Big Ten Media Days Q’s: Indiana going bowling?

With coaches and representatives from all 14 Big Ten teams set to descend on Chicago this week for the conference’s annual football media days, we preview some of the topics most likely to come up for discussion.

1. Where does Kevin Wilson think his team sits heading into his fifth year in Bloomington?

Wilson brought the reputation of an offensive guru to Indiana when he was hired as head coach in 2011, and he has delivered strong scoring units.

He has also delivered some positive recruiting results, but the Hoosiers are 20 games under .500 during his time as head coach, leading some to conclude this could be a make-or-break year for the North Carolina native.

He was happy with the attitude of his fairly veteran team as spring ball wound down, but what does he think about the work his players put in this summer?

2. How is Nate Sudfeld’s health?

The Indiana quarterback missed the second half of last season with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, and the Hoosiers won only one game thereafter.

Sudfeld was fourth in the Big Ten in passing yards per game (210.2) and fifth in passer efficiency rating in 2013.

At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, he strikes the profile of an NFL quarterback, and he will probably have to play like a potential draft pick for the Hoosiers to break through and make the postseason for the first time under Wilson.

3. Will the defense continue to improve?

A perennially poor Indiana defense showed some signs at times last season despite not getting much help from the offense that was hamstrung by the loss of its quarterback. Things were looking bright for the future until one returning starting cornerback decided to transfer and a returning starter at safety was kicked off the team for an alleged drug offense during the offseason.

Still, there are potential building blocks in defensive linemen Darius Latham and Nick Mangieri as well as linebackers T.J. Simmons and Tegray Scales.

Ralph Green III could also be a disruptive force up front, but his status with the team is unclear after was arrested following a disturbance at a party and later sentenced to community service and probation.

4. Who might be ready to step up at wide receiver?

The passing game was hurt by not only Sudfeld’s injury but also a lack of experience at wide receiver outside of Shane Wynn, the explosive but diminutive speedster who is out of eligibility.

Domonique Booth, a sophomore from Indianapolis, and UAB transfer Marqui Hawkins are among the candidates to try to raise the level of receiver play along with J-Shun Harris, a returning starter. 

5. How are Tevin Coleman’s replacements looking?

Although he was overshadowed somewhat by Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin, Tevin Coleman turned in a historic season for Indiana in 2014. After rushing for more than 2,000 yards, Coleman opted to skip his last season of eligibility and enter the NFL draft, but the Hoosiers running game might still be OK.

Ricky Brookins, Alex Rodriguez and Devine Redding carried the load in the spring game with Brookins ripping off a 53-yard run, but the favorite to start is probably Jordan Howard, who transferred from UAB then missed part of spring ball with an elbow injury. Redding is a two-star prospect from Cleveland Glenville while Brookins and Rodriguez are walk-ons.

Whoever runs the ball should benefit from playing behind what is expected to be a strong offensive line.