Top 10 takeaways from a calmly optimistic Indiana Football Media Day

Kevin Wilson and the Hoosiers sound like they are ready for the next step, whatever that is.

Kevin Wilson and the Hoosiers sounded like they are ready for the next step at IU Football’s Media Day today.

Indiana University’s football program is the losingest in the history of college football.

I bring that up only to reinforce the difficulty of executing a longterm pivot from terrible to bad to mediocre to good to championship contender.  It’s taken a long time to get here – wherever on that continuum you believe the Hoosiers to be – and it might take longer for the needle to move farther.

But one thing is for sure, the days of Hoosiers walking into a media room filled with gloom and doom are over in the wake of Indiana’s first trip to a bowl in a decade and their seemingly rational thoughts that more bounty is coming.

Things were different today, and it wasn’t just a bunch of smiles and platitudes.  This was the first time I have been at an IU Media Day where we weren’t being sold on the promise of improvement.

There was a quiet confidence that permeated all conversations with players and coaches that felt for lack of a better word – competitive.

Here are the 10 takeaways for a reasonable and fascinating IU Football Media Day:

10 – Slot receiver Mitchell Paige is IU’s Justin Bieber.  Last Friday, Paige dyed his hair blond.  With a Wes Welker build, Paige has never quite stood out on campus as a member of the football team, but with this blond hair, he is going to draw immediate curiosity among co-eds.  Not saying he did it to generate an influx of attention.  Some people lose a bet and bleach their hair.

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9 – It’s “takeaway” not “turnover”.  Among the many changes new defensive coordinator Tom Allen brought to Bloomington is the need to use very active and specific language.  He insists defensive players view the opposing offense losing possession of the football as a takeaway, not a turnover.  The difference is that the offense turns the ball over while the defense takes it.  Taking it is active.  Waiting for the offense to turn it over is passive.  I love that.

8 – Indiana’s receivers are big.  Four of IU’s wide-outs are 6’2″ or taller and weigh 220 lbs. or more.  Those are big targets for whomever is throwing the football at <emorial Stadium.  It helps if they have good hands and great speed, but big is good, and at Indiana we take good.

7 – Extension has given Wilson and staff a calm focus.  After last season, Kevin Wilson was given a six-year extension with a substantial raise and a larger pool of cash for his staff.  The result was the kind of long-term planning that is impossible when you are fighting for your immediate career health.  It’s kind of like a guy with heart failure getting a prostate exam.  The prostate isn’t going to get you.  With a deal stretching through 2021, Wilson can continue to plot beyond the now as the first head coach since Bill Mallory to enter a sixth season running IU Football.

6 – Devine Redding is ready to be the next.  Tevin Coleman put together a historic 2014 season, and Jordan Howard followed suit at tailback last year with the 11th best year running the football in Indiana history.  It’s Redding’s turn, and his teammates are very bullish on the chances of his following suit. One lineman told me, “He doesn’t have Tevin’s speed or Howard’s ability to bruise, but he explodes through the hole and makes guys miss.”

5 – Defense is going to be aggressive.  Every incoming defensive coordinator in the history of football has preached aggression.  “We are going to play downhill!” they all say.  When Allen says his team is going to be aggressive, people believe it.  The quiet passion in his explanation of why a defense needs to dictate terms compels absolute buy-in – at least it has to this point.  He’s a unique guy whose lessons are being lapped up by a team thirsty for them.

4 – Kevin Wilson continues to mature.  During his first two or three seasons as head coach, Wilson and the media lived on opposite sides of a wide divide.  Wilson tried to sell a vision of the program (and himself) that no one was eager to buy.  Now, he just talks football with the media – no sales job, no credentialing – just football.  He’s likable, decent, and honest.  Wilson has evolved into a coach comfortable in his position and his own skin.

3 – Lots of fifth year seniors.  Indiana has an unusual number of red shirt seniors – fifth year players who are at the very end of their eligibility.  Many are on an offensive line that has spent the last two seasons opening gaping holes for Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard.  This is a group that will run block well, and if they can protect whomever Wilson decides should play quarterback, that young man’s entry into being a starter will be a smooth transition.

2 – There is no starting quarterback yet.  The battle right now is between Richard Lagow and Xander Diamont.  Fans know Diamont.  He’s a runner who can also throw a little bit.  Lagow comes from a junior college, and he is a more traditional quarterback who has never played at anything near the Big Ten level.  Players who were asked about the quarterback battle were obviously coached to voice no preference, but when Wilson and offensive coordinator Kevin Johns explained why neither might win the job outright, I bought that there is no frontrunner in this battle.

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1 – The evolution did not end with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.  The players each lamented losing the bowl game to Duke, and seemed quite unimpressed with the accomplishment of being the first IU team in a decade to earn a berth.  The lack of satisfaction was interesting and may be a portend of positive things to come.

Bonus – Confidence seems to fit this time around.  Last year, when defensive lineman Darius Latham claimed the Hoosiers goal was to play in the National Championship Game, I wanted to check his vital signs to make sure he hadn’t lapsed into a fever-driven psychosis.  When players spoke of goals this year – like winning the Big Ten – somehow it fit.  I’m not saying they have a chance to beat Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State for the Big Ten East crown, but hearing it today didn’t make me worry for anyone’s health.  The players sounded reasonable and confident – two words that haven’t fit well in the same sentence for Indiana Football since the halcyon days of the Bo McMillan era.

Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-6p, and writes about Indiana sports at


5 thoughts on “Top 10 takeaways from a calmly optimistic Indiana Football Media Day

  1. j

    darius latham said and did really stupid things. he would be a star this year with a four man front and im guessing a third to fifth round pick. wow did he do stupid things.

    I can see the kevins piecing together a play package for zander utilizing some kind of option. why wouldn’t they? show it a few times in the nonconference with some competency and all of a sudden every big ten opponent has to spend time preparing for it whether they use it or not. ohio state knows the kid can run already and now he has his own playbook? this should have been done long ago. lets not forget tyler natee. only a two star but he is incredibly fleet of foot for a 260 pound guy. check out some of his runs. play this guy at fullback on these options and opponents will get a giant headache.

    really interested to see how the converted linebackers fare on the d line. this may have tremendous bearing on indianas success this season.

    tom allen is a great coach. he fits as the dc for sooo many reasons. entire secondary returns along with a lot of incoming freshman dbs in a system that puts 5 dbs on the field and…tom allen can coach.

    and what about the recruiting for next year? its quite far away and no one has signed yet but wow are the commits flying in. 6 d linemen. including a 374 pound d tackle that runs a 5.2, benches 400 and squats 700.
    his biggest flaw…he decommited from iowa THREE TIMES before commiting to Indiana.

  2. Joel

    I know things are looked at with an IU homer bias on this site .its very obvious and also with the radio programming. It might all look good and sexy on paper with touting numbers, stats, rah rah speeches
    for the IU faithfull, and blah blah blah …….

    Lets just wait and see before we start thumping our chest and pointing at banners down in the motherland.

    Kevin Wilson has had PLENTY of time to show growth in this program and I feel it has been very minimal at best. If that’s the standard of progress for Hooiser fans ,then so be it.
    overall big 10
    2011 Indiana 1–11 0–8
    2012 Indiana 4–8 2–6
    2013 Indiana 5–7 3–5
    2014 Indiana 4–8 1–7
    2015 Indiana 6–7 2–6
    The are 20-41 overall and 8-32 in big 10. You can pad your numbers at the beginning of the season by beating up on the sisters of the poor and saying you make it to the Sheridan Reynolds Farm Equipment Bowl is a step up, but bowl games are diluted and anyone with a .500 record or maybe a little less can get it.
    So take that for what its worth.

    I think IU had a gem with Terry Hoeppner, god rest his soul. That was a program under him that was showing improvement more vastly that what Wilsons is in a MUCH shorter time period.

    Not wishing any ill will on this football program, but Wilson needs to show it this year or Glass needs to bounce him. And if the Tom’s boys don’t produce this year, someone needs to bounce Glass for keeping Clappy Crean around.
    Lets stop all the talk and hype, and back it up on the field.

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      I’m all for hysteria, but Glass is never going to fire Wilson a season after extending him, and Crean has won two Big Ten Championships in four seasons.

  3. j

    hep was indeed a diamond. no question. what people didn’t realize is that while dinardo was a bad coach, he could see talent others couldn’t. hep started with more than Wilson did. believe it or not. Cameron had five years. at the end of his five years his teams never won more than five games, couldn’t kick an extra point and was going into year 6 running a triple option without a running quarterback. at the end of five years, Cameron was poised to lose with recruiting fading.

    dinardo was awful. how are you oing to win six games when you only schedule 11 when you could be scheduling twelve?

    bill lynch should never have been head coach. at the end of his tenure Indiana was losing miserably, kids were in trouble, couldn’t give away scholarships and was ending his tenure without a decent qb.

    all these guys went from bad to worse.

    Wilson inherited a scrap heap. as his record proves, Indiana has gone from deplorable to decent under his watch. while I expect a slight step back this year, the roster is easily as deep as it has been in a generation. interest surges on the recruiting trail with a new coach, and fades with failure like Cameron, dinado and lynch.

    not Wilson. recruiting continues to get better. Indiana no longer pieces together a patch work oline. its solid. every year. except for last year when Indiana had two all americans on the o line. its still solid. there is talent and depth to coach and craft into future offensive lines.

    Wilson hires the best coaches he can afford. if they don’t workout, he fires them and finds something better. fired McDaniel d line coach. hired hagen. hagen has 6 commits for d line next year and camp opened yesterday. knorr was average at best. got tom allen. look at the teams he has coached. state titles in Indiana. position coach at ole miss when it went from top 50 d to number one d in the country in two years.
    dc at south florida. total defense jumped about 40 spots…in one year. at this point wilsons predecessors have almost reached mediocrity…..and then ran out of gas. Indiana is mediocre at least and gaining steam. that’s the difference. theyre getting better. the record proves it and so does the recruiting. took Michigan to double overtime last year. ran the ball ALL OVER them. they passed all over us. guess what? weve got a reat new dc that employs a 4-2-5. lost by 7 to ohio state. the year before took a lead AT ihio state deep into the third quarter and maybe the fourth.before Wilson got toindiana, Indiana had no chance to win those games. now they’ve got a chance. that’s all we need to register success. unlike the previous 15 years before Wilson, we have a chance to be good now. aznd the best part is…Indiana is getting better. bigger, stronger, faster every year. lost a great strength coach in mark hill. went out and got caton who was at Baylor coaching a nationally relevant team which also happens to operate at the same speed wilsons do.


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