The spring superlatives series, which takes a look at the strongest and weakest positions for each Big Ten team, marches on with Indiana.
The Hoosiers begin spring practice stocked at the offensive skill positions, as quarterback Ben Chappell, All-Big Ten wide receiver Tandon Doss and others are back. Indiana's major concerns once again rest with a defense that loses seven starters.
Strongest position: Wide receiver/tight end
Key returnees: Tandon Doss (77 receptions, 962 yards, 5 TDs); Damarlo Belcher (61 receptions, 770 yards, 5 TDs); Terrance Turner (46 receptions, 443 yards, 1 TD); Max Dedmond (18 receptions 141 yards, 1 TD).
Key losses: Wideout Mitchell Evans (33 receptions, 366 yards, 3 TDs) moves to safety.
The skinny: How loaded are the Hoosiers at receiver? Head coach Bill Lynch is moving two players, Evans and Matt Ernest, to the defensive side to help a beleaguered secondary. Doss earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from the media (second-team from the coaches) as a sophomore and has great potential to play at the next level. Belcher boasts great size and the ability to stretch the field, while Turner brings good experience to the group. Quarterback Ben Chappell will have no shortage of targets in 2010.
Weakest position: Defensive back
Key returnees: Cornerback Donnell Jones (30 tackles, 1 interception, 3 pass breakups); cornerback Richard Council (22 tackles, 2 pass breakups); safety Chris Adkins (14 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception).
Key losses: Austin Thomas (67 tackles, 4 interceptions, 2 pass breakups); Nick Polk (53 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 tackles for loss, 4 pass breakups); Ray Fisher (40 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 635 kickoff return yards and 2 TDs).
The skinny: Indiana has concerns at other positions, namely linebacker and defensive end, but the secondary will be the coaches' top priority this spring. The Hoosiers lose three starters, including both safeties, and are rushing to fill the gaps. Bill Lynch signed two junior college cornerbacks (Andre Kates and Lenyatta Kiles) and moved both Evans and Ernest over from the offense. Evans, who played safety as a freshman in 2007, is expected to step into a leadership role in the secondary. I saw a decimated Indiana secondary face Iowa last year, and the Hawkeyes hit on several huge pass plays in the fourth quarter. IU must build depth in the back four to be able to survive injuries in 2010.