Indiana ended a disappointing season with a 56-36 win against Purdue in the Old Oaken Bucket rivalry. The Hoosiers finished 5-7 overall and 3-5 in Big Ten play, both the best marks the program has had under coach Kevin Wilson, but still below expectations for what was expected to be a bowl year for IU.
"Our emphasis was for this week to have our best preparation, our best meetings, and to go out there and play our best. There was a little bit of ugliness here and there, but for the most part it was a good win," Wilson said after the victory over the Boilermakers. "I'm happy to get The Bucket for the seniors and for the team. We finished with five wins this season, which shows some improvement, but we have a lot of work to do."
Those strides will have to be made without Kofi Hughes, Greg Heban, Ted Bolser, Stephen Houston and the rest of a class of 21 seniors who will leave the program in the spring. The Hoosiers return the bulk of their team on both sides of the ball, but will need to find new leaders and continue to build on what those players built from Year One under Wilson to Year Three.
"I think a strong foundation has been set by these guys and as we keep building we will look back on players like Heban, Bolser, (kicker Mitch) Ewald, Hughes, and Duwyce Wilson as the start of something," Kevin Wilson said. "They have committed a lot of time and effort to me, to our staff, and to this school, and I think they will walk out of here with their heads held real, real high. Now we have to keep building and cash in on the foundation they have laid, but I think we are capable of that."
IU is looking to bring in a class of 20 to 25 recruits this cycle, Wilson said earlier in the year. The Hoosiers have 14 commits as of now and will be selective in their approach for the rest of the class.
While IU has relied on junior college recruiting to build up college-ready bodies on the roster in recent years, Wilson said he will only go after junior college players who will be impact guys from Day One during this cycle. As he said Saturday, the foundation has been laid. There's no need to reach, even with the results his team had this season.
"We've got a great school," he said. "This school's making a phenomenal commitment to our kids, to our program and to give our fan base a product. It's my job to manage it and not have excuses."
GAME OF THE YEAR: Indiana 44, Penn State 24 -- The Hoosiers earned their first-ever victory against the Nittany Lions in convincing fashion during the Big Ten opener Oct. 5 at Memorial Stadium. It became IU's marquee win for 2013. The Hoosiers rattled off 23 points in the fourth quarter to turn a 21-17 lead into a surprising blowout of Penn State. Sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld went 23-of-38 for 321 yards as IU put up the most points of any team on the Nittany Lions since Wisconsin scored 45 in 2011.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: WR Shane Wynn -- Wynn, a junior, led the Big Ten with 11 receiving touchdowns and was one of IU's most explosive playmakers in the passing game despite his 5-foot-7 frame. He was also a big threat on punt returns and ran one back this year. His 638 receiving yards were third on the team, and he had three of his touchdown catches in the Hoosiers' first victory over Purdue since 2010.
FAST FORWARD: Indiana loses some key pieces on both sides of the ball, but for the most part remains intact as a unit. Both of the primary quarterbacks, Sudfeld and redshirt sophomore Tre Roberson, should benefit from another offseason of growth. Star running back Tevin Coleman is back, along with D'Angelo Roberts and Laray Smith to form a solid core of running backs. And although IU loses Hughes, Bolser and might see Cody Latimer depart for the NFL, the Hoosiers should have similar depth and talent at wideout to keep this high-power offense going in 2014. The biggest question mark is on defense, and it centers around whether coordinator Doug Mallory will keep his job as the team heads into the offseason. IU was once again one of the worst defenses in the nation, giving up more than 525 yards per game and finishing 120th among FBS teams.
RECRUITING TRAIL: The Hoosiers have a class ranked No. 61 in the country and ninth among Big Ten teams according to 247Sports.com, and that class will likely improve as the staff dives into the final stretch before Signing Day. Indiana is in touch with former Tennessee commit Dominique Booth, a four-star receiver out of Pike (Ind.) High School who could become the headliner of the 2014 class.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When you're not doing things the way you need to do them, you need to make an improvement. The first change we'll do is me reflecting here in the next couple of weeks in recruiting: where are we at and what's correctable? What can we fix? And then with that, we'll have some changes." -- Indiana coach Kevin Wilson, when asked about possible changes to the defensive coaching staff.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2014:
RB Tevin Coleman -- Coleman was 52 yards from being the first 1,000-yard rusher in Wilson's tenure, but he had to sit out the final three games with a high ankle sprain. The sophomore had 12 touchdown runs and was one of the nation's leaders in plays of more than 40 yards after his first nine games, and when Coleman got going, the IU offense was unstoppable. His 106.4 yards per game should breed optimism in the run game, which will still need to make strides this offseason.
QB Tre Roberson -- Roberson tied a program record with six touchdown passes and rushed for a career-high 154 yards against Purdue. The Indianapolis native is deadly as a dual-threat option, and with some offseason strength work could solidify himself as a guy that can put up numbers and take hits week-in and week-out. Wilson said after the win Saturday that he had limited Roberson to some extent because he worried his body couldn't take the punishment week to week at this stage.
CB Tim Bennett -- Bennett was third on the team in tackles during his first season at cornerback, and the junior was among the nation's best in pass breakups with 20 after moving over from safety this offseason. Although the IU defense was much-maligned, Bennett was as close to a shutdown corner as the Hoosiers have had in some time. His improvement could breed great things for the secondary in 2014.
PRO PROSPECTS as ranked by NFLDRAFTSCOUT.com
TE Ted Bolser (No. 15 tight end) -- Bolser has size and hands that could intrigue some teams, and the senior put up a few multi-touchdown performances en route to earning a spot as a Mackey Award semifinalist this season. He finished his career as the third tight end with more than 1,000 receiving yards in IU history and a program-record nine touchdowns at tight end.
WR Cody Latimer (No. 11 wide receiver) -- Although Latimer is considered a 2015 prospect, he is considering an early departure for the NFL. The junior was the fifth IU receiver to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season, and his size and blocking ability on the outside are boons for his pro prospects.
--S Antonio Allen, who was lost for the season after a torn ACL, will likely return to the team in a starting role after a stellar freshman season up until his injury. Allen had 35 tackles through seven games, including 1.5 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.
--OL Dan Feeney will likely be back from his lisfranc injury in time for spring ball. The sophomore took a redshirt year after suffering the setback during preseason camp.
--OL Peyton Eckert also took a redshirt year after repeated back problems, and should his vertebrae be stabilized, it is likely he will return as one of the better offensive linemen in the Big Ten next season.
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