7 way-too-early predictions for Indiana's offense in 2022
Indiana’s offense struggled in about every aspect last season.
It averaged only 17.3 points per game (13th in the Big Ten), only 289.9 yards per game (14th), including 114.4 on the ground (12th) and 175.5 passing (10th).
Coach Tom Allen made sweeping changes in the offseason, trying to get the Hoosiers back on the right path offensively, including a change at offensive coordinator. And IU will have new faces at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.
Let’s make 7 way-too-early predictions about the Hoosiers’ offense in 2022.
8 new starters?
Indiana will have as few as 3 returning starters next season, all of them on the offensive line.
There, the Hoosiers return left tackle Luke Haggard, left guard Mike Katic, and Matthew Bedford, who could be slated in as either the right guard or right tackle.
Otherwise, Indiana is starting fresh. The Hoosiers are without their leading passer, their top 3 rushers and their top 3 receivers from last season, leaving plenty of holes to fill.
Stability at QB
The Hoosiers will find stability at quarterback in 2022.
And after a 2021 season that turned into a mess under center — 4 players started games, but none played effectively — Indiana will take it. The Hoosiers’ biggest offseason acquisition came at QB, when former Missouri signal-caller Connor Bazelak transferred to Indiana. It gives the Hoosiers a bona fide starter.
At Missouri, Bazelak made 20 starts from 2019-21, throwing for nearly 5,100 yards with 23 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, while hitting 66.4% of his throws. The numbers aren’t overwhelming, but they’re better than what Indiana had returning, including backup quarterback Jack Tuttle and underclassman Donaven McCulley, who was thrown in too early as a true freshman last season.
Bazelak can be a steady distributor for the Hoosiers, a season after he passed for 2,548 yards, 16 TDs and 11 picks for the Tigers.
Running game reset
Indiana needs a do-over in its rushing game.
It’ll get one in 2022, after watching its top 3 backs leave following the season while welcoming in a pair of newcomers who hope to get the Hoosiers back running again. In 2021, the Hoosiers’ play-action passing game was nearly nonexistent because defenses didn’t respect IU’s ability to run the ball. Why should they have? Indiana ranked 12th in the B1G in rushing yards per game, averaging 114.4 per outing. But even that didn’t tell the entire story; the Hoosiers also were 13th in yards-per-attempt, averaging only 3.2.
So Allen tried to bolster the position through the transfer portal, bringing in Auburn’s Shaun Shivers and North Carolina’s Josh Henderson. Shivers, assuming he can hold up, could develop into the featured back. At 190 pounds, he has the speed and elusiveness to succeed with the Hoosiers. Look for Shivers to gain at least 800 yards — he had more than 1,000 rushing yards with 8 touchdowns in 3 seasons at Auburn — as a Hoosier this season.
Matthews comes up big
DJ Matthews was supposed to have a big 2021.
But then the former Florida State slot man tore his ACL in Indiana’s early-season victory at Western Kentucky, ending what had been a productive start to his IU career. Matthews sat out the rest of the season, then the spring as well, as he continues to rehab.
Indiana needs playmakers. If Matthews is healthy, then he might be the guy, able to provide a consistent target for the new quarterback starter.
It’d be hard to score less than the Hoosiers did last season.
Indiana averaged only 17.3 points per game in 2021. It was worse than that against B1G defenses when IU scored 94 points in 9 games, and that includes scoring 35 in a loss at Maryland.
After the season, Allen almost immediately nuked former offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan, then brought in former UMass head coach Walt Bell to run the offense. Bell won’t be a miracle worker — IU is working in a new quarterback, new receivers, new running backs and rebuilding the offensive line — but the Hoosiers will be better than last season. Indiana will score at least 3 touchdowns per game next season. Not great, but better than abysmal.
Indiana’s offense will look similar to what fans have grown used to over the last several seasons under Sheridan and former OCs Kalen DeBoer and Mike DeBord, in that the Hoosiers will frequently be a multi-receiver, 1-back spread.
But look for Bell to try to get the ball into space more frequently, utilizing the short-passing game and a consistent running attack to open up opportunities down the field.
With so many new pieces, from coaches to players, the Hoosiers might need a bit of time to build chemistry.
And they’ll get that, thanks to a beneficial schedule that has IU opening with 3 consecutive games at Memorial Stadium: Illinois, Idaho and Western Kentucky.
If the offense can find its footing in those first 3 weeks, and help the Hoosiers get victories, then IU could be on its way to recovery after a dismal 2021.