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Indiana football: Heading into The Unknown

The Hoosiers have plenty of unknowns, let’s talk about it.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Indiana Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

As the 2023 season draws ever closer while the hope and optimism of basketball fades into the background, Indiana football will have to confront plenty of unknowns in its quest for... something.

Quarterback, like as a position

NCAA Football: Penn State at Indiana Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Things are happening but very bluntly the plan isn’t all that clear.

Last year, Indiana opened the season with pocket passer Connor Bazelak. After a single Big Ten win and many, many preventable losses, the Hoosiers handed the reins over to Dexter Williams II. This action resulted in a win over Michigan State and a pretty good looking drive against Purdue.

It made sense. Williams was limited as a passer but his mobility added something extra to Walt Bell’s playcalling. It’s not like Indiana was getting much going through the air in the first place, so why not just make that switch. Afterward, Tom Allen specifically noted he’d seek mobility at quarterback moving forward.

Williams II, of course, suffered a non-contact knee injury against Purdue and looks to be out for the duration of the 2023 season. Indiana would have to put its future on the shoulders of freshman dual-threat Brendan Sorsby or add a transfer. It did the latter.

Tayven Jackson, younger brother of Trayce Jackson-Davis, is in a battle with Sorsby to start against Ohio State in the season opener months from now. And yes, it looks to be a battle as each has made their share of plays and mistakes throughout practice.

But... does Jackson fit that mobile mold Allen mentioned? The answer is a firm maybe. While he could very well be capable of taking off on a scramble or executing a designed run... how willing is he to do that? He operated mostly as a passer at Center Grove High School and comes from an incredibly pass-heavy system at Tennessee.

Speaking of Tennessee... Indiana had a vacancy at wide receivers coach this offseason and, notably, filled it with Anthony Tucker. Tucker had prior connections to Bell but also coordinated Vols coach Josh Heupel’s passing attack at UCF. So, that’s something!

But yes, Indiana has a quarterback battle between two redshirt freshmen who’ve thrown less than ten or so passes at the college level. There’s no way of knowing what either could look like against the Buckeyes, which is probably why the Hoosiers were reportedly in on the recruitment of transfer quarterback Casey Thompson out of Nebraska.

Sooooooo is Indiana looking to add more experience at quarterback, perhaps even a starter? Maybe, probably.

Last year Indiana’s starter was officially a mystery until the very first snap, but both guys up for the job, Bazelak and Jack Tuttle, had starting experience. That’s extremely not the case this time around, so it’s mystery No. 1 this year.

Defensive playcalling

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 15 Indiana Scrimmage Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When the 2023 season kicks off, Indiana will have had four different defensive play callers in as many seasons. Not great!

  • 2020: Kane Wommack
  • 2021: Charlton Warren
  • 2022: Tom Allen
  • 2023: Matt Guerrieri

So uh, that just can’t be good for continuity. Wommack left for a better job, Warren... was gone out of nowhere after the season, Allen assumed the job while also being head coach and Guerrieri was brought in late in the offseason as co-defensive coordinator while also taking over playcalling duties.

The defense under Wommack was the heart of the 2020 team, generating turnovers left and right under his direction. Things were mostly fine under Warren, especially against Cincinnati (do not google who was ejected and what happened next) before the bottom fell out. Then, in 2022, Allen was just stretched too thin as both head coach of a spiraling team and also its defensive play caller.

Handing off playcalling duties was the right move, but Guerrieri is a bit of a question mark. He learned under Jim Knowles at Ohio State as an analyst, there’s few better coaches out there to work with and get knowledge from. Then he was trusted by Kevin Wilson (yes, that one) to run the defense at Tulsa until Allen called him up.

But Indiana lost considerable talent on that end of the ball with most of the secondary and Cam Jones opting to enter the NFL Draft following the season. Their replacements are largely from the transfer portal, so it remains to be seen how they do in Big Ten play.

That’s a lot for a new defensive play caller, but this is Indiana football. Guerrieri had to have known what he was getting into. We’ll just have to see how it works out.

What is this team? Program, even? Where is it going?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 15 Indiana Scrimmage Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images


No, literally. What.

Indiana is just... in a weird spot. It’s a team that, for the past two years, has been built largely with transfers as players leave the program one way or another. The Hoosiers’ identities have changed time and again.

They had a pocket passer quarterback! Then they very much didn’t!

They were built on a defense that generated turnovers! Then they were not and did not.

They were built for the future with star recruits! Then those guys entered the transfer portal.

So... what is this program anymore? Allen had his identity, a defense that sacrificed sacks for turnovers and an offense that had explosive capability. Then everything, from coaching to the players on the field, changed and it all just fell apart.

Is this team building for the future? Not the way it used to as recruiting classes have slipped. Will all the roster turnover lead to a nearly new team year after year? That can’t be ideal for, well, anything.

With the idea of job security looming over the program for two seasons now, has Indiana traded off long-term building that got it to the 2019 and 2020 seasons for quick, portal-enabled fixes of the past two years?

It certainly appears the latter is true. We won’t know for sure for a while what that means for the program. Bowl eligibility in 2023 buys the staff more time, maybe to resume that long-term build.

But are the recruits gonna be there? Will the player development? Neither has so far.