NCF Nation: Dre Muhammad

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.

Big Ten position rankings: WR/TE

August, 23, 2010
8/23/10
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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 ...

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