Wednesday, September 26, 2012

IU Defense, Ekeler Refocused for Northwestern

Indiana co-defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler cares. Never forget that. He’s a passionate coach who directs with emotion. He yells, jokes, jumps and drives.

He also looks in the mirror.

Ekeler sees the Ball State game ending, when the Cardinals drove for the winning field goal in the last 40 seconds, and takes responsibility.

“Football is a crazy game. It teaches you a lot of lessons. You pour everything you have into it. Last week we put everything we had into it and came up short. I’ll take 99 percent of the blame. I did a bad job at the end. It burns in you as a coach. It should. You invest so much. You’ve got to refocus.”

In an ideal world, IU would have had another game the next week to get over the defeat. Instead, the bye week provided extra time for the loss to linger.

“It would have been great to have been able to have another game, but that’s not the way the schedule played out,” he said. “We tried to use the time wisely.”

It’s all about accountability, you see. The coaches job is to put guys in position to make plays. It’s about getting guys to play to their ability, and then just a little bit more. It’s also about players doing their jobs, which is as much mental as physical.

IU’s often bend-and-break defense strives for change. It’s been striving for a generation, and giving up 41 points to Ball State indicates a lot more work is needed.

Ekeler sees signs the work is paying off.

“It’s about meshing as a group, bringing it all together,” he says. “I see a different focus and level of commitment and understanding. These guys are a lot of fun to coach.

“I like the resiliency we have, the leadership we have. We didn’t get the result we wanted (against Ball State), but it’s not due to a lack of fighting. That’s the difference I’ve noticed.

“Our guys enjoying going to practice. They enjoy getting better each day. That’s a good mixture.”

On Saturday IU opens Big Ten play against Northwestern. The Wildcats are 4-0 and features a run-heavy offense capable of producing big numbers. They scored 42 points against Syracuse and 38 against South Dakota State.

“They get the momentum and get rolling and you’ve got to put the brakes on them,” Ekeler says. “You’ve got to get them off schedule.

“We’ve got to handle their run game. That’s what it boils down to. Try to make teams one dimensional.”

Last year Indiana never stopped Northwestern, losing 59-38.

“They did a fantastic job schematically,” Ekeler says. “We’ve changed. They’ve changed. You can be in better defenses and make better calls, but it all boils down to you’ve got to get off blocks and you’ve got to make plays.”

This year’s Northwestern squad features a two-quarterback approach in Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian. Colter is a run-pass threat. Siemian is more of a passer.

“They both can throw,” Ekeler says. “One of them (Colter) is more athletic as far as mobility. When the pass isn’t there, he can tuck it and run. He makes a lot of plays with his feet. The other one (Siemian) has a stronger arm. He’s more of a drop-back quarterback. They’ve brought him into games when they’ve been down. He’s very good. They complement each other very well.”

The Wildcats also have an explosive tailback in Mark Venric. He’s only 5-8 and 180 pounds, but very fast. He’s rushed for 399 yards (averaging 5.5 yards a carry) and four touchdowns. He’s also caught 11 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown.

“He’s one of the fastest guys we’ll see all year,” Ekeler says. “He has sprinter’s speed. You have to know where he’s at all the time.

“Overall they’re very physical and very balanced. They make you be extremely balanced.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

IU Takes Aim at Vonleh; Houston Looking Good

So by now you know that Noah Vonleh, ranked as the nation’s No. 3 basketball player in the Class of 2014, is now in the Class of 2013.

That’s important because Indiana is right in the hunt for this 6-9, 222-pound forward from New Hampton Prep in New England. Of course, so are North Carolina, Kansas and Ohio State, among the 15 or so schools on his list, but powerhouse competition is the norm when dealing with a guy of this caliber.

Yes, he’s also likely a one-and-done guy, but that’s also the norm these days for elite players.

How important is Vonleh to IU coach Tom Crean? Well, Crean saw on him on the first of the evaluation period. And new assistant coach Kenny Johnson, who was hired in part because of his strong East Coast recruiting connections, is also very much in the recruiting process.

How good is Vonleh? Well, he earned MVP honors at the Adidas Nations, and thrived during summer travel ball. Vonleh, who originally “redshirted” after leaving Haverhill High School to attend New Hampton, said he in a release that he switched back to his original Class of 2013 because he believed he was now physically, academically and emotionally mature enough to handle going to college a year earlier.

Vonleh, who just recently turned 17, is not eligible to take official visits until early November when he gets the results of his first SAT. If he waits on those, he likely won’t sign until the spring.

IU already has commitments in the Class of 2013 from forwards Devin Davis, Collin Hartman and Luke Fischer, plus shooting guard Stanford Robinson. And it has been vigorously recruiting top-50 forward BeeJay Anya. He’s set to take an official visit to Indiana as part of the Oct. 20 Hoosier Hysteria.

Could this create another scholarship crunch down the road if all six guys sign? Perhaps, but as we know from the Ron Patterson experience, it all works out in the end.


Is IU tailback Stephen Houston ready for a Big Ten breakthrough? The signs point to it. After being criticized for not going hard enough during preseason camp and the first couple of weeks of the season, Houston kicked it in gear in time for Ball State. He rushed for 102 yards on just 12 carries, and the reason, coach Kevin Wilson said, starts with practice.

“(The week leading to the Ball State game) was the best week of practice he had,” Wilson said. He really showed up, expressing runs, playing behind his pads. Running with purpose. Not that he was poor before, but he wasn’t as intense. On Wednesday (before the Ball State game) I said to him all I had to do was watch. You’ve had a good week. He came out and popped a couple of runs.”

Houston will need to pop a couple of more Saturday, when IU (2-1) plays at Northwestern (4-0) in its Big Ten opener.

Last year, his first after coming to IU as a junior college transfer, Houston emerged during Big Ten play to rush for more than 800 yards.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Blame Recruiting on Big Ten Football Struggles

It’s the recruiting, stupid.

Want to know why the Big Ten stinks, by elite football standards, anyway? Blame lack of talent.

Yes, it seems strange to say that about a conference with such a gridiron tradition, but when you consider it has become fodder for Alabama, Oregon State, UCLA and, yes Hoosier fans, Ball State, well, the truth hurts.

The SEC, the Pac-12 and the Big 12 are recruiting better and the results have shown up during non-conference play and during the postseason.

In case you missed it, the SEC has won six straight national championships.

This season, Notre Dame dominated Michigan State at home, 20-3, and the Spartans figured to be the Big Ten’s best team. Alabama crushed Michigan. Oregon State beat Wisconsin. UCLA beat Nebraska. Iowa State beat Iowa.

Ohio State, which was lucky to beat California, is the highest ranked Big Ten team at No. 16, and that’s partially negated by it being ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA sanctions.

And then there’s Penn State, which figures to drop to MAC level talent due to its NCAA sanctions over the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Ohio State (3-0), Northwestern (3-0) and Minnesota (3-0) are the only remaining undefeated Big Ten teams, and this is no murderers’ row in the manner of the SEC -- Alabama (3-0), LSU (3-0), Georgia (3-0) and South Carolina (3-0) -- or the Pac-12 -- Oregon (3-0), Stanford (3-0) and UCLA (3-0).

The Big Ten is 4-8 against major conference teams and Notre Dame. Northwestern has beaten three teams from major conferences -- Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College. It almost certainly will be 4-0 when it hosts IU on Sept.29 (no way it loses to South Dakota on Saturday).

But we digress.

You could argue this is the worst the Big Ten has ever been, even though, with 12 teams, including traditional powers Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska, this is the biggest it’s ever been thanks to expansion.

"I know (the perception) is out there," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "I heard it when I turned on ESPN or any other channel.

"There's one answer and that's to go win those non-conference games. It's not because of a lack of players or a lack of coaching. They just have to find a way to close the deal."

Michigan (2-1) will get a chance to close the deal against No. 11 Notre Dame (3-0) on Saturday. The Irish already have beaten Michigan State and Purdue of the Big Ten.

"People are going to make comments based on their own opinions," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "Obviously, if we want to change that, we have to do something about it."

Better talent will make that easier. How is the Big Ten doing in recruiting? If you look at the team rankings for the Class of 2013 from, a national Internet recruiting service, Michigan has the nation’s No. 2 class. Ohio State is at No. 9. Illinois is at No. 25.

The rest of the top 25 is loaded with SEC and Pac-12 teams. USC is No. 1. LSU is No. 3. Florida is No. 5. Alabama is No. 6. Georgia is No. 7. Auburn is No. 8. Texas A&M (now in the SEC) is No. 10.

Notre Dame, which is still independent in football and is in the ACC otherwise, is at No. 4.

A lot can still change before February’s signing day. Perhaps more Big Ten teams will crack the top-25.


Here’s the bottom line -- if the Big Ten wants to be considered an elite conference, it has to play like it. Tradition is irrelevant. It has to beat the good teams. It has to dominate bowl games. It has to win a national championship again.

And it starts with better recruiting.

D.J. White Seeking NBA Satisfaction

So what do you do if you’re D.J. White, you’re coming off the best season of your career and you remain an unsigned free agent with NBA camps set to open in a few weeks?

You visit teams, work out and hope that somebody gives you a chance.

If not, well, there’s always the overseas option for the former Indiana standout.

“Hopefully I’ll know my future in a couple of weeks,” he says. “I have a couple of options. Basically, I want to be in a position to succeed. Hopefully, I’ll figure it out soon.”

White, a 6-9, 235-pound forward/center, has played four NBA seasons with a career average of 6.3 points and 3.4 rebounds. Last season, for Charlotte, he played a career-high 58 games and set career highs for scoring (6.8 points) and rebounding (3.6).

That’s the good news. The bad news was he played for a team that only won eight games and set a NBA record for futility. His contract expired after the season and he wasn’t resigned.

“It was tough,” he says. “All I could do was control my attitude and my effort. I got to play a lot, more than I had in my previous years.”

He paused.

“We didn’t have the best of years,” he says with a laugh. He can laugh about it now, although it wasn’t funny going through it.

“I don’t wish that on anybody. It was a learning experience. What can you do? You just continue to do the best you can every day.”

White was a first-round pick in 2008, taken No. 29 by the Detroit Pistons, but quickly traded to the Seattle Supersonics (which is now the Oklahoma City Thunder).

His rookie season was delayed because of jaw surgery that sidelined him for five months. He started with the NBA’s D-League and the Tulsa 66ers before returning to Oklahoma City. He played in seven games and averaged 8.9 points and 4.6 rebounds.

He was a reserve for two more years with Oklahoma City before playing the next two seasons with Charlotte.

“I’ve had an OK career,” he says. “There are still some things I want to accomplish. I’m far from being satisfied. I’ve had some ups and downs, but that’s part of life. I’ll get through it.”

White played at IU from 2004 to 2008 and was coached by Mike Davis and Kelvin Sampson. He led the team in blocks three times (six times he blocked as many as five shots in a game) and ranks third all-time with 198. Jeff Newton is first with 227. Alan Henderson is next with 213.

White is 10th in school history with 748 rebounds. He is 16th with 1,447 career points. As a senior he averaged 17.4 points and 10.3 rebounds, but that was Sampson’s last season, when NCAA violations ruined what had been a strong start and led to sanctions that rocked the program. Current coach Tom Crean finally got the program back to elite status last season.

What did he learn from his IU experience?

“Just no matter what circumstances you’re in, keep going and you can overcome them. I went through two coaching changes. It wasn’t in my control. All I could control was my attitude and effort. That’s what I’ve taken into what I do now.”

IU’s preseason No. 1 ranking and national championship contention status leaves White impressed.

“I’m happy for them,” he says. “When I left a lot of different things happened, but Coach Crean and his staff did a good job of recruiting. Christan (Watford) and those guys were put in a tough situation, but they stuck it out. Look at them now. They made it to the Sweet 16 last year and are preseason No. 1. Hopefully they can build on that success for next year.”

White, who lives in Indianapolis during the off-season, tries to make it back to IU whenever his schedule allows. He was part of last month’s Pro Camp at IU. His former Indiana teammate and current NBA player, Eric Gordon, also returns as often as possible.

“The program was good to us, so why not give back?” he says. “We both live in Indy in the off-season. We both work out together. We try to come down as much as we can.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

IU Football Bye Week Boosts Recruiting

Kevin Wilson isn’t about to miss a chance to boost Indiana’s football recruiting. It is, in the end, the only way he’s going to get the program winning.

So this bye week, coming in mid-September, is a good thing. Why? Because it helps Wilson and his staff get an early jump on recruiting. They will be on the road seeing players and games all over the Midwest, and beyond.

“(With an early bye week) you get better recruiting,” Wilson said. “I don’t know if I want (a bye week) on Week 1 or Week 2, but Week 4 or 5 or 6 is ideal.

“We still got next week to finish Northwestern. You’re not all-hours. You’re getting more recruiting time during the day. You’re getting more time to catch up with kids and coaches. Even your young players like your 2014 recruits. You’re reaching out to their coach, Facebooking those kids or seeing how they’re doing.

"We’ll get a chance to go out two days recruiting. We’ll practice (Wednesday) morning and a lot of (assistant coaches) will leave. They will be situated so Thursday morning everyone except myself and Coach (Seth) Littrell and Coach (Doug) Mallory will be gone Wednesday afternoon, so they’ll get two full days of recruiting. Coach Littrell and Coach Mallory and myself will go out for one day Friday.

“We get 42 recruiting days, so we’ll get 17 opportunities to see kids, and that’s a big deal.”

IU has 10 commitments and might double that total by the time everything is settled in February. One game likely to get the coaches’ attention is the Friday night matchup between Indianapolis Ben Davis, which has four-star defensive back and Hoosier commit Antonio Allen, against Terre Haute South and its four-star quarterback and Purdue commit Danny Etling.

Wilson also said the bye comes at a good time to give the players rest. They’ve been pushing hard since the summer.

“We’ve worked hard so we can take a little bit off. We’re not running those kids to death.”


So if you were the head coach at Indiana, who would you start at quarterback when the Hoosiers return to the field Sept. 29 with their Big Ten opener at Northwestern?

Would you go with junior college Cam Coffman, who was solid in the first half, not so much in the second before suffering a hip pointer and leaving the game?

Or would you try true freshman Nate Sudfeld, who earned co-Big Ten freshman of the week honors with his fourth-quarter heroics that included 172 passing yards and two touchdowns?

For Wilson, it’s a non issue right now. Coffman is the starter and will stay that way unless his hip pointer forces a change.

“Right now he is,” Wilson said. “Unless, again, this thing just nags. Our thought initially was ‘Just give it a few days.’ I even told him, just because Nate got his little award and had two nice touchdowns, don’t come back before your ready and make this a three- or four-week hip deal.

“Let’s get it quiet, get it right, move forward. He’s out there (in practice) getting every play behind. He’s just not full tilt pushing off yet. We’ll see. We’ll get him checked out here later. We’ll see as we move forward. We’ll decide (today) and Thursday how much he needs to do. It will be our trainer’s call. Will it be best to take the whole week on the low key or does he need the reps?”

Practice reps are big for Sudfeld, who was looking at a redshirt season until starter Tre Roberson’s season-ending broken leg propelled him into the picture. He got a lot of work last week before the Ball State game and, with Coffman out, is getting “80 to 85 percent” of the reps now.

“Every rep that Nate gets is a positive for Nate,” Wilson said. “We’re comfortable with him right now. Cam’s done nothing to not warrant it. Nate’s getting better every day and that’s a great situation.

“They’re both very calm kids, they’re both reasonably good, and that’s why there was a competition. It wasn’t nothing against Tre because Tre is going to be OK and really good, but those other guys are good and we’re fortunate to have those guys. I thought they did well. They need to do better, but I thought they did well.”

Oh, in case you’re wondering, freshman walk-ons Corey Babb and David Nelson are in the picture for the No. 3 quarterback.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

On IU Football, the Quarterbacks and Waka Flocka

Today’s take-a-good-look-in-the mirror moment comes courtesy of Indiana football coach Kevin Wilson. He’s a straight shooter not afraid to tick a few people off if they can’t handle it.

Take, for instance, the deeper meaning of the 41-39, last-second Ball State loss. The Hoosiers (2-1) have lost three straight to their smaller rivals, something that should never, ever happen.

Wilson took responsibility for the defeat, especially for the lousy second-half performance that, except for the final four minutes, showcased Ball State dominance. He got on himself and his coaches about poor halftime adjustments and  took a few shots at the media, as well.

Wilson said, in so many words, that we in the media smirk and make fun of the Indiana program; that we don’t see the improvement and the change of attitude that is occurring; that this program and these players will learn how to win.

That we are, in essence, too cynical.

Imagine that.

Cynical sports writers.

The problem is, we’ve been here before. A never-ending series of IU football coaches have talked about change and improvement and pots of gold at the end of the football rainbow. It rarely happens, and never lasts.

Bill Lynch did it once -- going to the Insight Bowl in 2007 -- while building on Terry Hoeppner’s foundation. Bill Mallory did it six times in an eight-year span from the late 1980s to mid 1990s. Given the program’s consistent mediocrity, that has to rank as one of the more impressive coaching achievements of the 20th Century. Bo McMillen had a run of success when the Wizard of Oz was cutting edge movie technology, an era that is as similar to today’s challenges as Lawrence Welk’s music is from Waka Flocka’s.

Who’s Lawrence Welk?

Can we name ONE Waka Flocka song?

Don’t distract us.

Anyway, Wilson has more and better resources than any IU coach before him. He has more money, better facilities, more strength coaches, a nutrition expert and the ability to send injured players anywhere in the world for the latest and best medical procedures. The state produces better high school players than ever before. The academic support program ensures that all athletes can maximize their educational opportunities as well as their athletic potential. Memorial Stadium is a great place to watch a game, especially at night, when it is a showcase for all things Cream ‘n Crimson. Patience is critical because these Hoosiers are better and Wilson's background (success at every stop) suggests he can get it done.

If ever there was an opportunity for the Hoosiers to become a consistently successful program, this is it.
It all comes down to one thing – winning (and doing it the right way).

Everything else, is just hot air.


For the record, there is no IU quarterback controversy. Wilson didn’t pull Cam Coffman in the fourth quarter against Ball State because he didn’t like the junior college transfer’s performance of suddenly became possessed by the spirit of Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly.

Coffman, Wilson said, suffered a second-half hip pointer. He couldn’t push off and get the necessary velocity on his throws. So in came true freshman Nate Sudfeld, and if he isn’t in league with Peyton Manning quite yet, he was solid in nearly directing a stunning rally over Ball State.

Sudfeld was 13-for-20 for 172 yards and two touchdowns, all in the fourth quarter. Granted, the TD pass to Cody Latimer was as easy a throw as you’ll see at the major college level. Latimer was wide, wide open because of a busted coverage.

But that misses the point, which is Sudfeld was calm, aware and in control.

"I felt comfortable, very comfortable, with the play calls during the week," Sudfeld said. "Coach Wilson gave us a list and said what do you like on third-and-long, what do you like in different situations. He just kept calling plays and I felt good about them. I knew the receivers would make plays, the line was giving me some time, so I just felt comfortable. I felt like I had been out there before."

Sudfeld, who was originally set to redshirt, played a little bit in the fourth quarter of last week’s blowout win over Massachusetts. He said that helped prepare him for his Ball State opportunity.

"I think it did help just the first time going in thinking I'm actually in a college game and (Saturday) I was ready," Sudfeld said. "It helped me get my feet wet just a little bit. But actually playing more (against Ball State), I think that helped out a lot, too."

After the game Wilson said Coffman's injury was not serious and he expects him to fine for the game against Northwestern in two weeks.

We’ll need both of those guys,” Wilson said.

Waka Flocka couldn’t have rapped it any better.

Friday, September 14, 2012

IU Needs to ‘Man Up’ Against Ball State

To understand how Indiana can, make that SHOULD, beat Ball State, it’s important to understand that Carl Weathers got robbed out of an Academy Award.

Yes, we’ll explain that.

Back in the early 1980s, Sylvester Stallone was making millions off his Rocky movies. In Rocky III, due to a series of unfortunate events, Apollo Creed (played by Mr. Weathers) became his manager as Rocky prepared to fight Mr. T, known in the movie as Clubber Lang.

During the climactic fight, Rocky was crying about how strong Clubber Lang was, that he was too tough to beat. In the scene that should have won Weathers the Oscar, he delivered this memorable piece of advice:

“He’s just a man, Rocky. He’s just a man. Be more man than him. Be more man than him!”

Shockingly, somebody else got the Oscar that year, probably Robert DeNiro for Raging Bull, but that misses the point that for the Hoosiers to win Saturday night, they have to be more men than the Cardinals.

Specifically, the offensive and defensive lines have to play like they belong in the Big Ten, and not on the roster of, say, Savannah State.

After almost two years in coach Kevin Wilson’s strength training program, devised and implemented by strength coach Mark Hill, the Hoosiers should be strong enough, bulky enough and fit enough to deal with Ball State.

Of course, because sometimes the Hoosiers play true freshmen at some of the line positions -- can you say Jason Spriggs and Dan Feeney? -- the strength training longevity takes a hit.

Still, there are no excuses. Ball State has beaten IU two straight times. It dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball last season at Indy’s Lucas Oil Stadium. That can’t happen again.

Well, technically it can. The Cardinals have one of the nation’s most veteran offensive lines with lots of weight and strength, which has helped produce one of the nation’s top rushing attacks. The defensive line has a similar background, and it’s boosted by the arrival of former Ohio State defensive end Jonathon Newsome.

The Cardinals were battle tested -- as Indiana hasn't been -- in a loss at powerhouse Clemson last Saturday. They won’t be intimidated.

No matter. Ball State (1-1) is no Alabama. If IU wants to show progress in Wilson’s second year, and it does, it has to win this game.

Don’t be surprised if victory comes through the air. Ball State ranks 101st in the country in pass defense, allowing 279 yards a game. This is great news for quarterback Cam Coffman. Sure, the junior college transfer is about to start (assuming he didn’t screw it up with a poor week of practice) his first ever major college game in the wake of Tre Roberson’s season-ending broken leg, but he’s a calm, poised guy with a high degree of accuracy.

Coffman is very capable of leading the Hoosiers to a victory and a 3-0 start heading into the bye week.

Here’s the reality -- if they can't beat Ball State at home, it's going to be another long, painful season in the Big Ten.


Dan Dakich created a fire storm on his Indianapolis radio show Friday afternoon by saying that, according to a source, elite recruit Trey Lyles visited Kentucky in late July or early August while he was still committed to Indiana.

The visit came during a dead period and, if true, would be a NCAA rules violation -- if he met with UK coaches. If he just toured the campus and had no communication with the coaches, it was no big deal. There also was an implication that “somebody” from the Lyles camp (as in his father, Tom) was interested in a college assistant coaching job -- as in IU -- tied to Trey’s recruiting. In other words, if you want Trey, you have to hire me.

Lyles father denied it to’s Jeff Rabjohns and to the Indy Star’s Kyle Neddenrip. He told them the first time his son had visited the Kentucky campus was in early September.

Dakich never identified his source. He also never said Kentucky coaches, in particular John Calipari, cheated. In fact, he said he didn’t think Calipari was cheating. He also never said anything about a violation of the dead period rule.

Still, his comments about Lyles, if wrong, could add complexities to his life. If he’s right, well, expect even more publicity for what is already a VERY popular radio show.

Trey Lyles, in case you’ve forgotten, is a top-10 player in the Class of 2014. He’s a 6-9 forward with guard skills. He committed to Indiana before high school age, then backed off that commitment in August when his ranking soared. He said he wanted to enjoy the recruiting experience, which is his right. Cody Zeller and Gary Harris waited until October of their high school senior years before announcing a decision. They wanted to make sure it was the right one. Lyles wants to do the same thing. Again, as is his right.

Still, the de-commitment made a lot of IU fans unhappy. Rumors flew, as they always do in situations like this, that something wasn’t right. Evil lurked in the shadows.

Through it all, Lyles reportedly remains interested in IU. A ton of big-time programs have now offered him, including Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Florida, Butler, Ohio State and Stanford.

Coaches from many of those schools watched Lyles workout at Indianapolis Tech High School earlier this week.

Yes, it's going to be an interesting recruiting process.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

On IU’s QB Plans; Kofi Hughes, Part II; Big Ten and Notre Dame

So what do we make of IU’s long-term quarterback plans now that Tre Roberson is out for the season, but will return, thanks to a medical redshirt, with three years of eligibility remaining?

Well, it creates intrigue, and as you know, we at Hoosier Hoopla love intrigue.

The original plan was to play Roberson, use junior college transfer Cam Coffman (pictured) as the backup and redshirt freshman Nate Sudfeld. That would have meant that Roberson and Coffman would move on after two more seasons, and Sudfeld would have his final two years as the undisputed No. 1 quarterback.

All that changed when Roberson broke his leg last Saturday against Massachusetts. IU was forced to burn Sudfeld’s redshirt status. That means, he and Roberson will have three years of eligibility remaining after this season.

What makes this significant is that Hoosier coaches are VERY high on Sudfeld. At 6-5 and 218 pounds, he might have pro potential. The 6-foot, 190-pound Roberson also might have pro potential, although perhaps not as quarterback.

Does all this create playing problems for the future?

Not really. Coach Kevin Wilson said he could still redshirt Sudfeld in the future to create separation between Sudfeld and Roberson. Besides, Wilson added, the competition will make everybody better.

“It is what it is,” Wilson said. “To me, I think long-term, it will be a great opportunity to develop Tre even further. You might have considered redshirting Nate Sudfeld, but this happened at Oklahoma one year. We had an injury. We had to pull a redshirt off of a guy. We played him and then the following year we redshirted him and got his year back to balance it out.

“Now, you’ll have Nate, might have been redshirted, might not have. Potentially, you’ve got Sudfeld and Tre in the same class. There’s a redshirt year still coming for Cam Coffman if you want it. Now that Nate’s played, there’s redshirt years for him as well.

“There are certain schools that like to play more than one quarterback. I typically don’t like to, but I think you have to have two or three ready. My thought the other day too, when Tre got hurt, and you knew his season was over, well, we’re gonna need more than Cameron to get through the year, so let’s go ahead and play Nate. To me what that does for Nate, the more he plays this year, the more excited he’ll be, the better he’ll prepare. Now he’s going to be a sophomore. It is what it is.

“They’ll space it out. It won’t affect recruiting. We have those three guys. We need one more (quarterback). We need a fourth. We’ll keep building and go from there. The negative is we don’t have Tre for this week and this season. The positive, we’ve got all of those guys now for the remainder of this year, and for three or four more years, and we’ve got Tre Roberson for (three) more years.”

For Saturday night’s home game against Ball State, Indiana has Coffman and Sudfeld and, to be blunt, a bunch of other guys you don’t want to see playing quarterback for the Hoosiers. They might be wonderful people, might go on to be great fathers and husbands and workers. They might contribute greatly to society, perhaps by marrying Kim Kardashian and getting her out of the tabloids once and for all.

But you don’t want to see them in a game.


For some, it seems a no-brainer. Put receiver Kofi Hughes into the quarterback mix as the No. 3 guy. He was a very good high school quarterback at Indianapolis Cathedral who brings the kind of athleticism to the position IU lost when Roberson went down.

Hughes played a little bit of quarterback out of the Wildcat formation last year, but all he did was run.

Wilson didn’t sound enthused about the idea when asked.

“As a Wildcat guy, but then (defenses) would just put 10 guys up there with butcher knives and you run it three plays and punt.”

Yes, that seems a little extreme, but then Wilson had more to say. He talked about how IU has allowed just one sack in two games, that quarterbacks haven’t taken many hits, and that Roberson’s injury was “a freak deal.”

“We’re going to protect the quarterback. That’s why Ball State will come after us. There will be some great Big Ten teams that will come after us, but we’re not just going to put (the quarterback) on an island, either.

“Injuries are part of the game. You’ve got to move on. We always need a third center; we need a third punt returner; we need a third quarterback. But you don’t want to get to the third quarterback. We’ll talk more positive and look forward to how well Cam and Nate are going to play.”


By now you’ve seen the college football landscape got rocked again with Notre Dame’s decision to bolt the Big East and join the ACC. It will cost the Irish $5 million as Big East severance. For some schools, say everybody’s favorite football patsy, Savannah State, that would be serious cash. For Notre Dame, it’s barely an inconvenience.

The Irish will remain independent in football. However, they have agreed to play five ACC games a year. This is an absolutely great compromise. Both sides get what they want, and are better for it.

While the Big Ten downplayed it, this was a big blow. The Big Ten has long sought to add the Irish, who would have joined the conference as long as they remained a football independent. Big Ten officials said, in essence, no way. It’s all or nothing.

So it was nothing.

A cynic would say, hey, that’s the same deal IU got with Kentucky in basketball. It got Central Connecticut State in Assembly Hall rather than the Wildcats in an epic showdown at Indy’s Lucas Oil Stadium that would have generated much needed more millions of dollars.

See, we told you we liked intrigue.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Could Kofi Hughes be IU’s No. 3 QB?

Just when you thought you know the state of Indiana’s quarterbacks, we offer this bit of intrigue:

Is receiver Kofi Hughes set to be the Hoosiers’ third quarterback?

It could happen. With Cam Coffman and Nate Sudfeld holding onto the top two spots on the depth chart in the wake of Tre Roberson’s season-ending broken leg (he’s already had surgery and is looking at a five to six-month recovery, which might get him back in time for spring practice), IU is left with a bunch of walk-ons.

Hughes, meanwhile, was a very good high school quarterback at Indianapolis Cathedral. He also played some Wildcat quarterback for IU last season.

“Kofi could take snaps at that position,” offensive coordinator Seth Littrell said. “We’ll find out. We’ll see. We have other guys on the roster. We have to get other guys ready at that position.”

Those “other guys” are walk-on freshmen Nate Boudreau, David Nelson and Corey Babb. Let’s just say it would not be ideal to have a freshman walk-on running your offense.

Here’s what coach Kevin Wilson had to say about that during Monday night’s radio show:

“After that we go to some walk-ons,” Wilson said. “We had some guys bail out on us. It is what it is. We’re fortunate to get two quality guys. Our next guy would be Corey Babb, who’s a very talented, big, 6-5, 225-pound kid who played at Cathedral. Strong-armed kid. He’s green as can be as a freshman. Not quite as polished as Nate. Probably the strongest arm as we have, but not as polished in running our system yet. He’s probably third. Then Nate Bodreau.”

The 6-2, 207-pound Hughes was the 2009 Gatorade Indiana Football Player of the Year after his senior season at Cathedral. He threw for 1,584 yards, 19 touchdowns and four interceptions that season. He also rushed for 1,552 yards and 22 TDs. He started for Cathedral’s 2008 state title team.

Hughes has played two years at receiver for IU. He caught 35 passes for 536 yards and three touchdowns last season. He also rushed for 162 yards.

Wilson used his radio show to emphasize that Coffman is the starter, but that’s contingent on the junior college transfer having a strong week of practice. Sudfeld, a true freshman from California, is very much in the mix.

“Cam’s the one on paper, but he needs to have a good week,” Wilson said. “He needs to play well because the other guy’s a good player. We’re not gonna have revolving doors, but in building a program, a beautiful word is called competition. It’s been a foreign thing around here. That’s one of the problems. Guys feel entitlement. ‘Hey, it’s my time.’ Hey, it’s his time to answer the call.

“We’ll see if (Coffman is) ready to answer the call. I believe he is. We’ve got a lot of confidence in him. He’ll do some things probably as well or better than Tre. There’s some things that Tre can do those other guys can’t. It’s a little different style of play, but we won’t change the offense. Some things will be emphasized. Certain throws he likes, certain things he does or doesn’t.”

As far as Roberson, Wilson said Roberson’s mother went to the Massachusetts hospital where Roberson had his surgery, and that Roberson is set to return to Indiana on Wednesday.

“He had a clean break about halfway between the ankle and knee, both the (tibia and fibula),” Wilson said. “It wasn’t a compound fracture, but a clean break. It’s one of those, the way they do it now, they put one of those titanium rods in there. He was at a great hospital. Supposedly the surgeries went well. It will be one of those pushing five, six month recoveries. He’ll miss this year, and playing only two games, he’ll get a medical year.”

Wilson also insisted losing Roberson doesn’t mean the Hoosiers can’t be successful this season.

“It’s just a tough deal for Tre, but at the same time, he was a quarterback who had won one game and was winning one quarter,” Wilson said. “I had a Heisman Trophy quarterback a few years ago (Sam Bradford) that got hurt in Game One. He’s already talked about how (Robert Griffin III, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor) broke an ankle his sophomore year and came back and had a good career. He’s got high goals high standards. He’s a special kid. He’s gonna be a great Hoosier. We’ll just have him for three years.

“As our team, we’re a band of brothers. We gotta rally up and keep moving forward. Everyone around thinks the sky is falling. It was a beautiful day. We had a great practice today. We’re showing up at 8 o’clock (on Saturday) and playing Ball State.”

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Coffman Can Thrive as IU Quarterback

Cam Coffman is no Tre Roberson. Let’s make that clear. That doesn’t mean he can’t be effective as Indiana’s starting quarterback. That also is clear.

IU coach Kevin Wilson’s offense is quarterback friendly if that quarterback is accurate and smart and well prepared. Coffman needs to be living in the film room for the rest of the semester.

Yes, he has classes and, one assumes, a social life. Well, forget that. Now the sophomore and junior college transfer is a starting Big Ten quarterback. A lot goes into that, and that has to be his all-consuming passion.

If not, then it won’t go well.

But the, given Roberson’s season-ending broken leg suffered in Saturday’s blow-out win over Massachusetts, it already isn’t going well.

For the next couple of weeks, Coffman won’t face Big Ten competition, and that gives him a break, but not much of one. The Hoosiers have Ball State on Saturday, and if you pay attention to the record books, you’ll see the Cardinals have won the last two meetings.

This is the next-man-up process that is so much a part of sports. One person’s bad break (Roberson’s broken leg was very bad) is another’s opportunity.

Roberson was a dual-threat guy who had dramatically improved his accuracy and leadership skills. Coffman isn’t at that level, but he’s not a statue, either.

Last year, Coffman led Arizona Western Community College to the JUCO national title game. He threw for 2,444 yards, 21 touchdowns and six interceptions while completing 61.4 percent of his passes. In the title game, he throw for 291 yards and four TDs.

As a high school senior in Missouri, Coffman threw for 3,300 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also rushed for 680 yards and 8 TDs.

There is a ton of athleticism in his family. His father, Paul, was a good tight end at Kansas State who later played for the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs. His brother, Chase, was a tight end at Missouri and then for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals. Another brother, Carson, was a quarterback at Kansas State.

Then there’s true freshman Nate Sudfeld. He was looking at a redshirt season until Roberson’s injury. Then IU got him some fourth-quarter action against Massachusetts to help prepare him in case he moves to No. 1 on the depth chart.

The 6-5, 215-pound Sudfeld was an all-state performer in California last season. He threw for 2,332 yards and 31 TDs with just six interceptions. He was rated the No. 14 quarterback in the Class of 2012 and the No. 23 prospect in California overall.

What does that mean for college?

Basically, he has potential. Like Coffman, he has a lot of film study in his future.

Coffman played just over a half against Massachusetts and finished 16-for-22 for 159 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Sudfeld was 3-for-4 for 28 yards.

What does that mean going forward?

Not much. This was a really bad Massachusetts defense, and by the time Coffman and Sudfeld got in, the outcome was decided. The defenses they’ll face from now on will be much tougher.

As far as assessing Saturday’s performances of Coffman and Sudfeld, Wilson was non-committal.

“It was a bit tough (to determine0 because by that point in the game, the edge had been taken off the offense, there was a different style of play and the weather changed (rain moved in) and got us a bit.

“(Coffman) will get better. We might have redshirted Nate if the year were through, but now we will have to raise him back up.

“We will need both of these guys. There will not be a competition for starter. Coffman will be the starting guy and Sudfeld will be the backup. We will see how Coffman handles it going forward.”

Because Roberson played less than two games, he will be able to get a medical redshirt, meaning he will have three more years of college eligibility remaining. Wilson said he hopes to have Roberson back by the spring.

Coffman said he had prepared himself for this opportunity.

“The coaches were stressing that I need to be ready at any point. I have been putting just as much pressure on myself during the week as if I were the starter. I felt prepared. It’s an unfortunate situation with Tre going down. He is in our prayers, but we have to move forward and keep gong.”

Coffman said he understands he’s a work in progress.

“I felt comfortable out there. I wasn’t too nervous. I think it went pretty well, but there is a lot I can improve on.”

IU has three other quarterbacks on the roster. All are freshmen -- Corey Babb, Nate Boudreau and David Nelson.

Nothing against these guys, but you don’t want to see them on the field this season.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Passionate Crean Talks IU Basketball

Tom Crean as minister. Maybe it’s in his future. Maybe. The guy has, after all, sworn off swearing. He can raise the passion in a room, even a room as large as IU Auditorium.

While the auditorium wasn’t packed for his annual talk to IU students and others who live the Cream ‘n Crimson dream on Thursday night, there were plenty there who sought insight into the state of Hoosier basketball.

And Crean spoke with a minister’s fervor, mixing in basketball with the value of family, the value of education, the value of his wife (Joani) and the importance of helping others and making IU a better place. There was music (courtesy of the IU pep band) and video (yes, Christian Watford's Kentucky beating three-pointer received prominent display) and insight into the difference between motivation and inspiration (believe us, it matters).

But basketball was the reason for the crowd and, yes, Crean delivered, even drawing a standing ovation.

He said that Cody Zeller and Will Sheehey were the two most improved Hoosier players on a team where everyone has improved.

Given Zeller was an All-America who would have been a lottery pick if he had entered the NBA draft last spring, that’s impressive.

And speaking of impressive, Sheehey has become, if you believe in VO2 measurements, the fittest player in IU basketball history. The VO2 test has been administered at IU for decades as a way of measuring fitness. Basically, you get on a treadmill and push yourself until your body caves.

Back in the 1970s, Hoosier player Jim Thomas set the standard by going 13 minutes. No one had approached that mark until this summer, when guard Jordan Hulls lasted 12 minutes and 36 seconds. Crean called it “the best of the modern era.”

And then Sheehey obliterated it by going 14:06 and then jumping off without fatigue forcing him to.

“The guys who were there were convinced he could have gone another minute,” Crean said. “That’s what has to happen.”

Crean said there were three keys for the Hoosiers reaching their potential, which if you believe the preseason polls and publications, means at least a Final Four appearance, if not a national championship.
They have to get stronger, get better on fundamentals and get better defensively.

“Our strength has to be better, and there are ways to test that,” Crean said. “There’s the bench press, the leg squat, chin-ups.

“On the VO2 test, our guys had good numbers last year, but this year the numbers are taking off. It’s an endurance test. It’s a how-much-can-you-take test. We had a couple of guys take it to another place.”

A student asked Crean about the dropped Kentucky series. A series that had been played since the late 1960s was dropped when neither side could agree on a location. IU wanted to keep it on a home-and-home basis. UK wanted to move it to Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium.

Crean said an idea was floated about a series involving Indiana, Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, Louisville and some ACC teams, but that didn’t work out. He said IU is working on a home-and-home series with another “high-level” opponent.

As far as Kentucky, Crean said “We’ll wait for them to come to their senses” about a home-and-home series. “It’s up to them. I think it will turn and become a home and home… In our lifetime, they’ll be back here.”

Crean said IU will start a freshman and that freshman Yogi Ferrell and senior Jordan Hulls will make a good backcourt.

Crean said a lot more – and we’ll detail that in our next blog.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

No Way Indiana Loses to Massachusetts

Let’s face it. If Indiana loses to Massachusetts on Saturday, it should drop football. Give it up. Concede the effort and try to become a lacrosse power.

Seriously, there’s no way the Hoosiers (1-0) should lose to the Minutemen (0-1). This is nothing against Massachusetts, but it might be the worst football team in America. It’s an FCS (which stands for Football Championship Subdivision, but is really just Division I-AA stated in a more confusing way) program moving up to the FBS (which stands for, oh, heck, just call it big-time!) level.

Against Connecticut in its season opener, things didn’t go well. UMass lost 37-0. It totaled just three first downs. It had just three rushing yards and 59 total yards overall. Repeat –- 59 total yards. That’s for the entire game. Quarterback Mike Wegzyn was just 9-for-22 for 56 yards and an interceptions.

Connecticut, by the way, is no Alabama.

Now Indiana rolls into Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium (yes, that’s the home of the New England Patriots) fresh off its 24-17 win over Indiana State. That victory was part execution, part luck and all relief. The Hoosiers did a lot of things well, but also messed up enough that if they don’t fix it, they’ll be in trouble down the road.

Not against UMass, though. Even if they mess up a few things, they should win.

Of course, nobody in the Hoosier program will say that publicly. That would be really dumb, especially given last year’s 1-11 debacle. They have to stay hungry and humble.

Coach Kevin Wilson and his staff are doing everything they can to ensure nobody takes the Minutemen lightly. That includes guaranteeing no starting positions without performance. Each week guys have to earn their starts.

No exceptions.

Check that. Quarterback Tre Roberson is as close to a sure thing as you’ll see on the team. He’d really have to botch a bunch of practices to sit the bench, and even then he’d still play.

But that’s not Roberson’s style. He embraces the competition, which is a big reason why he’s had so much success. He was, after all, an Indiana Mr. Football arriving in Bloomington with a lot of hype and potential.

Roberson is starting to play up to it. Against Indiana State he was 26-for-36 for 280 yards and a touchdown.

Anyway, IU coaches continue to push the message that if you want to play, you’d better practice hard all the time. They brought in a bunch of junior college players, mostly on defense, to ensure there would be plenty of intensity.

“We’re trying to create competition,” defensive co-coordinator Doug Mallory said. “We want them to work as hard as they can. Guys sometimes think they can turn it on at game time. Your play reflects your practice. We’ll play the guys who work the hardest and who produce.”

Beyond that, IU coaches want guys who know what they’re doing and where they’re supposed to be. You’d think this would be simple, but it’s not when you’re young (IU plays a ton of first and second-year guys) and opposing teams try to exploit that with offensive complexity.

The more you know, the theory goes, the faster you play because you just react instead of think.

“Sometimes when you know where you’re supposed to be, you’ll get there a step quicker,” Mallory said. “Sometimes when you’re out there thinking, you don’t react as quickly, and be a step late.”

Whether IU is playing Massachusetts or Wisconsin, it can’t be late.

As for scouting the Minutemen, that’s a problem. There is almost nothing to be gained by watching film of the Connecticut loss. That means looking at tape of UMass games from last year, which would mean something if it had the same coaching staff and system.

It does not.

Head coach Charley Monar was the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame last year, so IU coaches looked at Notre Dame film to get an idea of what Massachusetts might do. IU coaches also looked at film of Purdue’s defense because the Minutemen defensive coordinator, Phil Elmassian, coached Boiler linebackers last season. For special teams, they looked at Yale because special teams coordinator Roderick Plummer coached there before coming to UMass.

UMass used to run a pro-style offense. Now it’s a spread attack.

“These are games that I always have a hard time with,” Wilson said. “It’s kind of confusing and it’s kind of frustrating, because as you watch tape, you also watch players. But for the majority of tape we’re watching, we’re watching players we’re not gonna play against.

“I never like playing opening games playing teams with new staffs. Not that I was worried about them changing, it’s just harder than I want it to be. I don’t know. Visually I just always struggle with that view of football.”

That’s fine, as long as IU doesn’t struggle with the Minutemen. The Hoosiers should win by 40 points -- at least. They need to show, REALLY show, the patsy days are over.