There’s plenty of talent back for the Indiana Hoosiers this upcoming season but if they truly want to compete in the Big Ten, they’re going to need some new players to step up and breakout into much bigger roles.
Indiana has had some success with breakout players the past few years and last season was no different. Wide receiver Nick Westbrook was a revelation for the offense and Tegray Scales, Marcelino Ball and A’Shon Riggins all flourished under then-defensive coordinator Tom Allen’s 4-2-5 scheme.
Here’s a quick look at a few Hoosiers who could follow in their footsteps and play much bigger roles during the 2017 season.
Camion Patrick, redshirt Senior RB
Patrick has been considered a top-notch talent by the Indiana coaching staff since he transferred East Mississippi Community College. However, injuries have crippled his career and now as a redshirt senior, he has one last chance to prove he is as good as he was once advertised.
Patrick’s recent move from wide receiver to running back is an interesting one and could go either way. It could be a perfect fit and finally give him a chance to break out or he could simply get lost in shuffle of the plethora of running back options the Hoosiers have this season, especially if he suffers yet another injury. If Patrick can stay healthy and prove that running back is where he belonged all along, he could give Indiana yet another explosive option at the position in a long line of quality backs the past few seasons and even outdo the production Devine Redding churned out last season.
Ian Thomas, Senior TE
Thomas is yet another transfer who has one more chance to prove himself to Hoosiers fans. The senior, who transferred from Nassau Junior College in New York, only had three catches last year but could benefit greatly from the hiring of new offensive coordinator, Mike DeBord.
It’s no secret DeBord wants to start using his tight ends considerably more than Indiana did in Kevin Wilson’s system and with his athleticism and pass-catching abilities, Thomas could be the one to look out for at the position. He’ll have to fight off incumbent starter Danny Friend for snaps but his touchdown catch in this year’s Spring game was a good start.
Chris Covington, Senior LB
Moving on to the defensive side of the ball, it seems likely that someone will step up and break out at the other linebacker position alongside Tegray Scales after Marcus Oliver departed for the NFL. If there was one position that benefitted greatly from Allen’s 4-2-5 defense it was the linebackers as Scales and Oliver proved to be one of the best pairings at the position in the Big Ten last season.
Covington might be the best candidate to step in for Oliver as he showed flashes of brilliance at times while being stuck behind the two starters in the rotation. He showed just how dominant he can be at times with performances like the one he had against number three ranked Michigan in which he recorded six solo tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. There are multiple guys that could step into Oliver’s role that Covington will have to compete with like T.J. Simmons or Dameon Willis Jr. but right now Covington shows all the signs of being the one that can break out and do something special this year.
Tyler Green, Junior DB
Green had a relatively quiet season last year and may very well have a similar reduced role on this year’s team but if his start in last year’s Foster Farms Bowl against Utah in which he recorded seven tackles proves anything, it shows Green can rise to the occasion.
Green has been a versatile defensive back that can play cornerback or safety for the Hoosiers, which bodes well for him in Indiana’s ultra-athletic secondary. If the injury bug doesn’t bite starters, such as Rashard Fant, too hard then Green might get lost in the rotation but if somebody does happen to go down, expect Green to be able to pick up where they left off and for the coaching staff to have plenty of confidence in him as well.
Younger athletes like Ball and Riggins might also impede on his playing time so things would have to fall the right way for Green to be a breakout candidate.