As the college football season nears its beginning, John Bauernfeind takes a look at IU’s football prospects.
Entering the 2012 Division 1-A college football season, Indiana football merits few expectations.
An abysmal season marked by a 1-11 record featured several low points: nine straight losses to end the season; three different starting quarterbacks; standout wide receiver Damarlo Belcher’s dismissal from the team; and Kevin Wilson’s prized recruit, Gunner Kiel, retracting his letter of intent and opting to enroll at Notre Dame instead. Wilson’s inaugural year as Indiana’s football coach could not have gone worse.
Both the men’s football and basketball programs began their 2011 campaigns with similar prospects. The football team let go of former Head Coach Bill Lynch and hired Kevin Wilson at the end of the 2010 season. Wilson had been the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, where Sam Bradford won the Heisman Trophy under his tutelage. Indiana’s football team had also recaptured the Old Oaken Bucket, defeating its archrival Purdue in the last game of the 2010 season.
The men’s basketball team, like the football team, was excited for their upcoming season and burdened by the pressures of yet another losing season. Tom Crean, however, found the program’s savior in Cody Zeller, and the Hoosiers wound up advancing to the Sweet Sixteen in this past year’s NCAA Tournament. Under duress, the Indiana basketball program delivered.
Now, after starting in the same position, the basketball team is looking to lap the football team in success. Zeller and the Hoosiers have already been labeled as a national title contender for next year, with one of the top – possibly THE top – ranking likely. The gridiron Hoosiers, in contrast, are being prognosticated to finish in the basement of the Leaders Division (and the B1G).
This is not good for Kevin Wilson. He needs some expectations, anything, to help turn his program around. Last year’s catastrophic season could set the program back several if they don’t straighten the path.
Fortunately, the Hoosiers’ men’s basketball team has set the precedent for Wilson and his coaching staff. Four years ago, following the black mark Kelvin Sampson left on the program, Tom Crean and the Hoosiers went 6-25 during his first year as Head Coach, while Tom Pritchard was the team’s leading scorer and the team managed only one conference win. It took Crean and the Hoosiers two more years in the wilderness before they made the NCAA Tournament, and without the addition of Cody Zeller, Indiana basketball may still be toiling and Tom Crean may be looking for a job right now.
For the football team, what’s done is done. Last season has no bearing on the upcoming year. For Kevin Wilson, the rebuilding (or building) of Indiana football won’t be easy. First off, they need to establish a plan of action and then build off of that plan. They need to find the right players for their system as well as role players. They also need to start winning games to spark some hope and eagerness in its fan base. Finally, they need to find their Cody Zeller. Maybe Gunner Kiel was that player, we’ll never know. What we do know is that Indiana football has a long way to go, yet Wilson’s predecessors, namely the late Terry Hoeppner, proved that it could be done.
With an entire state’s attention focused across the street on the happenings inside of Assembly Hall, Kevin Wilson should have the chance to work in peace and quiet. Hopefully he can take advantage of it.
Featured image courtesy of the Indianapolis Star