Indiana head coach Gerry DiNardo finds himself in unfamiliar territory. For the first time since he arrived in Bloomington three years ago, the Hoosiers enter a campaign with a full complement of players.
"It's certainly a welcome change," DiNardo said. "We've established our depth, and it helps us with our day-to-day operations like practicing. Now, of course, the challenge is to minimize the attrition and replace players as they graduate with other good players."
A pair of undermanned seasons didn't yield the results DiNardo demands, but he admits the tribulations weren't without their benefits. The predicament provided the Hoosiers with a seasoned roster of young talent.
"I don't know if there is anything more valuable than game experience," DiNardo said. "We have a lot of game experience on our team. As young as they may have been when they played, I certainly think that it will serve us well down the road."
OffenseThe Hoosiers will go as far as the running game can carry them. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is poised to become the first 1,000-yard rusher of the DiNardo era. He'll operate behind one of the Big Ten's better run-blocking offensive lines and get plenty of help from former starters Yamar Washington and Chris Taylor.
Indiana's mission is to improve the passing game, and the Hoosiers claim they have the tools to do it. Quarterback Matt LoVecchio couldn't establish a rhythm and was out of sync with his receivers in his first year guiding the Hoosiers' offense.
Part of the blame fell on the offensive line, as LoVecchio faced constant harassment. Offensive line coach Steve Addazio has added offensive coordinator to his title, and the protection promises to improve. Leading receiver Courtney Roby returns after vastly improving his speed, making him the home run hitter IU's passing attack has lacked.
DefenseIndiana hopes the promotion of line coach Joe Cullen to defensive coordinator lights a fire under a group of cornerbacks that was torched by big plays last season.
Whenever the opposition needed a big play, it simply went to a three- or four-receiver set, and the quarterback picked between wide-open targets. The emergence of cornerback Cedric Henry, who has All-Big Ten potential, solves some of those problems, but beyond him a void still exists at corner.
The front seven is solid. Defensive tackle Jodie Clemons overwhelms blockers one-on-one and knows how to wreak havoc in opposing backfields. And linebackers Kyle Killion, Josh Moore, Jake Powers and junior college transfer Paul Szczesny provide Indiana with some playmakers who comprise the heart of the Hoosier defense.
If Cullen can find a couple of reliable corners, he'll have all the pieces in place for Indiana to take a leap forward on defense.
SpecialistsAfter connecting on 10-of-10 field goals from inside the 40-yard line, placekicker Bryan Robertson is in no jeopardy of losing his job. Punter Tyson Beattie excelled at pinning opponents inside the 20 but needs to hang his kicks a little higher to aid the punt coverage team.
Final AnalysisThe coaching staff made passing game efficiency the focus on both offense and defense this spring, but improvement wasn't evident, and the Hoosiers broke camp as a team still searching for answers. At best, the passing attack was inconsistent, even with better pass protection. And while Indiana's pass rush also appeared improved, the cornerbacks continue to be exploited, especially with Henry out all spring.
With only minimal improvement, the Hoosiers could surprise. The question is whether or not those upgrades are within reach, especially under the pressure of rising expectations.
"We know ultimately we're going to be measured by wins and losses," DiNardo said. "This coming year is no different."