga.

But the sophomore guard is WAY more than a guy who jams. He plays the kind of defense that canwin championships, and that has benefited his scoring.

Last season as a freshman he averaged 7.6 points and 3.8 rebounds. Coach Tom Crean has praised Oladipo’s work ethic .

It’s paying off.

“His defensive presence is creating all the offense,” Crean said. “He’s worked very hard on his offensive game. There’s no question about that. He’s one of the absolute most diligent, time-spent-in-gym guys I’ve ever been around in my coaching life. But his defense has created that offense.

“He’s scored 37 points in these first two games while guarding the other team’s first- or second-best player every minute,” Crean said. “He’s getting to the foul line. And you see his first step. When he gets it right, he’s hard to contain.

“But it starts with his defense.”

Zeller has lived up to the early hype. He averaged 11.5 points , 7.5 rebounds, 4.5 steals and 1.5 blocks in the two victories. But it’s his poise and awareness that has made the biggest impact on the Hoosiers. He draws double teams that opens the court for his teammates.

“That’s how we got open buckets, how Jordan (Hulls) got easy threes and I got layups and dunks,” Oladipo said after the Chattanooga win. “There’s a reason why we recruited him. I’m glad he’s here.”

Basketball life will get tougher, starting Wednesday at Evansville. A Crean-coached IU team has only won one true road game, and that was two years ago at Penn State. It’s won just twice away from Assembly Hall. But this is a new team with new potential.

History will not repeat itself. On Wednesday, the Hoosiers get a chance to prove it.


Daniel Moore has busted his behind for what seems forever for little playing time. There’s a reason, of course. Other guys are better. The 5-10, 165-pound senior guard from Carmel would have thrived at a smaller school, but that wasn’t what his heart told him to do. He wanted to be a Hoosier, so he walked on for the opportunity.

Chattanooga provided the chance for him to thrive, and he did. He hustled his way to four rebounds and a steal in 13 minutes.

And for those into trivia, in the time he’s played this season, IU has outscored its opponents 42-13.

Does that mean Moore should start over Jordan Hulls?

Are you nuts?

It does mean he’s making a contribution and that somebody doing stats has a lot of free time on his/her hands.

“My main role it to try to provide a spark off the bench,” he said. “Hopefully I can get a couple of steals and deflections, do what I can on the defensive side.”

For the record, Moore averages 44.9 percent from the field, 34.6 percent from three-point range and 71.8 percent from the line for his career. He also has 107 assists against 93 turnovers.

Yeah. He can provide a spark.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Zeller’s college debut a big hit

Cody Zeller got confused. That’s it. For a second, with all the buzz about IU’s newest recruiting class, maybe Zeller thought he was the second coming of Yogi Ferrell, the Hoosiers’ point guard of the future who can get steals and drive the length of the floor for baskets.

But no, there was Zeller, all 6-11 and 230 pounds of him, getting a steal, driving the down the court and getting the two-handed dunk.

The Assembly Hall crowd roared and the Hoosiers, already pummeling out-gunned Stony Brook, sent for the second-half jugular.

“I’ve done that a couple of times in highs school,” Zeller says. “It got the crowd into it. It got us going. I was just trying to make a play.”

Yeah, it’s good to be a Hoosier these days, especially when you’re Zeller and, at least for one season-opening day, you meet lofty expectations.

Sure, it meant taking a second-half shot to the lower abdomen, a flagant foul that got the Seawolves’ Danny Carter ejected once referees viewed the TV monitor and saw what he had down. They didn’t see it live, but they absolutely saw it when coach Tom Crean asked them to check the monitor.

Zeller downplayed it, saying he’d have to see it on film to really comment on it, but adding that it gave IU an advantage because Stony Brook lost a valuable inside player.

“They didn’t have as many big guys in there,” he said. “No. 23 (Dallis Joyner) was getting worn down. They had to bring in a couple guys we hadn’t seen on tape. It was a big help to the team.”

Zeller was a bigger help, especially in the second half, when he had 12 points and eight rebounds. That gave him a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, quite a college debut, although it didn’t surprise his teammates.

“It was outstanding, remarkable,” senior guard Verdell Jones said. “It’s rare to see a freshman do what he did today. They (Stony Brook) came right at him and instead of backing down, he came right back at them. That’s huge. Teams are going to come at him. If he keeps his head and keeps attacking them right back, it will be huge for us.”

The 6-11 Zeller arrived with a ton of expectations and hype. Yes, this was only one game and the opponent wasn’t, say, Ohio State, which comes to Assembly Hall on New Year’s Eve.

But it gave a public impression to what basically now has been private potential.

“What he did today was just the beginning,” forward Derek Elston said. “In the first half he was drawing two (defenders) and I heard a fan say, get him the ball inside. That’s what we’ve been harping on -- getting him the ball.

“Once we get find him in the post and we get things going, he causes so much confusion for the defense. They don’t know how to guard him. That’s what we need. He can finish. He went coast to coast. That opens up so much for the kid. He’s going to help us tremendously.”

He already has.


Even now, with the glow from signing perhaps the nation’s best recruiting class still bright, the quest continues, the sales pitch remains as upbeat as ever.

Indiana is where you want to be again.

Take assistant coach Steve McClain. He arrived a year or so ago, which means he missed out on the Hoosiers’ early recruiting drama, but not the message that has to continue to be sent. McClain mentions sophomores Will Sheehey and Victor Oladipo, who have gone from last year’s reserve after-thoughts to two of the team’s best players.

That improvement, McClain said, is proof that how the Hoosiers develop players works. It should impact the five Class of 2012 newcomers and other future recruits.

“Those guys have seen the progress of Victor and Will,” McClain said. “They’ve seen what the young guys in our program have done in nine months. They know that’s the development they’ll get.”

And now, so do you.


For those of you into Cream ‘n Crimson justice, Gary Harris’ Hamilton Southeastern football team got beat by Fort Wayne Snider in Class 5A regional action Friday night. His football career is over.

Yes, that’s the same Harris who committed to Michigan State a few days earlier.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Top Of The Heap -- IU Signs Powerhouse Basketball Class; Paterno Is Out

“The Movement” has come to Indiana basketball.

Hoosier coach Tom Crean has signed potentially the best class since Bob Knight landed the late 1980s group led by Calbert Cheaney. All those guys did was win a couple of Big Ten titles, reach a Final Four and earn a No. 1 ranking.

What will point guard Yogie Ferrell, combo guard Ron Patterson, small forward Jeremy Hollowell, power forward Hanner Perea and center Peter Jurkin do?

In time, we’ll know. For now, there’s hope and potential, and after three years of sanction-caused misery, that’s enough.

“We want to rebuild Indiana back to the No. 1 program in the nation,” Ferrell said.

Patterson said that the term, “The Movement,” is about hanging up banners and winning championships, that it means, “hard work, never let down, never give up.”

“We all know each other,” he said. “We know the good and the bad.”

Patterson has built a defensive reputation during his time at Indianapolis Broad Ripple. He said he will, “work hard, get quicker and the things I was doing bad, make them better.”

His high school coach, Scott Hicks, said, “Ron has done a great job and he’s reaping his rewards. He’s a treat to coach. IU is getting a great player and a quality young man.”

The key to the class is Ferrell because of his point guard position. It’s been years since IU has had a true point guard and that will be crucial, in these guard-driven times, to produce a championship team.

Ferrell said he is working on his leadership skills and being more vocal.

“Coach Crean wants me to take over the team,” he said. “That’s what he told me.”

Crean is set to talk later today about the class and what it means for a program on the rise. What does it mean?

One hell of a lot.


How did good men let this happen?

Joe Paterno was a football coaching legend. Tim Curley was one of the nation’s most respected athletic directors. Yet, somehow, their judgment was so clouded, so distorted, they allowed an alleged pedophile to have free reign in the athletic complex for years, even when they knew, or should have known, what he was capable of.

Yes, it speaks of moral failing, corrupted values or just plain stupidity. The Paterno camp suggested the coach didn’t really understand exactly what had happened a decade earlier, that he really did think it was just horsing around and not something far worse.

But maybe it more reflects the power of Jerry Sandusky, that he could seduce grown men with charm and lies just as he, allegedly, did young boys.

Sandusky destroyed lives. The innocent couldn’t have known or understood what he was doing. But Paterno and Curley had to know.

It made no sense to allow Sandusky to have access to Penn State facilities, given what had been seen and reported, and yet, they did, for years. At worst, it was a cover-up and a crime. At best, well, there is no best.

In time, perhaps, we’ll understand.

Perhaps we’ll understand why a graduate assistant, when stumbling upon what was, in essence, a rape in a shower, did not stop it, did not run to the police. Instead, he ran to his father, and then to Paterno and then let it go, becoming an assistant coach where he surely ran into Sandusky on occasion, and did nothing.

Paterno went to Curley, and then let it go.

Curley went to, well, he basically just let it go.

Evil seduces, manipulates, corrupts. It gets good people to do bad, and in a way so they don’t realize what they have done until it it too late.

Evil is not ugly like Voldemort but attractive like Ted Bundy, the serial killer who charmed his to multiple murders.

So Paterno is out, Curley is out, the Penn State president is out. A proud university is disgraced, a football program is gutted, a Hall of Fame reputation is tarnished.

Students rioted in State College in the aftermath of Paterno’s firing, which reportedly came with a messenger arriving at Paterno’s house, bearing a note that told the coach to call a number. He did and got a pair of Penn State board of trustee members who told him that after 46 years and 409 victories, he was no longer the Nittany Lions coach.

But through the sadness of it all, remember this -- it's about the children. Let the healing begin.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Penn State Tragedy; IU Basketball Recruiting Coup

If the allegations are true, evil visited central Pennsylvania. It came disguised, not as a demon or monster or some fictional horror depicted on page and screen, but as these things so often play out in reality, in the guise of a caring soul.

If allegations are true, young boys were stripped of their innocence and someone will pay. If the allegations are true, Jerry Sandusky ruined young lives, his own, and that of his friends under the charade of helping at-risk youths. Reports put the number of victims at 20, with no guarantee that is the end.

Penn State officials focus on their liability and stay silent. Huge lawsuits will be filed and ultimately won. Officials seek to minimize damage, not deliver truth. For a university that prided itself on doing things the right way, this is a disgrace.

Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno wanted to go public on Tuesday, but the university said no. So reporters, having flocked to the football complex to question him, swarmed his house and waited for a word that never really came. Students also gathered at his house, chanting support and encouragement for a man who has lived his life doing so much good for so many.

Support among the university's board of trustees appears to be eroding.

Paterno briefly appeared on his way to practice (the Nittany Lions host Nebraska in a big game dwarfed by bigger tragedy) and said little other than he wanted to talk, but couldn’t right now.

Paterno bears no apparent legal liability, but in the court of public opinion, his morality is under fire. What did he know, when did he know it and why didn’t he do anything to stop it? How could Sandusky be allowed to continue to work out at Penn State facilities when this kind of investigation was going on? Why didn’t anybody at the university check to see if children really were in danger, make their safety a priority?

Maybe it was just stupidity and blind loyality, Penn State officials refusing to believe that a man they thought was a friend and a good person who had done so many positive things for the program and university could really be a monster. Maybe they didn’t take the allegations seriously, didn’t consider the damage allegedly being done to the innocent. Maybe it was the human need to cover up sin, to protect their own and the university’s reputation, to keep it in house and preserve an image that was, it seems, a lie.

Paterno seemed determined to coach forever, a legacy of greatness and integrity and championships assured. Not anymore. Maybe his failing was keeping his faith in Sandusky and the chain of command, that the allegations couldn’t be true, that it was distortion and not fact, that the right thing to do was to let others in the university decide and pretend it didn’t happen.


In our society, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. What seems truth today may vanish amidst the complexities of our legal system.

And yet …

Evil visited central Pennsylvania, the sex abuse scandal widens, and we’ll all live with the consequences.


Today Indiana reaps the benefit of coach Tom Crean’s recruiting rampage. Five players from the Class of 2012 are expected to sign, giving the Hoosiers, depending on who you listen to, either the nation’s No. 1 or No. 2 class.

Point guard Yogi Ferrell, combo guard Ron Patterson, small forward Jeremy Hollowell, power forward Hanner Perea and center Peter Jurkin are set to join a program on the rise. All but Jurkin are ranked in the top 30 nationally at their positions. Ferrell, Perea and Hollowell are in the top seven at their positions.

Crean still awaits the decision of shooting guard Gary Harris. The Hamilton Southeastern standout, ranked No. 12 nationally by Scout.com, a national Internet recruiting service, is also considering Purdue, Michigan State and Kentucky. He’s expected to announce his decision by the end of the week. He averaged 18.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.8 steals last season for Hamilton Southeastern.

Yeah, it's a very big decision.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

IU Outlook – Rebound or Else; Loving Tom Pritchard; Football Motivator

If you want to play basketball for Indiana coach Tom Crean, you’d better rebound.

That’s the message he was pushing in the aftermath of the exhibition victory over Indianapolis, which was the final public preparation before Friday’s season opener against Stony Brook.

“As we look at our team moving forward, and it’s like I told our guys, you’ve got to have a lot of tools in your tool box. You’ve got to bring them out. One of the things that will be a separator on this team is efficiency in rebounding.

“One rebound every X amount of minutes is going to be really important. It’s taken time for our players to understand it’s not the minutes you play, but what you do in those minutes. The efficiency of those minutes. For so long the easiest thing to do at Indiana was to play in the games. That’s not it anymore.”

So now you know


You might have seen senior forward Tom Pritchard get all feisty with a University of Indianapolis player during Saturday’s exhibition and think, Wow, this is great. Pritchard is finally turning nasty.

Crean, however, had a different view.

“I don’t want that,” he said. “That’s not real hustle. I don’t want him to get into it with any guy. I addressed that with Tom.”

Pritchard has had a career-long knack for drawing fouls. His incident on Saturday resulted in a double technical, which was his second foul in three minutes. He didn’t play the rest of the half.

“We’ve had referee directors come into practice the last couple of days and they’re not going to mess around with that,” Crean said. “When those situations come up, say something to the ref. Say something to the coach. They can handle it or check the monitor if there’s a problem.

“I don’t want our guys getting into it. That’s not real toughness. Tom Pritchard is too valuable to get a technical. I won’t tolerate that.

“There will be a time and a place we have to stand up for ourselves. That wasn’t one of them.”

So now you know -- again.


Okay, did IU football coaches manufacture a little motivational drama to pump up the Hoosiers before they played Ohio State? And was that good or bad?

Ah, don’t you love it when we ask the questions and then provide the answers.

First, a little background.

Hoosier coaches distributed some bulletin board material for their players last week by posting some kind of story from some kind of Ohio media that suggested that the Buckeyes were treating playing IU like it was a bye week because the Hoosiers were so lousy.

The implication was that Ohio State players had said it, although it apparently came from sports writers for a Buckeye Internet website.

Anyway, it seemed to work. The Hoosiers were solid on offense against a solid, but not great, Ohio State defense. And IU’s defense did some hitting and made some plays, although it again gave up far too many big plays.

Still, it was improvement. When you’re 1-9, as Indiana is, improvement is a big deal. It likely won’t help when the Hoosiers travel to top-25 Michigan State in about 10 days (they have a bye this week), but it just be a difference maker against struggling Purdue, which got hammered at Wisconsin.

The bottom line -– there is hope that maybe, just maybe, IU is starting to build the foundation for a decent football program.

For now, hope is all Cream ‘n Crimson fans have.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hoosier Deep Throat and Gary Harris

The call came on a crisp, clear Hoosier night. Hoosier Deep Throat was ready to talk again about standout basketball recruit Gary Harris.

“Let’s meet at the saddest place on campus,” he said.

“Do you mean the math department?” we offered.

“No. Memorial Stadium. If you’ve seen those guys play football, you’ve seen sad at its saddest.”

We checked the clock. It was about to strike midnight. We figured the news was grim.

A gate near a side entrance to the North End Zone facility was ajar. We slipped inside. We heard scuffling near a shadow-covered corner, smelled the smoke and Tommy Hilfiger cologne, a new touch. The glowing end of a cigarette pierced the darkness, illuminating nothing but mystery.

“Can you sleep?” Hoosier Deep Throat said.

“Like a baby,” we said. “Why do you care?”

“I don’t care. I can’t sleep. I just wondered if it was just me, staying up thinking about what Harris is going to do, what I would do if I were him.”

“What would you do?” we asked.

Hoosier Deep Throat took a deep drag from the cigarette. The glowing ember trembled, as if the hand holding it had lost its steadiness.

“I’d play football. The kid is, what, 6-6 and 210 pounds? There are a million basketball players that size. There aren’t a million stud receivers that big. He should do what James Hardy did and …”

We remembered James Hardy briefly tried football and basketball at IU, before setting in on a record-breaking football career.

“I thought we were here to discuss Harris’ college choice to play basketball,” we said. “Football isn’t part of his deal. He’s made that clear. He's all in for basketball.”

“Nothing is clear when a teenage guy talks,” Deep Throat said. “Or did you forget that?”

He took another drag. “His Hamilton Southeastern team won a football sectional title. That might affect his college choice. Did you ever think about that?”

Lack of sleep was hitting Deep Throat hard, but the darkness kept us from seeing him.

“So what do you know about Harris’ college choice?” we asked. Harris is visiting Michigan State this weekend. It’s his fourth and final official visit. He previously had visited Purdue, Indiana and Kentucky.

Harris figures to name his school before Wednesday’s beginning of the week-long fall signing period. When he does, it will be big news. It will rival Cody Zeller’s announcement from a year ago when he picked Indiana.

“Kentucky doesn’t need Harris,” Deep Throat said. “The Wildcats have already gotten a commitment from this Archie Goodwin guy who plays the same shooting guard position, but who is higher rated than Harris. It's over kill.

“I know Coach Calipari is saying there’s room in his system for Harris and Goodwin, but that’s hogwash. I know Calipari seems to get everybody he wants, but it’s not a good fit.”

Deep Throat crushed out his cigarette, quickly lit another. His deep hacking echoed in the darkness.

"Not to be repetitive," we said, "but you really need to quit."

"Not to be repetitive," he said, "but I know."

For a moment, we were silent, basking in the state of speculation.

“Indiana already has the best class of 2012 and I don’t give a crap what Rivals.com or anybody says about Arizona’s class,” he said. “Coach Crean has lined up five guys for every spot on the floor. It’s a really, really good group. I don’t know that Crean needs Harris and …”

“Are you nuts?” we asked. “You don’t think IU needs a guy rated as the nation’s No. 3 shooting guard and No. 25 player overall for the Class of 2012? What is it that you’re smoking?”

Deep Throat ignored the comment. “The biggest need is at Purdue and Michigan State. And Spartans coach Tom Izzo already has beaten the Boilers’ Matt Painter to land Branden Dawson, who was supposed to be a lock for Purdue. Now he's a Spartan freshman.

“There’s a reason why the Spartans have been to six Final fours since 1999 and it’s not because of luck. Izzo might be the most likeable coach in America. Guarantee you Harris and his family like him.”

“Yeah,” we said, “but Harris’ mother is a former Purdue women’s basketball standout. His dad went to Purdue. Doesn’t that count for something?”

A dog howled. We noticed a full moon rising and shivered. What, we wondered, if it wasn’t a howling dog?

“Looks like I’m not the only one around here who is spooked,” Deep Throat said.

He crushed out this latest cigarette.

“It pains me to say it, but Michigan State has the best chance at getting Harris,” Deep Throat said. “Then Purdue. Maybe IU and Kentucky are tied for third, but really, if you’re not first, it doesn’t matter.”

Deep Throat sank back deeper into the shadows. After a minute, we realized he was gone. So was his pessimism. Until Harris says otherwise, the Hoosiers are are still very much in it.

That much, at least, we know.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Big Key for IU Defense – Talk, Talk, Talk

So here is Doug Mallory, a successful coach who grew up on football, watching Indiana play some of the worst defense imaginable.

Yeah, it's to sleep.

Mallory and co-defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler are trying to devise a defense capable of stopping Big Ten teams, or any teams. In the last four weeks, it hasn’t happened. There is no sign it will happen this Saturday, when the Hoosiers head to Ohio State for what looms as another beat down.

What the heck is going on?

Against Northwestern, the Hoosiers busted pass coverages. On one big Wildcat play, IU’s cornerback, nickelback and safety played two different coverages.

This is not what being multiple on defense is supposed to mean.

“We felt the call would have been good against that particular route,” Mallory said, “we just didn’t execute.”

That happens a lot. On another big Northwestern play, IU’s defensive end didn’t contain the quarterback and a linebacker came out of his coverage.

Another time IU called for a blitz that would have worked if the defensive lineman had gone through the right gap. He did not.

“Those are things you can’t do to be successful on defense,” Mallory said.

There are others, of course, such as being lousy on third downs and in the red zone, and not being able to make teams one dimensional by taking away something, anything.

“It’s not a good feeling,” Mallory said.

IU played seven true freshmen against Northwestern, some of that because of injuries to veteran players, some of it because they were the ones practicing the best.

In an ideal world, your best and most experienced players practice the best all the time. In this Cream ‘n Crimson world, it ain’t happening.

Mallory said two defensive players had winning performances against Northwestern and none of them were freshmen.

“They’ve got to continue to grow,” he said. “They’ve been thrown into action, so you have to live with some of the errors they’re making. You do everything you can to get them corrected.”

Mallory said it’s not a matter of just giving up on the veterans, going with the freshmen and building for the future.

“We’ll play the best kids available. We’ll play with who we have and who’s having the best week of practice.”

Youth and inexperience often means simplifying the game plan, which makes it easier for offenses to attack and succeed.

“You’ve got to be able to call a game and put kids in position where they can be successful,” Mallory said. “When you’ve got a confused team out there, when you have kids making mental mistakes, you’re probably doing too much. It’s not what we as a staff knows, it’s what the kids know and are able to execute.”

This is a mostly a veteran defensive staff with a reputation of good teachers. The lessons, however, aren’t being learned. In the end, that falls on the coaches.

“We pride ourselves on beging good teachers,” Mallory said. “We’ve got to get through it.”

The bottom line is not so much teaching as communicating.

Mallory calls plays from the press box. He relays the call to coaches on the sidelines, who flash the signals to the players. The players are also responsible for ensuring everyone knows the call. Most of the time, it works. Occassionally, it doesn’t, and the results are obvious.

“Those are things that have to be stressed to get everybody on the same page,” Mallory said.

Communication is made more difficult by teams that go no-huddle or call plays quickly.

“We’re stressing to the safeties that we’ve got to get a guy who’s a field general out there,” Mallory said. “We’ve got some young guys plaing and they’re not taking chare of the secondary and communicating their side of the field so we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”

“That’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job of getting them talking.”

Ohio State isn’t usually an uptempo team. It powers away with the run, mixing in the pass behind its freshman quarterback. If the Buckeyes can win just by running, they’ll do it. It’s up to IU to stop them.

Given the way this season has gone, the outlook isn’t promising.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Basketball versatility key for IU’s Etherington; Belcher is done

Austin Etherington has the rep of a shooter

Is he more than that?

The quick answer -- he’d better be if he wants to play in this new, more competitive world of deeper, more talented Indiana basketball.

Etherington is the 6-6 freshman forward out of Indianapolis Hamilton Heights. He and Remy Abell play in the shadows of their more heralded fellow freshman, Cody Zeller. That doesn’t mean they can’t contribute, but it does mean if they want to play, they must be more than a one-trick player.

Etherington knows it.

“I’m trying to prove I can play defense, that I can cut to the basket and create shots for everyone else. I’m working on that.”

In high school Etherington was known for his scoring. As a senior he averaged 18.6 points. As a junior it was 22.9 points. He demonstrated enough versatility to averge 8.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks as a senior, 7.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.4 blocks as a junior.

Heck, even as a sophomore he was a force to be reckoned with, averaging 15.7 points and 7.0 rebounds.

All this is nice, but can he help the Hoosiers this year?

The Haunted Hall of Hoops scrimmage gave an indication. He had 10 points and five rebounds in 27 minutes, which were the second-most minutes anyone played behind Will Sheehey’s 28. He also had a team-high five turnovers, which shows he remains a work in progress.

So what is his role?

“My role is everything –- a shooter, a guy who can play the 4 (power forward) if we want to go small.”

Like every freshman, Etherington battles to adjustment of college ball.

“It’s a different pace than high school. The whole game is at a speed I’ve never played before. I’ve had to get used to it. Now I’m getting in rhythm and finding my game. The first week of practice was the toughest. Now it’s getting better.”

That’s something all the Hoosiers are doing as they prepare for their Nov. 11 season opener against Stony Brook.

“We just have to keep playing together and get used to each other,” he said.


Senior receiver Damarlo Belcher has joined the ranks of a lot of veteran football players from the Bill Lynch coaching era:

He’s gone.

Belcher was kicked off the team for something called a “violation of team rules.” Exactly what he did remains a mystery, but indications are something happened late last week that caused his dismissal.

He was suspended for Saturday’s Northwestern loss. Coach Kevin Wilson didn’t discuss it after that game, and hasn’t said anything since.

The 6-5 Belcher returned for his senior season after considering leaving early to enter the NFL draft, in part because he and his girlfriend had a baby girl in December. He was on the Bilenikoff Award watch list for the nation’s top receivers.

A knee injury hurt his production this season. He missed two and a half games because of it. His totals of 25 catches for 286 yards and a touchdown were way below last season, when he led the Big Ten with 78 catches for 832 yards and four touchdowns. He will finish second in school history for career catches, two behind James Hardy’s 191-catch total.

Belcher is one of more than 30 players, including 19 scholarship players, to leave the program since Wilson took over. Five of those, including tailback Darius Willis, left because of injury. The rest left either by their choice or Wilson’s.

Also, sophomore receiver Duwyce Wilson is out for the season after hurting his knee catching a touchdown pass against Northwestern. Wilson said he’ll need surgery.