This post is sponsored by Fifth Third Bank. I suppose the headline is a bit misleading. If I actually knew the keys to IU's success in 2012 I would be doing something other than ranting through a keyboard. Nevertheless, Fifth Third has asked us to profile one player from each side of the ball who will be the key to that unit's success this season.
On offense, it's a no-brainer, isn't it? It's Tre Roberson. I've said it here dozens of times, but for a program with IU's historical record of ineptitude, we need an angle of some sort to get better. We need quality coaching, of course, but they key for IU is to find a way to land top shelf talent without a top shelf program. There are all sorts of ways to go about it, and over the years and under Kevin Wilson: recruiting junior college players, convincing highly rated local kids to stay home, finding diamonds in the rough through tireless talent evaluation. I've always thought, however, that a dual threat quarterback can be a great field-leveler. I don't think it's a coincidence that IU's best teams of the post-Mallory era--2001, 2006, 2007--all have been led by quarterbacks who complemented their passing games with excellent running ability. Antwaan Randle El and Kellen Lewis both ended up at IU because they wanted to be quarterbacks, even though they were being recruited by elite programs to play other positions. Roberson's recruitment wasn't quite the same way, and he may not be the pure athlete that ARE and Lewis were, but he has the ability to save a busted play with a scramble or to give an opposing defense one more thing to consider. Doubts about his size limited the number of major programs interested in Roberson despite an excellent high school career, but I'm very happy to have him. While the quarterback is almost always the most important offensive player on the field, that should be especially true for IU in 2012, with Mike Leach disciple Seth Littrell as IU's new offensive coordinator. Littrell has said that he believes his pass-heavy attack should yield a completion percentage of 70. If Roberson can live up to that standard, and is a threat to run as well, then the Hoosiers can score some points. If he can't handle it, then IU will end up going with someone who has never taken a FBS snap. IU has plenty of areas where improvement is necessary, but Tre Roberson's development matters more than anything else.
On defense, it's a tougher call, but I will go with Chase Hoobler. Hoobler, although only a redshirt sophomore, has more FBS experience than the other two starting linebackers, juco transfers David Cooper and Jacarri Alexander, and is IU's third leading returning tackler. He had five tackles for loss, including two sacks, and forced one fumble. IU needs to be better at every defensive position, but the nature of the linebacker position and its impact on both the run and the pass makes this unit particularly important, and Hoobler can make a major difference if he can build upon a promising freshman year.
Those are my key guys. Anyone have any other ideas?