Indiana's Summer To-Do List
For the next two weeks, we’ll be taking a look at where each B1G team needs to improve and answering pressing questions this offseason. For some it’s establishing depth, and for others, it’s learning a new system. Whatever it is, each team has at least five things to take care off before 2016 kicks off:
1. Establish starting QB
Richard Lagow might’ve separated himself from Danny Cameron in the spring game, but it’s still early. Zander Diamont will return this summer and make a serious bid for the starting job. The mobile threat might not be the typical Kevin Wilson quarterback, so it’s easy to dismiss him as a legitimate threat.
Diamont might have looked like he was in over his head when he took over for the injured Nate Sudfeld in 2014. Having said that, I think this battle will go later than most expect it to, at least publicly. Whoever wins the job will have to gel quickly with the offense and fill the big shoes left by Nate Sudfeld.
2. Find a new blindside protector
It was a great thing for IU that Jason Spriggs developed into one of the top offensive linemen prospects. Having a guy from Elkhart, Ind. become a second-round pick is a great recruiting tool for Kevin Wilson.
The tough part begins now. Spriggs started 47 games in his IU career at left tackle. Replacing a four-year starter at left tackle isn’t easy.
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The heir apparent is Brandon Knight. As a freshman last year, he played last year at tackle and as a tight end. Kevin Wilson actually said he’s further along than Spriggs and fellow All-American Dan Feeney were. Still, Knight will have plenty of work to do this summer to make sure IU doesn’t skip a beat after losing an All-American.
3. Get J-Shun Harris healthy
Last July, Harris’ loss was perceived by some as a crushing blow. IU’s B1G All-Freshman receiver tearing his anterior cruciate ligament was supposed to be something that held the offense back.
Instead, Simmie Cobbs and Ricky Jones developed into one of the B1G’s best receiving duos and Mitchell Paige became into IU’s most versatile threat.
With all of those guys back, Harris will now have to earn his keep among some established targets. IU needs as many capable weapons as possible for a new starter at quarterback. Assuming he returns to the slot, Harris could become a guy that is relied on heavily in 2016.
4. Develop pass-rushers
If you watched the IU defense last year, you probably saw a group that played on its heels. Far too often, the Hoosiers struggled to get pressure on the quarterback. Nick Mangieri was IU’s top pass-rusher, but he’s gone, as is defensive tackle Darius Latham and defensive end Zack Shaw.
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With a new-look defensive line, the Hoosiers might have to generate pressure from other spots. Tegray Scales has plenty of expectations in his third season. T.J. Simmons and Clyde Newton also might also get more opportunities to rush the passer. As much as IU lost up front, it returns some experienced linebackers that could be ready to put some more on their plates.
5. Build defensive identity
That begins with IU’s new defensive coordinator, Tom Allen. Turning around a unit that finished last in the B1G won’t be easy.
Allen’s approach hinges on takeaways. IU is going to take more chances than it did under Brian Knorr. The Hoosiers should be able to do that with more experience returning in the secondary. Allen’s takeaway philosophy has already been felt by veteran linebackers like Simmons, who said the defensive mindset is much different than the one he’s grown accustomed to in Bloomington.
Allen came to IU in hopes of establishing a new culture. Letting the offense do the heavy lifting won’t be tolerated anymore. We saw shades of that taking place in the spring game. The question is — once again — will we see that in the fall?