Well it’s going to happen, like it or not.
In just under three weeks now, the 2023 Indiana Hoosier football season will begin with the Ohio State Buckeyes coming to town.
We all know how that game will go, but there are still some big picture questions facing Tom Allen and the Hoosiers this year. As SB Nation’s... experts on this team, we are going to try to answer them for you.
Colin: I don’t know.
I wish Indiana would attempt to negotiate its way out of this entire season instead of limiting their efforts to canceling the 2024 matchup with Louisville.
Miles: Big fat TV deal!
This is a seemingly lost football program that deserves whatever it has coming in 2023.
Who will be the starting quarterback?
Colin: To be completely honest, I mostly put this question in here so that I could say that I don’t think it matters and that this question is a little overblown.
With the way Indiana’s offense has worked the last two seasons, it’s safe to say that we will see both Brendan Sorsby and Tayven Jackson this year. I would also put money on Dexter Williams II being given the keys once he’s healthy again.
I initially thought this position battle was Tom Allen bluffing and trying to keep some competitive advantage over Ohio State, but as camp has gone on, it’s become clear that it’s real.
I also would like everyone to consider the possibility that one is, in fact, better than the other and that the staff hasn’t recognized it yet. We went through multiple pro-style quarterbacks in Jack Tuttle and Connor Bazelak before the staff recognized that Williams would be most effective.
Miles: Indiana has not had a wire-to-wire starter at quarterback since Peyton Ramsey in 2018. That trend will continue this season.
Barring any injuries, I see Dexter Williams II taking the reins and providing some stability once he is medically cleared to play. Until then, I bet we see some arbitrary flip-flopping between Tayven Jackson and Brendan Sorsby, with the latter starting versus Ohio State thanks to his previous experience in Walt Bell’s system. The fact that a competition even exists does not bode well for Jackson.
Should also mention that I’d love to see some “Blaze McKibbin” if things get real weird. The earlier in the year the better.
LC: Reader, I do not know.
There’s a lot of factors at play here. Allen has emphasized since the end of last season that mobility will be a priority at the position moving forward. The first QB signee of the Walt Bell era was Sorsby and the offense was most effective with Williams II last year.
And then there’s Tayven Jackson, brother of one of the most storied basketball players to pass through Bloomington. He has some mobility and appeared to have some upside out of Center Grove High School but couldn’t crack a strong quarterback room at Tennessee. Now he’s back home.
It is, in fact, a battle between the two. When Williams II is cleared to play, I expect him to be a factor as well.
What are the biggest areas of concern?
Colin: Aside from the aforementioned quarterback battle, there’s been a ton of roster turnover this year. The portal haul that Allen brought in to replace the outgoing players looks good on paper, but there are likely to be a lot of inexperienced players seeing big minutes this year.
Some specific areas of concern are tight ends, the defensive backfield, and the receiving group (behind Cam Camper). This Indiana staff has been able to develop tight ends and d-backs pretty well over the last few seasons, so they could end up being solid by the end of the year.
Miles: The offensive line was a legitimate safety hazard at times last year.
Bob Bostad seemingly has the group trending in the right direction but the unit likely needs a multi-year rebuild. Hearing reports that projected starting left tackle Carter Smith “is a dawg” though.
LC: The secondary will be absolutely full of new guys with some talent, but talent can only take you so far unless that group gels together and I’m not sure a single offseason will provide enough time for that.
Aside from that, the offensive line will look to improve as much as it can and, well, a quarterback will in fact start.
Is there anything you’re excited about?
Colin: Yes, mostly Jaylin Lucas and the linebacker group. Aaron Casey and Jacob Mangum-Farrar figure to make the linebackers the strongest and most experienced position on the team, which has been a staple of Tom Allen’s best defenses.
Miles: I’m excited to watch Western Michigan transfer Andre Carter tear it up on the defensive line. The former Bronco was second-team All-MAC a season ago and had a fantastic spring camp.
I also want to see what Donaven McCulley has made of another offseason at wide receiver. He showed promise in 2022, his first year at the position, but was only able to catch 16 passes across Indiana’s twelve games. At 6-5 and 200 pounds, McCulley has the physical traits needed to be a good Big Ten wideout... hopefully a spring and summer of work with new receivers coach Anthony Tucker will help him reach his potential.
Additionally, I am excited to see redshirt freshman tight end Brody Foley get some game action. Foley, a 2022 four-star recruit out of Ohio, missed all of last season with an injury but figures to make an impact offensively in 2023.
LC: Jaylin Lucas will be as fast as ever and should produce a fun highlight reel.
Andre Carter could very well end up being the best player on the entire team given his performance at WMU and shining reviews from the coaching staff out of spring ball and fall camp.
What will Indiana’s record be?
Colin: I’m putting the ceiling at three wins. Indiana State and Akron look like wins at this point and it’s possible that the Hoosiers take down Rutgers.
Outside of those three games, I don’t really see any game where I’d expect the Hoosiers to be favored. Maryland has been on the upswing of late, Jeff Brohm owns Tom Allen, and I don’t see this group shocking Illinois or Michigan State again.
Miles: I’m with Colin and think the Hoosiers beat both Akron and Indiana State. Additional, potentially funny wins could come against Rutger or Michigan State depending on the availability of Dexter Williams, but I’m confidently taking the under on a 3.5 total.
LC: With so many changes an exact record prediction is... difficult. So I’ll just go with a floor and ceiling.
The floor for this group feels like two to three wins. They should be able to beat Akron and Indiana State, obviously, while stealing at least one Big Ten win if things get dire.
The ceiling? Probably six wins if enough ends up breaking Indiana’s way. I really wouldn’t venture any further above that including a win or loss in a potential bowl game.