JDMill: There were definitely increased expectations for the Hoosiers heading into 2013, with several people believing this was the year that Indiana would break out under Kevin Wilson and make it to a bowl game. Seven games in the Hoosiers are 3-4. How do the results on the field so far compare to your expectations for the Hoosiers heading into the season?
JustAJ: Actually the Hoosiers are right on pace for what pre-season expectations were. We swapped an expected win against Navy for an expected loss against Penn State, so all and all despite the 3-4 record, we're on pace for the 6 wins most people thought were reasonable. 5 was going to be disappointing and 7 over achievement. With the rest of the schedule we're right there. The defense didn't improve as much as we expected it to, but trust me it is better. The offense is probably better than what even the most optimistic fans thought.
JD: Kevin Wilson is in his 3rd year with the Hoosiers and really seemed to be a great hire for Indiana. Halfway through year 3, what is your assessment of Wilson and his staff and what they are building at Indiana.
AJ: Kevin Wilson has earned a lot of trust from the fans. His staff is still working on it. Many look at the offense's monumental leap from year 1 to year 3 and ask why the defense can't do that. The difference being that all these guys that are currently lighting it up for Indiana in year 3 were there in year 1 outside of the quarterbacks. There's depth and experience there. Some of us are still struggling to find that trust in the defense improving though. Mental mistakes and easily coachable errors are still occurring. I put that on the youth of the players (only one starting senior) but many think Doug Mallory our defensive coordinator needs to go.
JD: The story of Indiana so far has been the high-powered offense that everyone is talking about. The Hoosiers are averaging over 500 yards/game and over 6.7 yards/play and over 42 points/game. HOLY SMOKES! So, I bet that's been kind of fun to watch?
AJ: It's a blast, but it also makes it that much more depressing when we score 42 points and lose by double digits. Still, the offense is explosive and when the Hoosiers take the field you can't really step away or you might miss something. I myself have been victim of standing up to get another drink and looking away, only to miss another 60 yard touchdown. It's electric, it's fun and if it isn't against your team, you're rooting for it to happen.
JD: Tell us a little bit about the Hoosiers QB situation. Nate Sudfeld seemed to be the guy, but Tre Roberson seems to be getting more reps the last couple of games. How does Wilson's staff use these two guys and what should Gopher fans expect from them?
AJ: That's a great question. (Editor's Note: Why, thank you.) That situation has been ever evolving since the start of camps in August. Initially it was a quarterback battle between Roberson, Sudfeld and 3rd stringer Cam Coffman. They all got significant snaps in the first game of the year, but Sudfeld was noticeably better. Roberson continued to start until Sudfeld showed he was the man for the job against Navy. Ever since Nate got a majority if not all of the snaps when the game was in contention. Then his confidence seemed to have evaporated. Wilson was already looking at a way to incorporate Roberson more and Sudfeld's inconsistency was his excuse. Since then, they've been splitting the reps, but Roberson has been much more effective as a change of pace QB. I imagine Sudfeld will still be the starter, but expect Roberson to get some drives 3-4 drives into the game and Wilson will decide the majority of the snaps from there. If Sudfeld's more accurate arm is doing the damage down field, he'll stick with Nate. If the threat of Roberson's legs are opening up gaps in the secondary, Roberson gets the ball. We're in an era of tinkering with situational quarterback plan at Indiana.
JD: Tevin Coleman seems to be the lead back coming out of the Indiana backfield, but he's averaging under 15 carries/game. The Hoosier offense has gotten twice as much production from the passing game as the run game. What role does the run game play in the Indiana offense?
AJ: Indiana has always been a run via the pass kind of team under Wilson. We'll throw to the flats and run screens a ton. Part of that is the quality of receivers in the open field and another bit is that the offensive line is so beat up you can't trust them to consistently open up a hole for the tailbacks. That being said, Coleman is explosive and if given even the tiniest hint of space he can blow it up for 20+ yards. Indiana will pass to set up the run and a lot of times that is very successful.
JD: On to the Hoosier defense which as been... not as good as the offense. The defense has given up just shy of 500 yards/game (498/game, last in the B1G), 6 yards/play (5.7/play, 11th in the B1G), over 37 points/game and ranking in the bottom two of the conference in virtually every defensive category. What's the issue here? Scheme? Talent? Ghosts?
AJ: As I said a little earlier some think there's a problem with the coaches, and they may not be wrong, but the schemes aren't a problem. Guys are in a position to make plays time after time and they get blown up or blow a tackle time after time. Some of its talent and some of it is youth. There are some guys out there that are talented, but just don't have the experience against elite level athletes. Some are just fillers. I really like what our starting lineup looks like if they were a year older, but the depth is concerning. We're top heavy with inexperienced talent on the field and full of experienced role players on the depth chart. Really the personnel just isn't there yet to compete at a high level.
JD: Prediction time. Who wins? How do they do it? What's the score?
AJ: Indiana wins on homecoming. They walk away with a 42-32 victory over the Gophers. Tre Roberson scores on some big TD passes as Minnesota's DBs let receivers leak down field when Roberson scrambles outside of the pocket. Indiana's defense still looks not good, but is able to string together enough good plays on defense to force some punts early which causes Minnesota to try and play catch up.