B1G 40: Can Hoosiers offense flourish sans star wideouts?

B1G 40: Can Hoosiers offense flourish sans star wideouts?
July 19, 2014, 2:00 pm
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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 the Hoosiers' offense still flourish despite the departure of some star wide receivers?

There's no doubt that Indiana's offense was the Big Ten's most explosive a season ago. Yeah, the Ohio State Buckeyes had Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde. Sure, the Michigan Wolverines had Devin Gardner and Jeremy Gallon. OK, the Wisconsin Badgers had Melvin Gordon and James White. But if you needed a score and needed a score in a hurry, it's a pretty safe bet that Kevin Wilson's Hoosiers could get it for you.

Indiana ranked second in the Big Ten with 38.4 points per game, second with 508.5 offensive yards per game, fourth in rushing offense with 201.8 yards on the ground per game and first in passing offense with 306.7 yards through the air per game. All in all, it was an extremely potent group. The numbers were huge. In eight of their 12 games, the Hoosiers scored 35 points or more. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld ranked fourth in the conference with 210.2 passing yards per game, plus 21 touchdowns, despite splitting time at the position.

But a big part of that offensive success was the team's talented wide-receiving corps, and that corps looks a lot different now than it did just a few months ago. Four Hoosiers caught 35 passes or more a season ago. Three of them won't return.

[B1G 40: Who will fill Carlos Hyde's shoes for Buckeyes?]

Cody Latimer caught 72 passes for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns. Kofi Hughes caught 47 passes for 739 yards and seven touchdowns. Ted Bolser caught 35 passes for 320 yards and six touchdowns. Duwyce Wilson caught 15 passes for 167 yards. Those guys are all gone.

It puts a lot of pressure on the returning Shane Wynn. Wynn was pretty great, too, last season, catching 46 passes for 633 yards and a team-high 11 touchdowns. That was one of the top touchdown-catch totals in the country, and only one Big Ten receiver (Nebraska's Quincy Enunwa) had more. Wynn has plenty of expectations to step up and fill the departed Hoosiers' shoes, seeing his name pop up on preseason award watch lists.

But Wynn will need some help if the Hoosiers want as formidable of a group of pass-catchers as they did last season. It's a generally youthful group, with Wynn and last year's Nos. 5 and 6 pass-catchers Isaiah Roundtree and Nick Stoner the lone seniors. Those three have a good shot at being featured weapons early for the Hoosiers. Also, top-notch running back Tevin Coleman returns, taking some pressure off those guys and perhaps factoring into the passing game, as well.

Another positive for these wideouts: They should see a few more balls coming their way. Sudfeld split time at quarterback season with Tre Roberson, who provided a more run-oriented yin to Sudfeld's pass-oriented yang. Well, Roberson is gone, transferring to Illinois State this offseason. That could mean even more balls in the air than last season, when the Hoosiers' passing attack was tops in the conference.

So while the receiving corps could be classified as depleted, with the return of Wynn, Coleman and Sudfeld, few are expecting the Hoosiers' passing game or offense in general to drop off. Now, if they could just get that defense working.