Big Ten: Dre Muhammad

Indiana spring wrap

May, 11, 2012
5/11/12
11:00
AM ET
2011 record: 1-11
2011 conference record: 0-8 (sixth, Leaders Division)
Returning starters: offense: 7; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

QB Tre Roberson, RB Stephen Houston, WR Kofi Hughes, CB Lawrence Barnett, DT Larry Black, DT Adam Replogle, S Mark Murphy

Key losses

OL Andrew McDonald, LB Jeff Thomas, LB Leon Beckum, WR Dre Muhammad

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Stephen Houston* (802 yards)
Passing: Ed Wright-Baker (1,029 yards)
Receiving: Kofi Hughes* (536 yards)
Tackles: Jeff Thomas (80)
Sacks: Adam Replogle* (4)
Interceptions: Greg Heban* (2)

Spring answers

1. Improved defense: The Hoosiers had nowhere to go but up after fielding one of the worst defenses in the country last year. Some junior college transfers, especially linebackers David Cooper and Jacarri Alexander, injected some much-needed talent and energy into the unit this spring. The defense showed much better execution and fundamentals overall, thanks in large part to some young players getting baptized by fire last fall. This is still not a dominating group by any stretch, but with some solid players up front such as Larry Black and Adam Replogle and in the back end such as Mark Murphy and Lawrence Barnett, the Hoosiers hope to have far fewer major breakdowns this season.

2. Depth at running back: Stephen Houston led the team in rushing last season despite showing up a little out of shape in the summer from junior college. That spoke both to his skills and the lack of competition around him. That's not the case now, as Indiana has a much healthier stable of backs to work with, including a healthy Matt Perez and transfer Isaiah Roundtree, who had a big spring game. Add in mobile quarterback Tre Roberson, and the Hoosiers could have an effective ground attack in 2012.

3. Better off Ted: Tight end Ted Bolser had a promising freshman year with 27 catches for 407 yards and five touchdowns, but those numbers dipped to just 14 catches for 165 yards last year. Some of that was probably due to a largely ineffective passing game. Bolser had a strong spring, capped by a six-catch performance in the spring game, and was targeted often in the offense. The 6-foot-6, 255-pounder could become a go-to guy for new offensive coordinator Seth Littrell.

Fall questions

1. Quarterback competition: Roberson seized the starting job midway through last season and showed so much promise that two other young quarterbacks -- Ed Wright-Baker and Dusty Kiel -- transferred. He has a strong presence and the potential to be a star. But the coaching staff insisted that junior college transfer Cameron Coffman was right in the thick of the race to be the starter this season after a nice spring. Coffman is a better pure passer than Roberson, who needs to work on that aspect of his game.

2. Bringing the heat: Indiana had just 18 total sacks last season and often had trouble generating much of a pass rush, which was part of the reason it gave up so many big plays. While Black and Replogle make a nice tandem at tackle, the search is still on for playmakers who can get to the quarterback. Ryan Phillis showed some things late in his freshman year, including a big game in the finale against Purdue, and Bobby Richardson made a nice transition from tackle to end as a freshman. Maybe the linebackers can help in the pass rush as well. But the Hoosiers need to make other teams uncomfortable in the passing game without blitzing to improve on defense.

3. Overall talent and depth: Head coach Kevin Wilson has his work cut out for him after failing to win a single game against FBS competition his first season in Bloomington. Wilson played 32 true and redshirt freshmen in 2011 and had many players going through spring practice for the first time this year. The extra seasoning will no doubt help them get better, but this is still a roster that doesn't look like the top Big Ten contenders. Indiana will need to stay healthy, get some breaks and see its young players mature quickly to make any noise in the league this season.
Indiana has released its depth chart for Saturday's season opener against Ball State. Not surprisingly, the chart includes co-starters at quarterback in Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker. The sophomores have been competing for the job with true freshman Tre Roberson, who isn't listed on the two-deep.

Some other notes:
  • Two likely starters, wide receiver Duwyce Wilson and tight end Ted Bolser, aren't listed on the depth chart. Both have been battling injuries during camp. Senior Dre Muhammad is listed as the starter in Wilson's spot ahead of freshman Shane Wynn, while senior Max Dedmond will start at tight end.
  • Redshirt freshman Matt Perez, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, is listed as the No. 1 running back ahead of Stephen Houston. Junior Darius Willis is suspended for the opener for conduct detrimental to the team.
  • Redshirt freshman Ryan Phillis is listed as a starter at defensive end ahead of veteran Fred Jones. He'll play opposite Darius Johnson. Indiana seems to have some good depth at the defensive tackle position.
  • Another redshirt freshman, Chase Hoobler, has secured a starting job for the opener at strong-side linebacker. He'll join senior linebackers Jeff Thomas and Leon Beckum in the starting lineup.
  • No major surprises in the starting secondary as sophomores Lawrence Barnett and Greg Heban are listed as the top corners and fifth-year seniors Chris Adkins and Jarrell Drane are listed as the No. 1 safeties.
  • Wynn and Perez are listed as the top kick returners, as Indiana must replace the dynamic Tandon Doss on special teams.

Some interesting stuff here. Youth will be served this season in Bloomington as 14 true freshmen or redshirt freshmen appear on the depth chart.
Here's the second part of my conversation with Indiana coach Kevin Wilson. You can read Part I here.

What is your plan for the the quarterback situation? Do you expect to name a starter early in camp, or closer to the opener?


[+] EnlargeKevin Wilson
AP Photo/Darron CummingsNew Indiana coach Kevin Wilson is excited about some of the players his staff inherits.
Kevin Wilson: Performance will dictate that. We don't need a revolving door where we just keep trying guys, or guys feel like as soon they make a bad play they're out. If we do make a decision and go with one guy, you want that guy to have self-confidence and know if he does go out and is a little off one day, he won't be looking over his shoulder the whole time. We've got to wait and see how they perform. We did go through spring with four guys getting a bunch of reps. We will add freshman Tre Roberson into the mix and see where he is. He was Mr. Football in Indiana, though it's a tough position to walk in as a freshman.

We've got to be careful in not trying to be so fair in our evaluation that we don't develop the right guys. So there has to be a point in time where, whether we name a starter or not, that we do pare it down and get a direction, so the guys who are going to be playing get the bulk of the practice reps and keep honing in and improving their game.

The position that really seems to stand out on your roster is receiver. Damarlo Belcher was just named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list, for example. How good do you feel about that group?


KW: I really like them. They were learning in the spring to go hard every day and play up to their potential. I actually think they're more talented than maybe they've played. They're comparable to a lot of the kids I had at Oklahoma. And the tight ends group complements them very well. So the quarterbacks will have some good skill kids around them. If we take care of the ball and get some consistent line play, we should be a team that has a chance offensively to score some points.

The receiver position, it's solid. It needs to be a strength of our team. I think we can go about five or six deep, and we'll throw a couple of freshmen in the mix that we're intrigued by. I thought in the spring, Kofi Hughes was really good in some scrimmages. He needs to be a better and more consistent practice player every day, but in the scrimmages he stuck out. Damarlo led the Big Ten in receptions last year. I really like Duwyce Wilson, a sophomore who's coming on strong. Jamonne Chester came on strong. Dre Muhammad is a slot kid who had a nice spring.

Then we have some freshmen we'll get in the mix. Shane Wynn is a small kid, but he's quick and fast. Cody Latimer is a big kid out of Dayton who might be the best athlete of the whole class. I think that group walks out there and is maybe one of the best groups on the team.

Obviously, the defense has been a sore spot for some time. What did you see from that side of the ball this spring, and how can it get better this summer?


KW: I didn't go back and study the past, but stats-wise and numbers-wise, it didn't look like we played great defense last year. I thought from where we started this spring to where we finished was good. I liked that there was some give and take between the offense and the defense -- there were some days in practice where the defense definitely had the edge. I'd actually like to see the defense pick it up and be a little bit more in control and steady every day.

I think we're going to be decent inside at defensive tackle, where we'll play four or five guys and maybe even a couple of freshmen. The defensive ends, I'd like to see those guys pick up their presence. Jeff Thomas and Leon Beckum are captain-type players for us at linebacker. We need a third 'backer to come through and some depth at 'backer. We might have to play some young guys there because we've got some second- and third-year guys who need to pick things up.

And in the back end, we need more consistent play. We need to start playing better. We made some changes in the scheme and structure of how we do things, so maybe that will hep. The bottom line is, you've got to be able to run, you've got to be able to tackle, you've got to be able to to cover, you've got to be able to make adjustments with checks. And you've got to mentally be a smart player.

We've got to play faster in the secondary. That doesn't mean just putting in a new player because his 40 time is faster. There are a lot of really good DBs who don't have great speed, but they're great technicians. Their knowledge is unbelievable, they've got great anticipation and they're great students.

Have you decided whether you will call plays this year?


KW: We'll go through the preseason and figure it out. I'm leery sometimes, because there's so much going on on the field, of what you can and can't do. We've got enough going on now with getting up to speed in recruiting and getting some families relocated and some things around here with our facilities and dressing up our building. We'll have to sit down and iron some things out.

But I was very comfortable in the spring. I did some of those things, and I had [assistant coaches] Kevin [Johns] and Rod [Smith] do some of those things. I think we'll collectively do it as a group, then in time determine maybe who makes the final call, whether it's myself or one of those guys, as the season approaches.

Lastly, you're opening at Lucas Oil Stadium this year, site of course of the Big Ten championship game. How does that help the program, and do you foresee more games there in the future?


KW: Well, it's Ball State's home game. For us, I'm not big on taking home games away from our place, just because of the fans and students and what it means economically. I am excited for our fan base that does travel from Iowa or Indianapolis or from the Northwest or Northeast corners of our state. And I do think it's kind of neat playing a game in a pro stadium. But I don't know if I would want to take a home game away from our campus.
Here are the official injury report from both Michigan and Indiana for Saturday's games against Massachusetts and Western Kentucky:

MICHIGAN (vs. Massachusetts)

Out
  • OL John Ferrara, hand
  • LB Brandon Herron, ankle
  • LB/S Carvin Johnson, knee
  • LB Mike Jones, leg
  • S Jared Van Slyke, clavicle (out for season)
  • S Mike Williams, head
  • CB Troy Woolfolk, ankle
Questionable
Probable
INDIANA (at Western Kentucky)


Out
  • S Chris Adkins, ankle
  • S Jarrell Drane, knee
  • K Nick Freeland, hip
  • DE Darius Johnson, hamstring
  • RB Matt Perez, knee (ACL, out for season)
Probable

Monday Big Ten personnel nuggets

September, 13, 2010
9/13/10
3:00
PM ET
Update your depth charts, please ...

MICHIGAN
  • Redshirt freshman defensive end Anthony LaLota has asked for and received his release and intends to transfer from U-M. LaLota, who redshirted in 2009 and hasn't played this season, was rated the nation's No. 13 defensive end in the 2009 class by ESPN recruiting.
  • Linebacker Mike Jones likely will have season-ending surgery on his broken leg, and defensive end/linebacker Brandon Herron is day-to-day with an ankle injury.
WISCONSIN
  • Wide receiver David Gilreath (concussion) doesn't appear on this week's depth chart, and his status for the Arizona State game (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET) is to be determined. Coach Bret Bielema said Monday that Gilreath needs to overcome any post-concussion symptoms before being able to return. Gilreath had to be taken off the field in an ambulance Saturday after taking a blow to the head on a punt return.
  • Wide receiver Nick Toon (turf toe), linebacker Chris Borland (shoulder) and defensive end David Gilbert (concussion) all could return to practice Tuesday.
  • The status of starting right tackle Josh Oglesby (knee) will be determined later in the week.
  • Bielema also said wide receiver Kraig Appleton would have to earn an associate's degree from a junior college before having a chance to return to the team. Appleton was indefinitely suspended in February and struggled academically before leaving school.
INDIANA
  • Freshman running back Matt Perez will miss the season after tearing his ACL in practice last week. Perez was a likely redshirt candidate.
  • Wide receiver Tandon Doss is expected to practice today after missing the season opener with a groin injury. The All-Big Ten receiver will return Saturday at Western Kentucky. Receiver Dre Muhammad also should return after missing time with an ankle injury.

Big Ten position rankings: WR/TE

August, 23, 2010
8/23/10
2:30
PM ET
The position rankings move on to the wide receivers and tight ends, who will be grouped together. The Big Ten remains a defense-first conference, but I really like the depth at receiver and, to a lesser extent, tight end throughout the league. Although star power was considered, I put a very strong emphasis on overall depth and 2010 potential here.

This was the toughest position to whittle down to five (actually, six), but here goes ...

[+] EnlargeCunningham/Dell
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesMark Dell (left) and B.J. Cunningham headline an experienced group of receivers for Michigan State.
1. Michigan State: Sure, there's a lack of star power entering the season, but trust me, that will change. There's not a deeper group of receivers and tight ends in the Big Ten than this one. Veterans B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell anchor the receiving corps, and dangerous speedster Keshawn Martin will play a much bigger role in the offense this season. Converted quarterback Keith Nichol also joins the mix there. Michigan State also boasts three talented tight ends, including Mackey Award watch list members Charlie Gantt and Brian Linthicum.

2. Indiana: The Hoosiers return two of the Big Ten's top five receivers in Tandon Doss, a first-team all-conference selection, and Damarlo Belcher. They also add experience with Terrance Turner and exciting young players like Duwyce Wilson and Dre Muhammad. Overall depth is a bit of a question mark, but both Doss and Belcher will get the attention of opposing defensive backs after combining for 1,732 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns last fall. Max Dedmond returns at tight end after recording 18 receptions in 2009.

3. Wisconsin: I'm not completely sold on this entire group, although receiver Nick Toon and tight end Lance Kendricks should contend for All-Big Ten honors this fall. Isaac Anderson and David Gilreath both boast a ton of experience, but must take the next step in their development. Wisconsin could use a rebound season from Kyle Jefferson, and walk-on Jared Abbrederis continues to make plays in practice and should be a contributor this fall.

4. Purdue: Surprised by my choices so far? You won't be when the season starts. Like Michigan State, Purdue's depth will reveal itself this fall. The Boilers are led by Keith Smith, a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2009 and the league's top returning receiver (1,100 yards). He's joined by two veterans in receiver Cortez Smith and tight end Kyle Adams. But the real boost could come from young players like Antavian Edison and Gary Bush, as well as Justin Siller, the team's former starting quarterback who brings size and big-play ability to the perimeter.

T-5: Penn State: I'm tempted to rank the Lions a little higher but want to see how the entire group performs this season, provided they get the ball thrown to them. Derek Moye has all the tools to be an All-Big Ten receiver after recording 48 receptions for 765 yards and six touchdowns last season. Graham Zug is a very solid target who reached the end zone seven times in 2009. Although Chaz Powell moves to defense, Penn State boasts several exciting young wideouts like Devon Smith. Tight end is a big question mark after the departures of Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler.

T-5. Iowa: The Hawkeyes boast the league's top big-play tandem at receiver in Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt. DJK is on track to become the team's all-time leading receiver this fall, and McNutt averaged 19.8 yards per catch and scored eight touchdowns in 2009. I like the potential of guys like Keenan Davis and Paul Chaney Jr., who returns from a knee injury. Tony Moeaki is a major loss at tight end, but Allen Reisner returns and talented freshman C.J. Fiedorowicz enters the fold.

Just missed the cut: Ohio State, Michigan

Up next: Quarterbacks

More rankings ...

Indiana spring wrap

May, 5, 2010
5/05/10
10:30
AM ET
Indiana

2009 overall record: 4-8

2009 conference record: 1-7 (T-10th)

Returning starters

Offense: 8, defense: 4, kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Ben Chappell, WR Tandon Doss, WR Damarlo Belcher, RT James Brewer, RB Darius Willis, LB Tyler Replogle, DT Larry Black Jr.

Key losses

LT Rodger Saffold, DE Jammie Kirlew, LB Matt Mayberry, DE Greg Middleton, CB Ray Fisher, SS Austin Thomas, FS Nick Polk, LB Will Patterson

2009 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Darius Willis* (607 yards)

Passing: Ben Chappell* (2,941 yards)

Receiving: Tandon Doss* (962 yards)

Tackles: Matt Mayberry (108)

Sacks: Jammie Kirlew (6.5)

Interceptions: Austin Thomas (4)

Spring answers

1. End game: Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton formed one of the Big Ten's most productive defensive end tandems during the last three seasons, and their departures raise a red flag about the defensive end position. So why isn't co-defensive coordinator Joe Palcic concerned? He has tons of faith in Darius Johnson and Kevin Bush, the favorites to start at the two end spots. Bush, a 24-year-old redshirt sophomore, spent three plus seasons in the military before joining the Hoosiers. "I'm telling you, they're both going to end up being better than Jammie Kirlew," Palcic said.

2. Hoosiers switch to 3-4: Despite losing two veteran linebackers, Indiana employed more of the 3-4 alignment on defense this spring in an effort to capitalize on its athleticism. The switch allows the Hoosiers to rotate more players up front. Among the players to be featured in the 3-4 are Johnson, Bush, Damon Sims, Fred Jones and Adam Replogle, a big, athletic defender who moved from tackle to end this spring.

3. Receiving orders: Indiana entered the spring loaded at wide receiver, and the Hoosiers added more depth on the perimeter. First-team All-Big Ten selection Tandon Doss turned in a stellar spring, and redshirt freshman Duwyce Wilson worked his way into a rotation that also includes Damarlo Belcher and Terrance Turner. Junior Dre Muhammad also stepped up, as he and Wilson combined for 10 catches in the spring game.

Fall questions

1. The secondary: There were some bright spots this spring, like the play of redshirt freshman cornerback Lawrence Barnett, but the secondary is far from settled heading into the summer. Indiana loses two multi-year starters at safety as well as Ray Fisher, its top cover corner. Junior college transfer Lenyatta Kiles went through spring ball, and another juco corner, Andre Kates, arrives for preseason camp. It will be interesting to see where those two fit in and whether Jerimy Finch finally blossoms at safety.

2. Run game: The pistol formation was supposed to ignite Indiana's rushing attack, but it hasn't happened yet. And while there's little doubt the Hoosiers can light up defenses through the air, their running game is a major question mark. Darius Willis shows flashes but struggles to stay on the field because of ankle problems. Indiana needs a strong camp from Willis and continued production from other backs like Antonio Banks, who had a nice spring.

3. Offensive line: Indiana must replace arguably the Big Ten's most underrated player in left tackle Rodger Saffold, who nearly worked his way into the first round of April's NFL draft (he was the first pick of the second round). Junior Andrew McDonald is Saffold's projected successor, but other players are in the mix, including starting guard Justin Pagan. The Hoosiers also must replace veteran guard Pete Saxon, so building chemistry will be key in preseason camp.

Big Ten lunch links

April, 14, 2010
4/14/10
12:00
PM ET
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