INDIANA HOOSIERS Head coach: Bill Lynch Last season: 7-6 overall, 3-5 in the Big Ten; lost 49-33 to Oklahoma State in the Insight Bowl. Spring practice: March 25-April 19.
The Hoosiers were one of the inspirational stories of 2007. Indiana played in a bowl game, which had been the goal of late coach Terry Hoeppner. Although more than half the starters return on both sides of the line, Indiana needs to restock at receiver, offensive line and cornerback this spring. To complicate matters further, the Hoosiers will be without all-conference quarterback Kellen Lewis for at least part of spring practice. Lewis was suspended for violation of team rules.
Bill Lynch takes over as head coach after leading the Hoosiers to a bowl game as interim coach.
Lewis has All-Big Ten credentials, but he is also suspended indefinitely for "violation of team rules." When he'll return to practice is uncertain, but what is certain is that the quarterback position is in good hands when he returns. The Hoosiers have good defensive ends. Middleton, a first team All-Big Ten selection, led the nation with 16 sacks in 2007. Kirlew had 4½ sacks. Starr earned All-Big Ten acclaim at kicker and some All-American mention last season after converting 21 of 23 field goals, including 11-for-12 from at least 40 yards.
HELP IS NEEDED
All-Big Ten honoree James Hardy, the best wide receiver in school history, left early for the NFL Draft. Means, who caught 48 passes a year ago, may be interested in pursuing a future in baseball. In 2007, the Hoosiers were shaky in the secondary and allowed 21 touchdown passes. To make matters worse in 2008, the Hoosiers have to replace starting cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors.
KEEP AN EYE ON
G Cody Faulkner: Faulkner, a sophomore, is a contender to break into the starting lineup.
CB Donnell Jones: The redshirt freshman will challenge for a starting job. At the least, he figures to be involved in nickel and dime packages.
OT Mike Stark: Three starting jobs are open in the line, and the sophomore will make a run at one of them.
HIS TIME IS NOW
Thigpen, a senior, has been good on kick returns, but the Hoosiers need a go-to tailback. Last season he rushed for a respectable 568 yards, but Indiana needs him to be more productive.
The Hoosiers allowed more than 30 points in five of their last seven games of 2007, so bolstering the defense is a top priority. If they can do that and identify some receivers who are ready to produce in starting roles, they can go into the offseason feeling good about the possibilities of another postseason appearance.
Olin Buchanan is the senior football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.