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Indiana is rebuilding, but better than the 2021 Hoosiers

What do the Illini have to look forward to under the Friday night lights in Bloomington?

Indiana football coach Tom Allen coaches during warmups... Photo by Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Indiana Hoosiers are coming off a 2-10 season. Under the Friday night lights, they open their season in Bloomington against the 1-0 Fighting Illini. What can we expect from the once promising Tom Allen-run program?


Walt Bell is the Hoosiers’ new offensive coordinator. The former UMass head coach has previous Power 5 offensive coordinator experience at Florida State and Maryland.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 16 UMass at Northwestern
Indiana OC Walt Bell, formerly UMass’s head coach.
Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bell takes over an offense that…struggled last season. According to Alex Hickey, the Hoosiers national offensive rankings last season were staggeringly inept.

  • 123rd in scoring offense (17.3 ppg),
  • 113th in passing offense (175.5 ypg)
  • 113th in rushing offense (114.2 ypg)
  • 126th in explosive plays (34 of 20-plus yards)
  • 89th on third down (36.9%)
  • 108th in turnovers (22)

Bell is known for a high-powered, pass-heavy offensive philosophy. How will that work in the B1G? And what kind of talent does he have to work with this season?


With Michael Penix Jr. off to Seattle to play for the Huskies, Indiana had a quarterback competition this fall. Coach Tom Allen knows who the starter is, but won’t reveal the name until the two teams take the field.

One candidate, Connor Bazelak, is a familiar name to Illini fans as the former signal caller for the program in Columbia, Missouri that shall not be named. He is a former co-SEC Freshman of the Year, and has a long-term starting pedigree.

Missouri v Arkansas
Connor Bazelak wearing the wretched uniform
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

His competition, Jack Tuttle, has made several appearances for the Hoosiers over the years. He led Indiana to a 14-6 victory over Wisconsin in 2020 and started Indiana’s 2021 Outback Bowl appearance.

Running Back

Shaun Shivers, a transfer from Auburn, looks to be the top name in the Hoosiers’ backfield. The slight 5-foot-7 back has explosive speed and is looking to step into a bigger role than his change-of-pace role in the SEC.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 02 Auburn at LSU Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

His primary backup looks to be UNC transfer Josh Henderson. At 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds, he has potential to join Shivers in two-back sets. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry for the Tar Heels last season.

Wide Receiver

Walt Bell is known for having highly productive receivers. While OC at Maryland, he coached D.J. Moore to B1G Wide Receiver of the Year honors.

Indiana reloaded at the WR position this offseason, largely feasting in the transfer portal. Bell promises to use eight players at the position this season.

  • Andison Coby is a transfer from Tennessee via Northeast Mississippi Community College. He was the number 30 JuCo player in the ℅ 2021. Listed at 6’2 and 180 pounds, he provides a big vertical target for whomever is the Hoosiers starting QB.
  • Cam Camper is an all B1G name first teamer, and also a JuCo transfer. Another lanky receiver, Camper is a former New Mexico commit who signed with IU in December.
  • Emery Simmons may be the biggest name of the bunch. After catching 30 passes at UNC, Simmons is likely to log plenty of snaps both in the slot and on the outside for a revamped receiving corps.
Georgia State v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Among the other returners are converted QB Donovan McCulley and speedy D.J. Matthews. McCulley has length and physicality that coaches love. And Matthews has the ability to make plays in space.

Tight End

Indiana’s depth chart at tight end lacks experience and production. Peyton Hendershot’s departure has opened up snaps for returner AJ Barner. Barner leads a room with multiple high-upside freshmen, but he will be stepping into the big shoes left by the Dallas Cowboys’ preseason sensation.

Offensive Line

The much-maligned Hoosiers OL returns multiple starters from last season: Matthew Bedford, Luke Haggard, Zach Carpenter, and Mike Katic. This will undoubtedly raise some eyebrows among IU fans based on last year’s performance.


Indiana also has new leadership on the defensive side of the ball. Chad Wilt takes over the Hoosiers’ defense after two years of coaching the defensive line for the University of Minnesota. The Gophers’ defense had an excellent 2021 season, finishing third nationally in total defense. Wilt hopes to bring some of that positive momentum to Bloomington, where the Hoosiers finished last in the B1G in scoring defense last season.

However, Head Coach Tom Allen will be calling plays. For the first time since 2018, Allen will take the reins of the play-by-play execution by his defense.

Star Micah McFadden is now on the New York Giants. McFadden accounted for more than a third of the Hoosiers’ total sacks last season. Though IU added three Power 5 defensive linemen in the transfer portal, the IU pass rush seems questionable at best. Cal transfer JH Tevis had 3 sacks last year for the Bears, which leads the newcomers. Ouch.

Indiana v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Tom Allen is known for his base 4-2-5 defense. And Indiana does return valuable linebacker Cam Jones to help anchor the unit. Another name to watch in the Indiana linebacker corps is Miami (FL) transfer Bradley Jennings, Jr. He demonstrated an ability to get quarterback pressure last season in spite of injuries.

However, much like the Illini, the Hoosiers’ strength could lie in the secondary. Former All-American corner Tiawan Mullen is returning for another season. With fellow corner Jaylin Williams and a (hopefully) improved pass rush, the Hoosiers hope to generate momentum by forcing turnovers at a high rate like they did in 2020.


Indiana is absolutely rebuilding. While they have added some proven Power 5 depth, there seem to be more questions than answers. Two new coordinators, a quarterback battle, a remade wide receiver room, and an uninspiring (on paper) front four don’t present a particularly intimidating presence.

But Indiana does thrive at home. And Tom Allen has demonstrated that he is an excellent football coach. Illinois and Indiana seem to be at similar places in their roster rebuilds, so this game could simply come down to execution.