Top tackler's arrest no way to start important summer at Indiana
Offseason headlines are rarely good for a football program, as the news about the arrest of Indiana safety Antonio Allen reminded us late Tuesday night.
Allen is not a household name even within the Big Ten, but he was probably going to need to become one this fall for the Hoosiers to qualify for a bowl for the first time since 2007.
A rare four-star Hoosier recruit in 2013, Allen was to be the only returning starter in the secondary for an Indiana defense that has been a liability for quite some time but at times showed glimpses of better days ahead during its transition to coordinator Brian Knorr's 3-4 attack in 2014. Allen was a part of that as the Indianapolis native led the team with 74 tackles, including 3.5 for loss.
Whatever progress was made by the Hoosier defense last year was washed away by the offensive production falling off a cliff after injuries decimated the quarterback position, though, and the Hoosiers ended up 4-8.
Head coach Kevin Wilson was happy with the fight his team showed late in the year, including not just a season-ending victory over Purdue but also competitive games against Penn State, Rutgers and Ohio State. The Hoosiers led the eventual-national-champion Buckeyes in the third quarter before an OSU offensive explosion in the fourth.
Wilson, who is 14-34 in four seasons as the head coach in Bloomington, also spoke often during spring ball of the positive attitude he had seen throughout the offseason, and the return of starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld from an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder gave reason for optimism the offense can bounce back despite All-American running back Tevin Coleman going to the NFL early. Indiana has had one of the stronger passing games in the league since Wilson arrived but went from first to worst in the Big Ten last season.
Some wondered if Wilson's seat would be hot heading into this season given his record and failure to make the postseason even once in four years, but at the same time there is the reality he is at a place where winning is far from the norm.
With Ohio State as a next-door neighbor, Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame to the north and of course in-state rival Purdue, Indiana might be the toughest place to build a winner in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers and Minnesota share the longest active Big Ten title drought, having shared the 1967 crown.
Wilson arrived with a great pedigree as an assistant coach, having developed a strong reputation as an offensive innovator for his work as coordinator at Northwestern and Oklahoma, but even fans of programs light on tradition can only stand by so long with a coach that is 20 games under .500.
Would losing Allen, whose case still must be handled by the legal system, torpedo Indiana's 2015 before it even begins? No, but he is the third Hoosier to run afoul of the law since the beginning of April, and Indiana is not a place where there is enough depth to absorb many losses of experienced starters.