NCF Nation: Terrance Turner

Big Ten NFL combine wrap-up

March, 2, 2011
The NFL scouting combine wrapped up Tuesday with the defensive backs going through drills.

Let's check out the Big Ten's top performers:

  • Ohio State's Chimdi Chekwa tied for third in the 40-yard dash at 4.4 seconds; Nebraska's Prince Amukamara tied for fifth at 4.43 seconds;
  • Ohio State's Jermale Hines (listed as a cornerback for the combine) tied for 10th in bench-press reps with 19
  • Amukamara tied for fifth in the vertical jump at 38 inches
  • Amukamara tied for second in the broad jump at 10 feet, 8 inches; Chekwa tied for sixth at 10 feet, 6 inches
  • Nebraska's Eric Hagg finished 10th in the 3-cone drill at 6.73 seconds
  • Iowa's Tyler Sash tied for fourth in the 40-yard dash at 4.62 seconds
  • Sash tied for fifth in the vertical jump at 33 inches
  • Sash tied for second in the 3-cone drill at 6.9 seconds

Now that the combine is finished, let's see which Big Ten players ranked in overall top performance.

  • Chekwa tied for eighth in the 40-yard dash at 4.4 seconds; Nebraska running back Roy Helu Jr. finished 13th at 4.42 seconds; Amukamara finished 14th at 4.43 seconds
  • Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt tied for fourth in bench-press reps with 34; Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan tied for 10th with 32; Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan tied for 12th with 31
  • Indiana receiver Terrance Turner tied for fifth in vertical jump at 41 inches
  • Amukamara and Turner tied for ninth in broad jump at 10 feet, 8 inches
  • Ohio State receiver Dane Sanzenbacher finished third in the 3-cone drill at 6.46 seconds
  • Sanzenbacher finished sixth in the 20-yard shuttle at 3.97 seconds; Helu tied for 11th at 4.01 seconds
  • Sanzenbacher finished fourth in the 60-yard shuttle at 10.94 seconds; Helu tied for ninth at 11.07 seconds

Big Ten weekend combine recap

February, 28, 2011
All eyes were on Indianapolis this weekend as dozens of NFL prospects, including a large contingent from the Big Ten, went through the scouting combine.

My ESPN colleagues are all over the happenings in Naptown, so check out the combine blog and the latest Scouts Inc. combine notebook.

There's more testing and timing Monday with the defensive linemen and linebackers, but some results are in, so let's take a look. I'm breaking these down into top performers by position. I'll put together an overall top performers post once the combine is finished.

Wide receivers

  • Nebraska's Niles Paul finished second in bench-press reps (225 pounds) with 24
  • Paul tied for 14th in the 40-yard dash at 4.51 seconds
  • Indiana's Terrance Turner tied for second in vertical jump at 41 inches
  • Turner finished seventh in broad jump at 10 feet, 8 inches
  • Ohio State's Dane Sanzenbacher finished second in 3-cone drill at 6.46 seconds; Turner tied for 14th at 6.77 seconds
  • Sanzenbacher finished third in the 20-yard shuttle at 3.97 seconds; Paul finished 12th at 4.14 seconds; Turner finished tied for 13th at 4.15 seconds
  • Sanzenbacher finished second in the 60-yard shuttle at 10.94 seconds; Turner tied for ninth at 11.21 seconds
  • Iowa's Ricky Stanzi and Wisconsin's Scott Tolzien tied for 13th in the 40-yard dash at 4.93 seconds
  • Stanzi finished ninth in the vertical jump at 32.5 inches; Tolzien tied for 12th at 29.5 inches
  • Tolzien tied for seventh in the broad jump at 9 feet, 8 inches; Stanzi finished 12th at 9 feet, 2 inches
  • Tolzien tied for third in the 3-cone drill at 6.84 seconds; Stanzi finished 12th at 6.95 seconds
Running backs
  • Nebraska's Roy Helu Jr. finished sixth in the 40-yard dash at 4.42 seconds; Ohio State's Brandon Saine finished seventh at 4.43 seconds;
  • Illinois' Mikel Leshoure tied for third in the vertical jump at 38 inches; Helu tied for eighth at 36.5 inches
  • Leshoure tied for fourth in the broad jump at 10 feet, 2 inches; Helu finished 10th at 9 feet, 11 inches
  • Helu finished second in the 3-cone drill at 6.67 seconds; Leshoure finished sixth at 6.82 seconds
  • Helu finished first in the 20-yard shuttle at 4.01 seconds; Penn State's Evan Royster tied for eighth at 4.18 seconds
  • Helu finished first in the 60-yard shuttle at 11.07 seconds
Tight ends
  • Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks finished eighth in the 40-yard dash at 4.75 seconds; Michigan State's Charlie Gantt finished 11th at 4.93 seconds; Iowa's Allen Reisner finished 12th at 4.95 seconds
  • Gantt tied for first in bench-press reps with 27; Kendricks tied for third with 25
  • Kendricks finished sixth in vertical jump at 34.5 inches; Gantt finished 13th at 30.5 inches
  • Kendricks finished second in broad jump at 10 feet, 2 inches; Gantt finished ninth at 9 feet, 4 inches; Reisner tied for 12th at 9 feet
  • Kendricks finished sixth in the 3-cone drill at 6.94 seconds; Gantt finished 11th at 7.15 seconds
  • Kendricks tied for second in 20-yard shuttle at 4.15 seconds; Gantt tied for eighth at 4.4 seconds
  • Kendricks tied for sixth in 60-yard shuttle at 11.9 seconds; Gantt and Reisner tied for 11th at 12.12 seconds
Defensive linemen
  • Wisconsin's J.J. Watt tied for fourth in bench-press reps with 34; Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan tied for sixth with 31
  • Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan finished first in bench-press reps with 32; Ohio State's Brian Rolle finished fourth with 28; Illinois' Martez Wilson tied for ninth with 23
Offensive linemen
  • Iowa's Julian Vandervelde tied for 10th in the 40-yard dash at 5.21 seconds; Indiana's James Brewer and Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi tied for 14th at 5.27 seconds
  • Michigan's Stephen Schilling and Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski tied for sixth in bench-press reps with 30; Carimi tied for ninth with 29; Ohio State's Justin Boren tied for 14th with 28
  • Carimi finished fifth in vertical jump at 31.5 inches; Vandervelde tied for sixth at 31 inches; Wisconsin's John Moffitt tied for eighth at 30.5 inches
  • Carimi finished fifth in broad jump at 9 feet, 1 inch; Vandervelde finished tied for 13th at 8 feet, 8 inches
  • Vandervelde finished seventh in 3-cone drill at 7.46 seconds; Wisniewski finished eighth at 7.51 seconds; Boren finished 11th at 7.57 seconds
  • Moffitt finished sixth in 20-yard shuttle at 4.53 seconds; Vandervelde tied for seventh at 4.59 seconds; Schilling tied for ninth at 4.62 seconds;

Indiana passes its way into lead

October, 16, 2010
Although Indiana is getting a nice lift from running back Trea Burgess today, the Hoosiers remain a pass-first, pass-second offense.

Senior quarterback Ben Chappell appears headed for another 300-yard passing performance, as he has completed 22 of 36 passes for 267 yards and two scores. Senior wideout Terrance Turner has a touchdown grab, and Tandon Doss is having another big day.

The problem: Indiana's defense continues to struggle. Arkansas State just drove for a touchdown and trails by only two points with plenty of time left.

Ryan Aplin and the Red Wolves aren't going away.
Fact No. 1: Michigan brings the nation's leading rusher and the nation's No. 2 rush offense to Bloomington to face an Indiana defense ranked 92nd nationally against the run.

Fact. No. 2: The Hoosiers counter with the nation's No. 11 pass offense against a Michigan team ranked 105th nationally in pass defense.

Saturday's matchup at Memorial Stadium pairs both teams' greatest strengths against their most glaring weaknesses.

Are you ready for some touchdowns?

[+] EnlargeRobinson
Eric Bronson/Icon SMIMichigan QB Denard Robinson leads the country in rushing.
Bloomington remains one of the Meccas for college hoops, and all signs point to Indiana and Michigan putting up a basketball score a few hundred feet away from Assembly Hall.

"Both defenses on both teams would rather not," Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said with a laugh. "They would like to think they would be able to step up and make a few stops. They're talented enough defensively to do that, and we think our defense can play better as well. That being said, nobody's really stopped them.

"They've got outstanding offensive players, they're executing really well and they're scoring a lot of points."

Indiana comes in averaging 41.3 points per game, albeit against two Bottom 10 regulars (Western Kentucky and Akron) and an FCS team (Towson). Senior quarterback Ben Chappell leads the Big Ten in passing (296.7 ypg) and ranks sixth nationally in efficiency, tossing nine touchdowns and no interceptions in 98 attempts.

The Hoosiers have received plenty of production from receivers Damarlo Belcher and Terrance Turner, and freshman tight end Ted Bolser already boasts four touchdown receptions. Plus, All-Big Ten wideout Tandon Doss has been quiet so far but is certainly capable of doing major damage.

"We've been efficient," Hoosiers coach Bill Lynch said. "A lot of that goes to Ben; he's been a real good decision-maker. We've been able to throw the ball with some effectiveness. I feel better about our run game than our numbers show."

The numbers certainly show how explosive Michigan's run game has been.

Quarterback Denard Robinson still leads the nation in rushing (172 ypg) despite playing less than a quarter Saturday because of a knee injury. Michigan eclipsed 280 rushing yards in its first three games before exploding for 466 last week against Bowling Green.

Three different Wolverines already have runs of 50 yards or longer this fall.

"It's a great compliment to their football program ... that in the last game, you can bring in three different quarterbacks and it doesn't slow down a bit.," Lynch said. "You've got a Heisman Trophy guy [Robinson], and then the next two guys [Tate Forcier and Devin Gardner] come in and run it the same way. Our defense is going to be challenged.

"Certainly we know we're going to need to score some points to keep up with them."

Michigan receiver Darryl Stonum admitted "everybody lost their breath for a minute" when Robinson went down along the sideline late in the first quarter. The players were relieved to see No. 16 get up relatively unscathed, and the offense didn't miss a beat with Forcier and Gardner calling signals.

"It’s a bunch of guys’ third year in the offense, so we’re real comfortable," Stonum said. "We're very confident in what we can do this year."

Robinson's hot start has motivated his teammates.

"It makes everybody want to elevate their game," Stonum said. "Me and Roy [Roundtree] talk about we want to be Biletnikoff [Award] finalists. It makes the O-line excel, it makes the defense, the wide receivers, the running backs, we all want to do very well."

Michigan and Indiana combined for 69 points last year in Ann Arbor, as Michigan rallied for a 36-33 win. Both offenses have improved, while both defenses have looked shaky against less-than stellar competition so far.

Is a shootout inevitable?

"We could sit here and look at it and the numbers think that’s what it’s going to be and it may end up being a defensive shootout," Lynch said. "You never know."

Don't bet on it.

Big Ten Week 4 rewind/Week 5 preview

September, 27, 2010
Let's take a look back at Week 4 before sneaking a peek at the first group of conference games, which take place Saturday.

Team of the week: The scoreboard operators around the Big Ten. These folks had a very busy Saturday as two Big Ten teams (Ohio State and Wisconsin) eclipsed 70 points and another (Michigan) surpassed the 60-point mark. The Big Ten combined for 428 points, 55 touchdowns and 5,212 total yards. According to Big Ten Network stats guru Chris Antonacci, the 42.8 points-per-game average is the highest for a week in nonconference play since at least 1996. No Big Ten squad scored fewer than 20 points, and only three teams -- Purdue, Penn State and Minnesota -- failed to record 30 points or more.

Best game: Temple at Penn State. Al Golden brought a good Owls team to his alma mater and surged out to a 13-6 lead. Penn State led by only two points entering the fourth quarter and gave Temple several chances to pull off a historic upset. But Tom Bradley's stifling defense shut down a one-dimensional Owls offense, and freshman quarterback Rob Bolden led an impressive 12-play, 96 yard touchdown drive that sealed the victory and allowed Nittany Nation to exhale.

[+] EnlargeRob Bolden
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarPenn State quarterback Rob Bolden delivered big plays in the second half against Temple.
Biggest play: We go back to State College. On third-and-6 from the Penn State 8-yard line, Bolden showed off his arm strength with a tough throw to a diving Graham Zug along the sideline for a 19-yard gain. If the pass falls incomplete, Temple regains possession and likely has excellent field position, needing only a field goal to take the lead. Instead, Penn State drove downfield and finally got into the end zone. The most electrifying play from Saturday came from -- who else? -- Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who took a going-nowhere run play and cut back across the field for a 47-yard touchdown against Bowling Green.

Specialist spotlight: Senior kicker Collin Wagner has been Penn State's most valuable offensive weapon so far this season. He tied a team record with five field goals Saturday against Temple, converting attempts from 45, 42, 32, 32 and 21 yards. Wagner had a chance to set the record, but missed from 32 yards out in the fourth quarter. Wagner is tied for the national lead with 10 field goals this season and ties for second nationally in field goals per game (2.5). Northwestern defensive tackle Jack DiNardo merits a mention after blocking a PAT attempt and a field-goal attempt in a 30-25 win against Central Michigan.

Game balls (given to players from winning teams not selected for helmet stickers):

  • Indiana QB Ben Chappell: The senior signal caller has been nothing short of spectacular this season. He put up huge numbers for the third consecutive game, completing 23 of 33 passes for 342 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-20 win against Akron. Chappell leads the Big Ten in passing average (296.7 ypg), boasts nine touchdown passes and no interceptions and ranks sixth nationally in pass efficiency (179.04 rating). He'll share the ball with receiver Terrance Turner (6 receptions, 121 yards, 1 TD).
  • Iowa DL Mike Daniels: Daniels likely would start on any other defensive line in the country, and he showed why Saturday against Ball State. The junior recorded four tackles for loss, including a sack, as Iowa blanked Ball State and held the Cardinals to 112 total yards. Iowa loses three starting defensive linemen after the season, but there's hope as Daniels and Broderick Binns both return.
  • Northwestern QB Dan Persa: He made his first mistake of the season -- an interception in the red zone -- but was spotless the rest of the game against Central Michigan. Persa completed 23 of 30 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns. The junior leads the nation in completion percentage (80.2) and ranks third in pass efficiency (186.3 rating).
  • Penn State S Nick Sukay and LB Nate Stupar: Both men stepped up for a Penn State defense that totally shut down Temple in the second half Saturday. Sukay recorded two interceptions, bringing his season total to three, and Stupar recorded an interception and a sack, part of his seven tackles on the day.
  • Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins: It was important for Michigan State to continue to show offensive balance Saturday, and Cousins answered the challenge. He completed 16 of 20 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 14.5 yards per completion against Northern Colorado.
  • Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien: Like Cousins, Tolzien faced weak competition Saturday, but any time a quarterback completes 15 of 17 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns, it's worth noting. After a few hiccups in the first two games, Tolzien has settled down nicely, completing 34 of 42 passes for 463 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in the past two games. Tolzien shares this with tight end Lance Kendricks (6 receptions 103 yards, 1 TD).
  • Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher: I mentioned No. 12 in helmet stickers, but he deserves a game ball of his own after hauling in four touchdown passes from Terrelle Pryor. Sanzenbacher had nine catches for 108 yards in the rout of Eastern Michigan. The senior leads the Big Ten in touchdown receptions (5) and ranks fourth in the league in both receptions (5 rpg) and receiving yards (79 ypg).
  • Michigan WR Roy Roundtree: Roundtree is starting to distinguish himself as a reliable weapon for the Michigan offense. He recorded nine receptions for 118 yards, including a 36-yarder against Bowling Green.

OK, enough on Week 4. Let's look ahead to the start of Big Ten play Saturday!

No. 2 Ohio State (4-0) at Illinois (2-1): The Buckeyes hit the road for the first time this season and face an Illinois team that will be healthier following a bye week. Two improved units clash as Pryor and the nation's No. 8 offense go up against an Illinois defense that has made strides under new coordinator Vic Koenning.

Northwestern (4-0) at Minnesota (1-3): Standout quarterback Dan Persa and the Wildcats aim for their third road win of the season, which would make a 6-0 start very realistic. Minnesota is in desperation mode after dropping three consecutive home games. Coach Tim Brewster is under fire, and he needs to get things turned around fast against a team the Gophers beat last year.

No. 19 Michigan (4-0) at Indiana (4-0): I'm not a betting man, but I'd take the over in this matchup. Both offenses rank in the top 15 nationally in scoring, and both defenses have struggled to stop people this season. Michigan's Robinson should be fine following his knee injury Saturday, and he'll try to outshine Indiana senior signal caller Chappell, the Big Ten's leading passer (296.7 ypg).

No. 11 Wisconsin (4-0) at No. 24 Michigan State (4-0): This is the most fascinating matchup of the day in the Big Ten. You've got two potentially explosive offenses and two defenses with some individual talents (J.J. Watt, Greg Jones) and some question marks. I can't wait for the matchup between Jones and Badgers running back John Clay, who needs a big game to boost his Heisman hopes. And we still don't know whether or not Mark Dantonio will return to the Spartans' sideline.

No. 22 Penn State (3-1) at No. 17 Iowa (3-1): In each of the past two years, an unranked Iowa team has stunned a Penn State squad ranked in the top 5 nationally. The roles reverse on Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium, as Penn State will be the underdog against the Hawkeyes, who have looked very impressive aside from the first half at Arizona. Can the Lions pull off the upset, or will Adrian Clayborn and Iowa's defensive line gobble up freshman quarterback Bolden?

Bye: Purdue (2-2)
In a day filled with big performances, Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell is poised to deliver another one.

Chappell has already thrown four touchdown passes as Indiana leads Akron 28-13 at halftime. The senior signal caller continues to look for his tight ends, finding Ted Bolser for two touchdowns and Max Dedmond for another. Hoosiers wideout Terrance Turner also is having a huge night with six receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown. Indiana's receiving corps is simply superb, and it will test Michigan's shaky secondary next week.

Chappell has completed 15 of 19 passes for 212 yards in the opening half. He needs to do this against better defenses, but so far, he has been fantastic.

Indiana's defense still concerns me, and Michigan could put up huge numbers next week. The Hoosiers also need to get their rushing attack going in the second half. Darius Willis has only 32 yards on nine carries. Not good enough.
The red zone was pretty much a dead zone for Indiana's offense in 2009.

The Hoosiers had little trouble moving the ball inside an opponent's 20-yard line, but once there, drives typically stalled. Indiana finished 10th in the Big Ten in both red-zone scoring percentage (77.3, 34 of 44 chances) and touchdowns scored in the red zone (22).

[+] EnlargeDamarlo Belcher
AJ Mast/Icon SMIAt 6-foot-5, Damarlo Belcher has the size to be the red zone threat Indiana has been missing.
Not surprisingly, Indiana made red-zone offense one of its top offseason priorities as it tries to overcome the near misses that surfaced throughout Big Ten play in 2009.

The solution seems pretty obvious: Damarlo Belcher.

At 6-foot-5, Belcher has the size and ability to take Indiana out of the red in the red zone.

Belcher had a good start to his junior season, recording a game-high seven receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown in Thursday's rout of Towson. Although the scoring pass stretched 41 yards, Belcher set up another Hoosiers touchdown with a 19-yard reception down to the Towson 2-yard line.

"You hope he's a big factor [in the red zone]," Indiana head coach Bill Lynch said. "He does have the ability to go up over the top of people. The other thing is, when the field gets constricted down there, whether it's slant routes as well as fades, something where he can shield a guy with his body.

"We work on that a lot, and he's getting better at it."

Belcher, who ranked fifth in the Big Ten in receptions (61) last season but had only five touchdown catches, has confidence he can be a difference-maker near the goal line.

"We’ve got to make more plays in the red zone," he said. "I love the jump ball. I can play a little basketball."

Belcher was an all-area basketball player in Fort Wayne, Ind., and he takes every chance he gets to hoop it up with his teammates at Indiana. All the wide receivers play, and they had pickup games throughout the summer.

Although Belcher is the tallest member of the corps, Indiana has three 6-foot-3 receivers in Tandon Doss, Terrance Turner and Duwyce Wilson.

"We ball a lot in the offseason," Belcher said. "Tandon, he's a smooth player. Same with T-squared [Turner]."

But Belcher puts them to shame, at least according to him.

"I dunked on Terrance before," he said, "I dunked on Duwyce Wilson. I do a lot of tricks. We all play exactly the same, but I'm better than all of them."

Mitchell Evans begs to differ.

"That is a false statement," said Evans, a former wide receiver now at safety. "I know some other guys can shut him down. I’m pretty confident I could shut him down, to be honest. I don't know how he could say that.

"He doesn’t have good enough ball-handling to get to the hole."

The debate continues about Belcher's basketball skills, but when it comes to football, he can make Indiana's red-zone woes disappear.

"We worked on our red zone plays this summer, we did it every day after our conditioning," Belcher said. "We're going to be way better this year, mark my words."
We'll find out Thursday night just how deep Indiana will be at wide receiver in 2010.

The Hoosiers will open the season without first-team All-Big Ten receiver Tandon Doss, who will miss the Towson game because of a lingering groin issue. Doss, who led Indiana and finished third in the Big Ten in both receptions (77) and receiving yards (962) as a sophomore last season, should be back after the bye week for a Sept. 18 road game against Western Kentucky.
"He's been day to day," coach Bill Lynch told reporters Monday night in Bloomington, "but I thought in fairness to him and probably the other guys, he's just not making the progress that he needs to to play Thursday night at full speed."

The only upside of Doss' absence is that Indiana will be able to evaluate its other receivers in featured roles. Junior Damarlo Belcher and senior Terrance Turner are expected to take steps in 2010, and redshirt freshman Duwyce Wilson will start in Doss' spot.

Indiana shouldn't have trouble beating Towson, and strong debut by those three wideouts should make the passing game even more dangerous when Doss returns.
Wisconsin running back John Clay might be the Big Ten's best hope for the Heisman Trophy this season, which will make you scratch your head after reading this next statement.

The Badgers can survive without him.

Not to diminish Clay's size and power, which Wisconsin would miss if he goes down, but the Badgers aren't exactly starved for running backs. Montee Ball showed flashes as a true freshman the past season, and Zach Brown boasts more experience (36 games played) than any other Big Ten backup back.

And whomever carries the ball for Wisconsin will benefit from working behind one of the nation's top offensive lines. Left tackle Gabe Carimi and guard John Moffitt get most of the buzz, but Wisconsin returns all five starters up front, as well as others like Bill Nagy who boast game experience.

The Badgers are one of several Big Ten teams who can survive the loss of a key player or two, as long as it isn't quarterback Scott Tolzien.

The reason why Ohio State has won or shared the past five Big Ten championships: their depth chart. Take the linebacker position, for example. The Buckeyes have two of the Big Ten's best in Ross Homan and Brian Rolle, but they also can turn to a guy like Etienne Sabino, or younger backers Storm Klein, Dorian Bell and Andrew Sweat. Tyler Moeller also should return to the field this fall, although he'll likely see more time at safety.

Indiana's Tandon Doss and Purdue's Keith Smith were the media's picks for the first-team All-Big Ten squad in 2009, and both players are primed for big seasons this fall. While both also would be big losses, their teams have other options. Indiana can turn to Damarlo Belcher and Terrance Turner, or younger players like Duwyce Wilson. Purdue always boasts depth at receiver and has options like Cortez Smith, Antavian Edison and Gary Bush behind Smith. And don't forget about incoming freshman O.J. Ross or Justin Siller, the reinstated former starting quarterback.

Speaking of the offensive skill positions, Michigan State and Iowa boast similar depth. Both teams have potential All-Big Ten players -- Keshawn Martin, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Marvin McNutt, Keith Nichol -- but can truly lean on their strength in numbers. Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins is a very lucky man, as he'll have four capable wideouts, three capable tight ends and at least two capable running backs at his disposal. Iowa's Ricky Stanzi also has weapons at wideout with Johnson-Koulianos and McNutt, as well as three solid options in the backfield with Jewel Hampton, Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher.

Michigan has several areas of concern entering 2010, but offensive line shouldn't be one of them. The Wolverines return five linemen who started part or all of the past season, led by veteran guard Stephen Schilling. Michigan has five offensive linemen who have three years of experience under their belts, not to mention promising young prospects like Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield.

Flipping to the other side of the line, look at Penn State. Sure, the Nittany Lions lose Big Ten co-Defensive Player of the Year Jared Odrick, but there's no reason to doubt defensive line coach Larry Johnson and his personnel. Penn State will have depth up front yet again with guys like Jack Crawford, Ollie Ogbu, Devon Still, Eric Latimore and Kevion Latham.
Indiana went 1-7 in Big Ten play last season, a mark that seems all too familiar for the Cream and Crimson.

But a closer look shows that it wasn't your standard 1-7, if there is such a thing. Indiana held fourth-quarter leads against Michigan, Iowa and Northwestern, only to see each slip away. It jumped out to a 10-0 lead at Penn State before allowing 24 unanswered points in a 31-20 loss. It twice closed to within three points of Wisconsin in the fourth quarter of a Nov. 7 game, only to fall 31-28.

Hoosiers players and coaches know they were close in 2009. They don't need to be reminded of it.

And if you choose to rehash the past, they'll likely drop an F-bomb or two.

"As a whole team, the offseason theme was finish," said co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach Joe Palcic. "We have to learn to finish games."

[+] EnlargeBen Chappell
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesBen Chappell led Indiana to plenty of leads last season, but the Hoosiers had a hard time finishing with wins.
The message especially resonates with Palcic's defenders, who were on the field for all those lost leads last season. The Hoosiers led Michigan 33-29 with five minutes left before the Wolverines marched downfield and scored on a 26-yard touchdown strike. Indiana dominated Iowa for three quarters, picking off quarterback Ricky Stanzi five times, but Stanzi caught fire in the fourth quarter, tossing touchdown passes of 92 and 66 yards on consecutive plays against a shorthanded Hoosiers secondary.

A week later, IU surged out to a 28-3 lead against Northwestern, but the Wildcats fought back and ultimately marched downfield for the game-winning field goal.

"That’s three games right there that the defense could be more consistent and learn how to finish," Palcic said. "And not only not giving up the big play, but let's make a play to win it in those situations."

Indiana's offense has the same mind-set after a season with some adequate yardage production, especially through the air, but not the points to go along with it.

The Hoosiers had the Big Ten's No. 3 passer in quarterback Ben Chappell and two of the league's top six receivers in Tandon Doss (2nd, 80.2 ypg) and Damarlo Belcher (6th, 64.2 ypg). They also had a running back in Darius Willis with breakaway ability.

But Indiana still finished 10th in the league in red zone offense, scoring on just 34 of 44 chances and reaching the end zone on only 22 of those opportunities. Not surprisingly, the red zone was a major focal point for the unit this spring.

"Just minor mistakes here and there," offensive coordinator Matt Canada explained. "We have to correct those issues and make plays when we’re given an opportunity. Just finish. Finish every drive. It’s a bottom-line business, and we have to score more points."

Canada also identifies third-down efficiency as an area that must be upgraded in 2010. Indiana tied for seventh in the league in third-down conversions last fall (39.1 percent), and the biggest problems, according to Canada, came on third-and-short situations.

The Hoosiers hope Willis and others can produce a consistent rushing attack, which was a chief goal of the pistol formation but hasn't truly come to fruition. While the run game remains a question mark, Indiana has more than enough weapons to be better in the red zone. Belcher is a big target at 6-foot-5, and Doss (6-3), Terrance Turner (6-3) and Duwyce Wilson all boast good size.

"We feel like there's plenty of weapons and plenty of things we can do in the red zone and anywhere out there, with all the kids we have at the skill positions, " Canada said. "It’s a matter of our guys understanding that it’s hard to score, it’s hard to move the football against anybody. And when you get it down there, you get an opportunity, you have to score touchdowns.

"We're bringing a real awareness to our team that it's what we have to do."