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Another reason for a positive outlook is Placekicker Herb Menhardt. He made 14 of 20 field goals in '79, and enters the season with a streak of eight straight. That's the kind of streak the Lions need to keep the Norman Vincent bells pealing.
Coach Lee Corso compares building a football team to preparing a big pot of spaghetti sauce: "Our spaghetti was excellent all last season and by the end of the year it was delicious," he says, citing Indiana's 8-4 record and 38-37 win over Brigham Young in the Holiday Bowl. "I haven't started cooking yet this year. All the ingredients seem to be there, but you have to put 'em in just right, a little dab here, a little dab there."
Corso's ingredients include 16 returning starters, led by senior Tim Clifford, one of the quarterbacks who could help change the conservative image of Big Ten football. Clifford isn't as widely known as Purdue's Mark Herrmann or Ohio State's Art Schlichter, but last year he was named the most valuable player in the Big Ten by the Chicago Tribune . And that was no meatball offense he directed: it set nine alltime Indiana offensive records, averaging nearly 400 yards and more than 26 points a game. Along the way, Clifford completed 160 of 288 passes for 2,078 yards and 13 touchdowns while throwing 10 interceptions.
In Bob Stephenson and Dave Harangody Indiana has two topflight tight ends, and it may go to some double-tight-end formations to get both in the game at the same time. Stephenson, a 6'3" 234-pound junior, made 49 catches last season to lead the team in that category. At wide receiver the depth chart includes Steve Corso, the coach's son. When Clifford wants to throw the bomb, he can look for Nate Lundy, who caught just 12 passes but averaged 26.5 yards a reception. He's a swifty; this spring he set a Big Ten record of 49.82 in the intermediate hurdles.
Late last year Indiana experimented with a quarterback option offense with increasing effectiveness; look for more. Corso says his backfield "is as fine as there ever has been at Indiana, qualitywise and depthwise." Spunky 5'7", 189-pound Mike Harkrader, who sat out spring practice to rest knees that have undergone an operation apiece, needs just 100 more yards to become the Hoosiers' alltime leading rusher.
As Corso might say, pointwise Indiana's defense hasn't been so hot, giving up an average of 21 a game in '79 despite two shutouts. Nine starters from that unit return and the defensive backfield is intact, presumably improved. The standout on defense is junior Cornerback Tim Wilbur, who tied for the Big Ten lead with seven interceptions, which he returned for two touchdowns and a Division I-A-high 165 yards. That made it 14 interceptions for his career so far, already an Indiana record. In the Holiday Bowl he scored the winning touchdown by returning a fourth-quarter punt 62 yards. "I don't have blazing speed," Wilbur says, "but I'm quick enough to get in position. I'd say my biggest strength is reading the quarterback."
Last year, Corso's seventh at Indiana, was his first winning season there. "We've got a fighting chance," he says. "Good spaghetti sauce requires a little aging."