B1G 40: Can the Hoosiers' defense stop anyone?

B1G 40: Can the Hoosiers' defense stop anyone?
June 20, 2014, 9:15 am
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Vinnie Duber

B1G 40

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As the dog days of summer arrive, the longing for football becomes all the more intense. Well, we here at CSNChicago.com are here to provide you with a summertime football fix. Over 40 days, CSN's Vinnie Duber will have 40 posts pondering the biggest questions heading into the 2014 Big Ten football season — the B1G 40 questions. Be sure to check out the entire B1G 40 series at csnchicago.com/big-ten.

Can Indiana’s defense stop anyone?

Last season, the answer to that question was a resounding “no.”

The Hoosiers had perhaps the Big Ten’s most explosive offense, but they also had the conference’s worst defense. They allowed 38.8 points per game (worst in the league and 10th-worst in the country) and 527.9 yards per game (worst in the league and fourth-worst in the country).

And often the defensive shortcomings erased banner days for the Indiana offense, which ranked second in the Big Ten behind only Ohio State. Thrice the Hoosiers scored at least 35 points and lost. There was no better illustration than in Indiana’s game against Michigan. The Hoosiers scored 47 points on on 572 yards, a remarkable offensive showing. Well, the Wolverines scored 63 points on 751 yards. Yikes.

[B1G 40: Will Buckeyes' Braxton Miller win the Heisman?]

If there’s good news coming off that rough year for the defense, it’s that the unit’s performance didn’t go unnoticed. Indiana and head coach Kevin Wilson made a pair of coaching changes on that side of the ball, firing defensive coordinator Doug Mallory and defensive line coach Jon Fabris this offseason. Brian Knorr takes over as defensive coordinator, coming in after running the defense at Wake Forest. Larry McDaniel will coach the defensive line.

Knorr’s arrival is the most substantial change, and it remains to be seen exactly how he’ll try to turn around one of the nation’s worst defenses. Last season, his defense at Wake Forest ranked in the top 40 in the country in both scoring defense and total defense.

But another important difference coming out of 2013 and heading into 2014 for the Hoosier defense is experience. Thirteen of the team’s 14 leading tacklers return, and many enter their fourth year with program. So while it might be many of the same faces that allowed such monster days to opposing offenses taking the field, they’ll be a more experienced group. And sometimes that can make a whole lot of difference.

So with new faces on the sidelines and more-experienced faces on the field, the Hoosiers might be looking at a better year than the last. But, of course, there’s not really anywhere to go but up.