Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Despite a season of setbacks for an Indiana program that thought it had turned a corner last fall, head coach Bill Lynch won't conduct a major housecleaning in Bloomington.
In a recent interview with The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel's Pete DiPrimio, Lynch cautioned against making dramatic changes, saying Indiana can't start over again only a year removed from its first bowl appearance since 1993. Indiana's assistants and philosophy on both offense and defense will more or less remain the same.
Q: Do you anticipate making any staff changes?
A: I don't. We've got a good staff that has been through a lot. A lot. Lot more than what people on the outside would know. They know about the Coach Hep [Terry Hoeppner] situation. They know about the transition. It's a group that's stuck together. They work hard. They coach their guys up well. We're all disappointed. We're all going to get better. I don't see us making any major changes.
Lynch's loyalty to his assistants is admirable, but it might be misguided. Incoming athletic director Fred Glass, who takes over Jan. 2, gave Lynch a vote of confidence for the 2009 season after negative recruiting against the program had increased. But make no mistake: If Indiana doesn't win at least five or six games next fall, Lynch will be fired.
You would think such pressure would prompt a staff change, particularly on the defensive side. Despite producing two standout pass-rushers the last two seasons in Greg Middleton and Jammie Kirlew, Indiana's overall defensive performance leaves much to be desired. And while the program made some strides under Hoeppner and took a big step forward under Lynch in 2007, Indiana will never be a consistently relevant team until it finds consistency on defense.
Look at where Indiana's defense has ranked nationally and in the Big Ten this decade:
2008: 107th nationally (432.2 ypg), 11th in Big Ten
2007: 71st nationally (403.3 ypg), 9th in Big Ten
2006: 109th nationally (402.3 ypg), 9th in Big Ten
2005: 93rd nationally (417.7 ypg), 8th in Big Ten
2004: 110th nationally (453.2 ypg), 11th in Big Ten
2003: 94th nationally (429.7 ypg), 11th in Big Ten
2002: 101st nationally (428.4 ypg), 10th in Big Ten
2001: 72nd nationally (393.8 ypg), 8th in Big Ten
2000: 112th nationally (457.3 ypg), 11th in Big Ten
This is an extremely troubling track record of defensive futility.
Northwestern had a similar sequence of bad defenses until last winter, when head coach Pat Fitzgerald brought in a new coordinator, Mike Hankwitz, who revolutionized the unit this fall. Minnesota set school records for defensive ineptitude last fall but led the Big Ten in takeaways this year (30) behind new coordinator Ted Roof.
It's nice to see Lynch maintain faith in his defensive staff, but Indiana needs to start maximizing the obvious talent it has (Middleton, Kirlew, Matt Mayberry) on that side of the ball.