Big Ten: Larry Black

Video: Indiana DT Larry Black

August, 15, 2012
8/15/12
10:00
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Indiana DT Larry Black talks about hopes for an improved Hoosiers' defense and having a brother who also starts for a Big Ten team.

Best Case/Worst Case: Indiana

August, 14, 2012
8/14/12
3:05
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Our Best Case/Worst Case series continues today with Indiana, which experienced pretty close to a worst-case scenario in 2011 by going winless against FBS competition. Can the Hoosiers expect better things in 2012? Let's review their best and worst outlooks.

Best Case

As the old adage goes, the best thing about freshmen is they become sophomores. And Indiana played more freshmen last year than any major-conference school in the country. So things understandably get better this fall. The offense improves as multi-talented Tre Roberson figures things out his second year at quarterback, surrounded by more depth at running back and a stable corps of receivers. New offensive coordinator Seth Littrell airs it out, and the Hoosiers average more than 28 points per game. Meanwhile, the defense takes baby steps forward, helped by junior college imports Jacarri Alexander and David Cooper at linebacker and veterans Adam Replogle and Larry Black up front.

The Hoosiers start to get some positive publicity with a 3-0 start against a manageable schedule that includes games at home against Indiana State and Ball State and a road trip to UMass. They ride that momentum to a surprising upset at Northwestern in the Big Ten opener, as Roberson throws for 400 yards in a 51-49 shootout. IU comes back to earth the following two weeks against Michigan State and Ohio State but manages to win at Navy on Oct. 20 in another high-scoring contest. Suddenly, bowl eligibility is on the horizon. After a disappointing four-game losing streak, the Hoosiers get to 6-6 by winning at Purdue in the regular-season finale, bringing the Old Oaken Bucket back to Bloomington and clinching a trip to the Little Caesars Bowl. No one has ever been happier to see a Little Caesars in Detroit than hungry Hoosiers fans.

Worst Case

There's a reason Kevin Wilson played so many freshmen last year, and why more freshmen are getting long looks in training camp right now: Indiana's roster just isn't where it needs to be. So even though the team makes progress, it still remains a long way from competing in the Big Ten, especially on defense. Roberson struggles under a new coordinator, and a three-way quarterback controversy develops just like last year as Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld battle for playing time. The Hoosiers' offensive line doesn't offer much in the way of protection, and opponents dice up Indiana's defense for a second straight season.

Wilson's team wins the opener against Indiana State on a last-second field goal but loses at UMass and falls to Ball State for a second straight year, meaning Indiana is no better than the fourth-best college football team in its own state. The Hoosiers give up 150 points total in losses to Northwestern, Michigan State and Ohio State and are thoroughly befuddled by Navy's option game in another defeat. The only home games remaining are against Iowa and Wisconsin, so prospects for another victory are bleak. IU staggers into the season-ending game against Purdue and gets blown out before watching the Boilermakers celebrate a surprise Leaders Division championship on the Ross-Ade Stadium field. A second straight 1-11 season makes Wilson 0-22 against FBS competition, putting him on the hottest of hot seats in 2013.

More Best Case/Worst Case:

Illinois
With media days in our rearview mirror, we jump back into our preseason Big Ten position rankings. Last week we unveiled our rankings for individual defensive linemen. Now it's time to look at the defensive line units as a whole.

Remember, these rankings are based heavily on last year's performance and who returns to the fold, with potential considered as well. Let's get to the guys up front who make the entire defense go.

[+] EnlargeJohn Simon
Phil Sears/US PresswireJohn Simon leads one of the Big Ten's best defensive fronts.
1. Ohio State: The Buckeyes have a chance to field one of the top defensive lines in the country. John Simon is a beast, while Johnathan Hankins has as much potential to dominate his position as any Big Ten player. Nathan Williams could be a big contributor coming back from knee surgery. This group is already really deep, and with standout freshmen like Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Se'Von Pittman coming in, it could be scary good.

2. Michigan State: The Spartans will rival Ohio State for the league's top defensive front. You know all about end William Gholston and his unlimited potential. Marcus Rush gets overshadowed at the other end spot, but he put up an outstanding freshmen season. Anthony Rashad White should be an anchor inside. The big question is who replaces Jerel Worthy, but the team is flush with candidates. This is another very deep defensive line.

3. Purdue: Don't be surprised by this high ranking. Kawann Short might be the top defensive lineman in the league, and is poised for a monster senior season. Bruce Gaston gives him a veteran running mate. Defensive end Ryan Russell is coming on and might be due for a major breakout this season. This should be the strength of Danny Hope's defense.

4. Penn State: Devon Still is gone, but the Nittany Lions should continue to be strong up front. Jordan Hill looks to follow Still's lead and become a superstar as a senior. Sean Stanley is a speedy rusher off the edge, and Pete Massaro returns from a knee injury. DaQuan Jones and Deion Barnes could become bigger contributors.

5. Illinois: Star power lifts the Illini to this high ranking, as defensive end Michael Buchanan and tackle Akeem Spence should be among the very best at their positions in the league. It's just a matter of finding out how the others -- like end Justin Staples and tackle Glenn Foster -- raise their games around them to help make up for the loss of sack master Whitney Mercilus.

6. Nebraska: Too low for the Huskers? Perhaps. They do bring back several veterans, like Cam Meredith, Chase Rome and Baker Steinkuhler, while expecting more from Eric Martin. Still, this group did not dominate enough for my taste last season, and seems to lack the one true pass-rushing stud. But Nebraska has the potential to have a very stout line.

7. Michigan: It's probably wrong to doubt a line overseen by Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison. Yet this unit lost three starters from a year ago, including stars Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen. A lot depends on how Will Campbell performs as a senior, and whether Craig Roh can take his game to the next level. There isn't much experience at all behind the starters.

8. Wisconsin: Can David Gilbert stay healthy and emerge as a fearsome pass-rusher? That's the key to the Badgers' defensive line, without a doubt. Tackles Beau Allen and Ethan Hemer are rock solid, though the loss of Jordan Kohout hurts the depth inside. Brendan Kelly should be good against the run. But Wisconsin needs a fast player on the perimeter, and that's where Gilbert comes in.

9. Iowa: This is a frighteningly young and inexperienced group heading into the season for Iowa, though that doesn't mean it lacks talent. Steve Bigach is the closest thing to a seasoned veteran. The Hawkeyes will need a lot of players to raise their performance, including Dominic Alvis and Carl Davis.

10. Northwestern: This has been a trouble spot for the Wildcats, and could be again in 2012 with the loss of both starting tackles. Tyler Scott and Quetin Williams are back at end, and expectations are high for redshirt freshman Deonte Gibson. Can Will Hampton and Brian Arnfeldt hold the fort down inside the tackles?

11. Indiana: Defensive line is one of the few places where the Hoosiers have experienced veterans. Seniors Adam Replogle and Larry Black lead the way at tackle. Bobby Richardson and Ryan Phillis showed some things as freshmen pass-rushers last season. Still, this group must play better overall.

12. Minnesota: The Gophers have had trouble putting consistent pressure on quarterbacks for the past couple of seasons, and now they're replacing both interior linemen. Jerry Kill has talked highly of 6-foot-6, 300-pound junior Ra'Shede Hageman's offseason, and Roland Johnson comes over from junior college to help out. D.L. Wilhite and Ben Perry will bring speed, but not much bulk to the defensive end spots.

Indiana spring wrap

May, 11, 2012
5/11/12
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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.

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