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The Hoosiers haven’t finished with a winning record since 2007; is 2019 the year to change that? Perhaps the strangest anomaly of Big Ten scheduling for Nebraska is the fact that the Huskers have only faced Indiana once in Nebraska’s first eight seasons in the conference. By the time Indiana travels to Lincoln for the first time, Ohio State will have played in Lincoln three times. Heck, Nebraska has completed home-and-home series with UCLA, Miami, Oregon and now Colorado before Indiana returns their 2016 game in Bloomington. Last time Indiana played in Lincoln, it was 1977 and the head Hoosier was Lee Corso.
Let’s be honest; Indiana really is a blank slate for Husker fans to this point. Not that Indiana has given the college football world much to pay attention to. While they haven’t been as awful in recent years, such as Rutgers, they haven’t had a winning record since 2007. In back-to-back 5-7 seasons under head coach Tom Allen, the Hoosiers have only beaten Rutgers (twice) and Illinois and Maryland once in conference play. That being said, most of those conference losses have been relatively close and competitive. In a division with Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, that’s a positive sign.
Indiana returns junior quarterback Peyton Ramsey (6’2” 211 lbs.) who started all twelve games last season and four in 2017. Last season, Ramsey completed 66% of his passes for 2,875 yards and nineteen touchdowns and thirteen interceptions. Ramsey also rushed for 354 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 3.2 yards per carry. Redshirt feshman Michael Penix (6’3” 206 lbs.) was making a strong bid to take over the starting job last season until he tore his ACL in his third game. To that point, he had completed 62% of his passes for 219 yards and a touchdown, and also carried the ball seven times for 45 yards. Utah transfer Jack Tuttle (6’4” 211 lbs.) also arrived this spring and frankly, any of the three could end up being the starter by the time they board the plane to Lincoln.
Sophomore running back Stevie Scott (6’2” 235 lbs.) rushed for 1,137 yards and ten touchdowns last season, averaging 5.0 yards per carry. His six games topping the century mark set a school record for a freshman. Incoming freshman Sampson James (6’1” 212 lbs.) should challenge for playing time along with redshirt freshman Kristian Pechac (5’11” 210 lbs.); like at quarterback, established starters could end up being pushed by new players.
Senior receivers Nick Westbrook (6’3” 215 lbs.) and Donavan Hale (6’4” 225 lbs) each caught 42 passes last season for 590 and 508 yards respectively last season. Juniors Whop Philyor (5’11” 175 lbs.) and Ty Fryfogle (6’2” 210 lbs.) will be battling to join the starting lineup in 2019. Philyor caught 13 of his 23 receptions against Michigan State last season, while Fryfogle caught 29 passes for 381 yards and three touchdowns. With six of last year’s top eight receivers returning, whomever ends up being the quarterback should have experienced options to target.
The biggest concern for Indiana on offense will be on the offensive line. Senior left tackle Coy Cronk (6’5” 321 lbs.) claimed the starting job as a true freshman and only injury has kept him out of the lineup. He’ll be joined by senior right guard Simon Stepaniak (6’4” 321 lbs.), who’s started 18 games the last two seasons and senior center Hunter Littlejohn (6’3” 307 lbs), who started as a sophomore but was passed up on the depth chart last season by a graduate transfer from Miami. The big question will be whether huge sophomore Caleb Jones (6’8” 360 lbs.) is ready to take over at right tackle this fall.
Prior to Tom Allen’s arrival in Bloomington, Indiana’s defense was the worst in the Big Ten – and it wasn’t even close. In Allen’s first year, the points allowed went from 37.6 per game to 27.2, and the yards allowed went from 509 per game to 380. With just three returning starters last year, the numbers ticked up, but with seven returning starters in 2019, the numbers allowed should be better.
Up front, junior defensive tackle Jerome Johnson (6’3” 290 lbs.) was the Hoosiers’ leader in sacks with 3.5 as a sophomore. He’ll be joined in the middle by sophomore nose guard Juan Harris (6’3” 350 lbs.) who transferred to a junior college last season to get some playing time, but returned to make an impression this spring. Senior defensive end Gain Everett (6’3” 262 lbs.) led the Hoosiers with 5.5 tackles for a loss last season.
Senior weakside linebacker Reakwon Jones (6’2” 237 lbs.) will be joined by sophomore Thomas Allen (6’3” 245 lbs.). Jones is viewed as an emerging team leader who will allow sophomore middle linebacker Thomas Allen (6’3” 245 lbs.) to blossom. The son of the head coach, the younger Allen totaled 28 tackles as a key backup last season. He’s expected to play a key role this season if Indiana’s defense is going to bounce back.
Three starters return in the secondary, with junior “husky” (nickel back) Marcelino Ball (6’0” 218 lbs.) being the leading returning tackler from last season with 59 (five for a loss). Bruce Feldman of The Athletic listed Ball at #9 on his 2019 “Freaks” list for his speed. Senior cornerback Andre Brown (6’0” 200 lbs.) has been a fixture in the starting lineup throughout his Indiana career; his six pass breakups led the defense last season. Junior cornerback Raheem Layne (6’1” 195 lbs.) is the second leading returning tackler on the defense. Expectations are high for two sophomore safeties to make big jumps in 2019. Devon Matthews (6’2” 203 lbs.) had 20 tackles as a true freshman backup, but the guy to keep an eye on is Bryant Fitzgerald (5’11” 205 lbs.) who backed up Ball last season but still led the team with three interceptions.
Battling in the Big Ten’s east division, Indiana is going to have to take care of business against Maryland and Rutgers before turning their attention to getting a win or two against their West division foes (Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue) to get to bowl eligibility. It’s very possible with that schedule that despite improvement, Indiana could end up with a fifth straight seven-loss season. If I had to bet, I’d say they get to a 6-6 record and go bowling.

Source: Corn Nation