Well football fans, in case you hadn't noticed, it's nearly football season. Though you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between last fall and this summer. Afterall, outside of one hot and humid week this summer, it's felt like college football season since June.
The annual Big Ten media day, which is really just an opportunity for everyone to look down their collective noses at IU football, took place this weekend. Well, not many surprises this year, because IU is again picked to be a cellar dweller.
If you believe in those media prognosticators out there that hawk their various college football "pre-season" publications, IU is somewhere between a barely capable BCS squad and a potentially talented Pop Warner team.
Phil Steele's magazine, which is more or less written in some sort of strange code only understood by coaches, scouts and those Fantasy Football folks that spend longer on their draft than the real NFL draft.
Steele ranks the best players at each position around the country and while the Hoosiers have a few players mentioned, he still feels that IU is last in the Big Ten.
The lone bright spot appears to be that he feels that IU has the 33rd best offensive line in the country. Maybe quarterback Ben Chappell can spend more time upright than in a tangled heap below 300-plus pound defensive linemen. Hopefully the guru is correct and the Hoosiers will also be able to move the ball via the ground, something that it seemingly hasn't done since the days of Vaughn Dunbar and Anthony Thompson. I've got my fingers crossed that redshirt freshman back, Darius Willis is ready to prove he can be a top-five running back in the league.
Athlon also has the Hoosiers ranked last in the league and No. 78 in the nation by the way. It does have defensive Jamie Kirlew as one of its First Team D-linemen, but as Greg Middleton proved last season, last year doesn't mean much. It's definitely a 'what have you done for me lately' kind of league.
Lindy's seems to feel the same about Kirlew, ranking him as the eighth-best defensive tackle in the country. The interesting quote from the article that I couldn't help but sit, mouth agape for a moment, "Kirlew and Greg Middleton are the best pair of non-SEC defensive ends." Hmmmm, still tastes weird no matter how much you roll it around in your mouth.
I think much of the uncertainty stems from Chappell at quarterback and the fact that perhaps the only marquee sort that IU had on the team, has now been booted all the way to Division II. He was dismissed from IU after violating team rules again in April. Finding someone to take over the playmaking reigns following his dismissal will be a key to putting butts in the seats and keeping the Hoosiers out of the cellar.
During media day, Lynch talked about the key to winning in the Big Ten is a strong presence up front and he feels IU is in better position than ever before to excel on the line.
"You've got to be good upfront if you're going to win. We have now a situation with our offensive line that we have 84 returning starts in our offensive line. That's quite a few in college football today."
Lynch has also talked about straying from the spread offense and using a formation called the "pistol" which leans towards running the football with more authority. Only time will tell whether the Hoosiers have the components to run this style with any more success. But then again, nothing else has worked so why not give this a try with Chappell being more of a pocket quarterback than Lewis.
Indiana athletics director, Fred Glass, is planning on making IU's game day experience more fan friendly this year. The North endzone project is nearly finished and Glass is spending $3 million to help brighten up the rest of the stadium and create the Knothole Club.
There will be a Knothole Park in the south endzone, which will include a Field Turf replica of the Memorial Stadium field where kids can play. The park should be ready for the season opener against Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 3. The sound system for Memorial Stadium should also be replaced by the time Ohio State comes calling on Oct. 3.
So at least if the product on the field lives up to the media's expectations, the fans will have a better time watching a last place season.