Friday, January 10, 2014
IU getting defensive makeover
By Brian Bennett
Indiana had one of the most explosive and high-scoring offenses in the Big Ten and the country in 2013.
But the Hoosiers went just 5-7 because they still couldn't stop anybody for the third straight year under head coach Kevin Wilson. So Wilson is taking the natural next step: he's shaking up his defensive staff.
On Friday, Wilson announced that defensive coordinator Doug Mallory and defensive line coach Jon Fabris won't return. The move is hardly a surprise, as Indiana gave up 38.8 points per game and ranked 120th out of 123 FBS teams in total defense. There were times during the season where that defense looked completely lost, especially in a 63-47 loss to Michigan in which the Hoosiers surrendered 751 yards.
Mallory is the son of Indiana's most successful head coach, Bill Mallory, so firing him couldn't have been an easy call for Wilson. But IU's defense simply didn't show any noticeable improvement in three years despite some recruiting successes that were supposed to upgrade the talent on that side of the ball.
Whether it was truly a lack of good schemes and coaching or whether Indiana simply lacks Big Ten quality defensive players -- defense has been a huge issue at the school for years -- doesn't really matter. The numbers speak for themselves, and no coordinator could expect to keep his job after that kind of performance. Indiana would have had a credibility problem with its fans if it didn't make major defensive changes in the offseason. The only real surprise is that Wilson waited until now to make the move instead doing it right after the season ended. But Wilson has time to hire a new coordinator before coaches hit the road for recruiting again next week, and with the coaches' convention starting Sunday in Indianapolis, he doesn't have to go far for his shopping needs.
Fabris' departure is slightly more surprising since he came to Bloomington after coaching at Georgia and had helped the Hoosiers recruit well in the South. At the same time, however, Indiana's defensive line has been a major contributor to the overall failures on defense.
Can a new coach come in and right the ship immediately on defense? That's a big question. But if Indiana can field one of the best offenses in the country, there's no real reason why the program can't at least be mediocre on defense. The good news -- or maybe it's bad news, considering how they performed -- is that 10 starters return on defense next year, with only safety Greg Heban departing. For a change, the Hoosiers will have a veteran group to work with on that side of the ball.
It will be up to the new coordinator to finally make something out of it.