5 candidates to become face of Indiana football in 2022
It’s going to be a time for fresh beginnings for Indiana in 2022.
At least that’s Tom Allen’s hope, as he watched his Hoosiers fall from a team expected to compete near the top of the Big Ten East standings to a last-place finish. And with new beginnings come new faces. IU faces the departures of longtime contributors Micah McFadden, Ty Fryfogle, Michael Penix Jr. and others as it looks for a quick rebuild.
Who are the new faces to lead Indiana? Let’s take a look at 5 candidates who could take over in 2022.
For a brief period in the offseason, Indiana’s quarterback situation looked dire for 2022.
Penix had transferred after yet another season plagued by injury, and none of the Hoosiers’ other quarterback options looked ready to carry the title of QB1 into next season. Finding a quality starter in the transfer portal was a must, or Indiana might be stricken with the same quarterback inconsistency again that marred 2021.
But those questions were answered in early January, when former Missouri signal-caller Connor Bazelak decided to transfer to Bloomington. The day the 6-3, 215-pounder stepped on campus, he became the likely starting quarterback for next season. Last year at Missouri, Bazelak passed for 2,548 yards with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. In 3 games, he had more than 300 yards passing.
Indiana needs a new face to lead its offense, and very likely Bazelak is the guy.
It was a bit of a surprise when Tiawan Mullen decided he’d return to Indiana for his senior season, rather than bolt to the NFL.
But then, maybe Mullen feels he has more to prove in Bloomington after an injury-plagued season that made the former All-America cornerback look only a shell of himself. Mullen made only 4 starts last season and was held without an interception. That is almost unfathomable considering how great Mullen was in 2020, when he had 3 picks, 3.5 sacks, 4 pass breakups and a forced fumble, then was named a first-team All-American by several publications.
If Indiana’s defense is to get its swagger back in 2022, and Allen says he’s going to try to be more influential in its performance, then Mullen will play a big part.
The Hoosiers’ defense got a big boost when Cam Jones announced he is planning to return for one last season.
Long in the shadow of McFadden, Jones gets a chance now to shine as the Hoosiers’ primary play-making linebacker in IU’s 4-2-5 defensive scheme. He’s got the tools to be great, especially after a season that saw him collect 64 tackles and a sack with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. McFadden was frequently IU’s pass-rushing linebacker; now, perhaps Jones gets that chance.
He’s been great during his career, accumulating 6 sacks and being part of 6 turnovers, including a pick-6.
Indiana’s running game was a mess in 2021.
It wasn’t much better the year before either.
Now, it’ll turn to transfer Shaun Shivers as it looks for a revival in 2022. While an improved offensive line would help tremendously as well — it’s only been so-so — Shivers will have a big impact on whether Indiana can crawl out of the bottom third in the Big Ten in rushing statistics. The 5-7, 190-pounder was a change-of-pace back for Auburn during his first 4 seasons, totaling 1,020 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns, while also showing a solid pass-catching ability.
Indiana needs a return to the balance that made its offense more effective. A deep-ball, play-action oriented attack works only if there’s a threat to run, and IU has missed that. Maybe Shivers can assist in a return.
Allen hit the transfer portal hard during the offseason, and with great success, with the 10 newcomers being ranked No. 18 in the country as a group by 247sports.com.
One of those new guys is defensive lineman JH Tevis, who comes to Indiana after 3 seasons at Cal. There, the versatile 6-4, 285-pounder totaled 60 tackles, 8.5 for loss and 3 sacks in 20 games, with 15 starts. He’ll likely be a starter for an Indiana team still looking for more production from its front four, especially in creating big plays in the backfield.
If Tevis can do that for the Hoosiers, and help IU become the turnover-happy defense it had been in the past, then he’ll carve out a name for himself in Bloomington.