2018 Indiana Hoosiers College Football Preview
Head Coach: Tom Allen
2017 Record: 5-7; 2-7 Big Ten
2017 Bowl: N/A
Odds to win Big 10: +25000
Odds to win Big 10 East: +12500
Odds to win National Title: +100000
The Indiana Hoosiers were expected to have a four-way quarterback battle, but that changed when it added 6-foot-3 Brandon Dawkins in April to the program. He came as a transfer from Arizona, where he played 23 games, starting 14, and threw for 2,414 yards with 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He rushed for another 1,500-plus with a 6.8 yard-per-carry average. He, of course, did not take part in spring practices but is the most talented QB that Indiana has now by an easy margin. In 2016, Dawkins played 10 games (nine starts) and amassed 94.4 rushing yards per game, ranking fifth among all FBS quarterbacks. He is a true dual-threat.
Peyton Ramsey will still contend with him for some playing time but expect Dawkins to be the one that Allen rolls with most downs. Indiana also returns five starting OL players and returns RB Morgan Ellison who rushed for 704 yards last year as a true freshman. IU has three experienced WRs including Luke Timian and Chris Gajcek, the No.1 and No. 2 options.
Nick Westbrook also returns after being injured last season, but he caught 54 passes for 995 yards in 2016, and Timian had 589 last year. Whop Philyor had 33 catches last year in his freshman season. The Indiana offense averaged 26.8 points per game last year, but that is due to improve with more talent and some experience under the belt of its OL. Mostly, expect the rush offense to be far more potent than its 130.1 yards per game, as Dawkins can just about achieve that himself on most occasions.
The Hoosiers have to replace eight defensive starters, including LB Tegray Scales and CB Rashard Fant. Both were among IU’s best all-time. The strongest part of the defense looks to be its safeties, where Jonathan Crawford and Marcelino Ball will function in hybrid roles (LB/DB combos) in the Husky position.
Crawford started all 38 games in his NCA career and has 209 tackles, 16 pass breakups, eight INTs and five fumble recoveries. He was a Freshman All-American two years ago and finished third on the team in tackles (75) that season. Fifth-year senior DE Nile Sykes returns after missing last year with injuries, and he was third among DLs in tackles and sacks last season.
Punter Haydon Whitehead returns to the fold, and he averaged 40.7 yards per punt attempt last year. The Hoosiers will need to find a placekicker on its roster, and the most likely option is incoming freshman Charles Campbell.
The Hoosiers could be a sleeper team in the Big Ten, but that hardly means “contender,” to be clear. The offense should improve dramatically, and the defense was already relatively decent last season. With Dawkins joining this team, it really could transform its rush game especially, and there are enough talented WRs to improve on last year’s 265.7 passing yards per game, which was already pretty good, ranking No. 35 in the nation among FBS teams.
The defense has enough talent but lacks experience. That is not to say it could not benefit from its youth, however, with DB Bryant Fitzgerald coming in as a highly-touted recruit who had 107 tackles as a senior in high school while picking off three passes and returning two for TDs. He also rushed for 814 yards and nine TDs. Keep an eye on him, and on this whole team, an improvement seems likely. A bowl game is not entirely out of the question this year if all the seeming improvements are as real as they seem on paper.
Prediction: 7 wins