- Dan Murphy, ESPN Staff Writer
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Indiana is up next in our series of key departures around the Big Ten and the players from each roster that will be asked to replace them.
The Hoosiers look to bounce back from a 4-8 season in 2014 that was derailed by an injury to quarterback Nate Sudfeld. The senior returns to fill his own shoes and try to resurrect a passing game in Bloomington this fall. He’ll have to do it without leading receiver Shane Wynn, another big loss for the offense. The biggest shoes to fill on that side of the ball, though, belong to unanimous All-American Tevin Coleman.
B1G SHOES TO FILL: Tevin Coleman, RB
Why: Coleman was responsible for 45 percent of Indiana’s offensive yardage and 42 percent of its touchdowns in 2014. He is one 18 college running backs in FBS history to top 2,000 rushing yards in a single season and managed to get there despite opposing defenses knowing he was the Hoosiers only option throughout the second half of the season. His ability to break off long plays (his eight runs of 60-plus yards led the nation last year) kept Indiana competitive in games that otherwise would have been ugly.
The skinny: Barring anything unforeseen, Howard will be the next feature back at Indiana. He ran for 1,587 yards and 13 touchdowns last year at UAB. When that program folded Howard became a free agent, and the Hoosiers were able to pick up a suitable replacement for Coleman. Howard’s size and running style match Coleman’s. Even if he doesn’t have quite the same explosive ability, an improved passing game should help the Hoosiers recover from losing one of the best players in program history.
B1G SHOES TO FILL: Bobby Richardson, DL
Why: Richardson, an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick, was a force at multiple positions along the defensive line for Indiana last year. He led all linemen with 35 tackles and 5.5 sacks. He has the best shot of any player on that defense to be drafted this spring. Finding someone to replace his production and his leadership – Richardson was elected a 2014 team captain – will be difficult.
Replacement candidates: Darius Latham (6-5, 305, Junior), Nick Mangieri (6-5, 270, Senior)
The skinny: Latham has the size that Indiana needs to stack up on the interior line this fall. He started 10 games next to Richardson last year and got better as the year went on. To help replace Richardson’s production in rushing the passer, former bandit linebacker Nick Mangieri will slide down to defensive line this spring. Mangieri started all 12 games in 2014 and two sacks as a junior. Together, those two upperclassmen are capable of piecing together the attributes that Indiana’s defense loses without Richardson on the field.