Coach: Terry Hoeppner (first season) 2004 record: 3-8 Big Ten finish: 1-7 (t-10th) 2004 I-A offensive rankings: Rushing: 77th (134.2 ypg) Passing: 83rd (186.3 ypg) 2004 I-A defensive rankings: Rushing: 99th (196.7 ypg) Passing: 102nd (256.5 ypg)
at Central Michigan
at Michigan State
Depth Chart: Offense
3 returning starters in red
Depth Chart: Defense
8 returning starters in red
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Indiana raises the curtain on its fourth coach in 10 seasons as Terry Hoeppner makes his debut. The Hoosiers resorted to robbing the "Cradle of Coaches," swiping Hoeppner from perennial Mid-American Conference contender Miami of Ohio.
The RedHawks program produced former Hoosier coach Bill Mallory, the last man to lead IU to a bowl game. Unfortunately, that last bowl appearance took place in 1993.
After a solid decade of losing football, Indiana is hoping some of Hoeppner's winning touch rubs off. During his six years as the coach of the RedHawks, Hoeppner compiled a 48-24 record, including an Independence Bowl appearance last season. If Hoeppner can earn a bowl invite in '05, he'll be hailed as a conquering Caesar in Bloomington, where fans have grown accustomed to crushed hopes.
"[A bowl game] is not too optimistic," said Hoeppner. "You want to set realistic goals, but you want to shoot for the sky with your long-range goals. If you play 11 games, one of your goals should be to win six."
At 6-foot-4, 228 pounds, sophomore quarterback Blake Powers has a strong arm and surprising mobility, but his consistency has to improve quickly. He will be pushed by Graeme McFarland, a cerebral QB with a solid arm. Neither quarterback has much experience, though, so this position more than any other could determine the Hoosiers' fate.
The departure of two-year starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis to Ole Miss leaves a big hole in the Hoosier backfield, but two veteran tailbacks are salivating over the opportunity for increased minutes behind a veteran offensive line. Senior Chris Taylor has seen action in 27 games during his career and has rushed for more than 1,000 yards over the last three years. He has established himself as the top back for '05.
Perhaps the Hoosiers' biggest task this season will be replacing their all-time leading receiver, Courtney Roby. The lone returning veteran is senior Jahkeen Gilmore, a physical receiver with good speed, but he has only caught 23 passes during his career. Some talented youngsters need to step up at receiver this year for the Hoosiers to be successful.
The luxury of a veteran offensive line makes life easier for Hoeppner as he installs his new spread offense. Senior Isaac Sowells is a sun-blocking left tackle with an NFL future and will work alongside an experienced unit.
The conference's worst defense in 2004 should make strides this year as several top veterans return. The strength of the unit will be at linebacker, where the switch of former fullback John Pannozzo to middle linebacker has energized the defense. The fiery leader quickly took control of the schemes and will have plenty of help from veterans Kyle Killion, Jake Powers, and Josh Moore.
Cornerbacks coach Troy Douglas has transformed Indiana's secondary from a glaring weakness to a strength. Douglas has helped develop several young prospects at cornerback, allowing the Hoosier safeties the opportunity to focus more on run support. At corner, the Hoosiers have two rising stars in Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors.
The defensive line could be a weakness. The Hoosiers have solid ends in seniors Victor Adeyanju and Ben Ishola and junior Kenny Kendal, but the interior lacks depth.
The departure of three-year starter Bryan Robertson leaves the Hoosiers in desperate need of a placekicker. Tyson Beattie is one of the Big Ten's better punters. He averaged 41.3 yards per kick last season.
The new Hoosier coaching staff knows the tremendous challenge they face in trying to rebuild the Indiana football program. To help tackle the problems of fan apathy and beaten-down players, Hoeppner has brought incredible enthusiasm, helping rejuvenate a program dampened by a decade of losing.
While the enthusiasm bubbled over during the spring, it was clearly evident there is plenty of work left to be done this fall. The quarterbacks and receivers struggled to execute Hoeppner's spread offense and no clear starter has been established at quarterback. "Blake Powers is our starter right now, but I tell the guys every day that it is written in pencil, not ink," said Hoeppner.