Craig Has The Scout - Indiana 2022

Sep 1, 2022

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Ed. Note: Craig was struggling with formatting last night so he sent his article to me. Which means you'll look at the byline over there and it will say Robert but this post wasn't written by Robert. It was written by Craig. Says so right there in the title. Craig Has The Scout, not Robert. Robert has a breakfast quesadilla he needs to go house.

Coming Up

Who: Indiana Hoosiers

When: 7:00pm - September 2nd, 2022

Where: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN

How: FS1

Opponent Primer:

Head Coach: Tom Allen. This is Allen's 6th year at the helm in Bloomington with a career record of 26-32. Allen has recruited well, but the record at this point is turning into a disappointment. Unlike recent Illinois head coaching changes, Allen actually inherited a pretty decent program. Kevin Wilson's last three seasons were 4-8, 6-6, and 6-6. Allen's first two seasons were 5-wins each, then he drove up expectations with a solid 2019 and a fluky 2020 season. 2021 crashed and burned leading to questions about the long term coaching prowess and sustainability of the program. Allen is on his 4th OC in 6 seasons (one of whom promoted out), That is eclipsed only by hiring his 5th DC for his 6th season. The only DC who had more than one season is now the HC at South Alabama. Allen could point to the injury bug for 2021 but some results need to happen fast for Indiana not to backslide to the cellar of the East.

Offensive Style: Who Knows? Walt Bell is taking over the offense this season, which historically would resemble something off the Larry Fedora / Blake Anderson tree. Expect Indiana to run tempo and attack opponents with short throws to take pressure off the running game. I don't understand how Bell keeps getting jobs. Bell was on Blake Anderson's staff at Arkansas State, moved to DJ Durkin's staff at Maryland with bad results, which netted him the OC role at Florida State in the first year of Willie Taggart, which he parlayed into the Massachusetts head coach before Taggart could fire him. In the end UMass, the worst team in FBS, fired him at the end of last season. Somehow he turned that disaster into the OC role at Indiana.

Defensive Style: 4-2-5 Cover 3. Indiana is the most versatile concept defense in the B1G. The Hoosiers will routinely change personnel, occasionally putting in 6 DBs. The only constant is the new looks. Allen is not afraid to blitz either. I have them listed as Cover 3, but they mix coverages. Unlike Iowa where you can generally predict what the coverage is going to be, Indiana changes often and well. Tiawan Mullen might be the best corner in the conference and allows Indiana to run man coverage.

Specialists: Indiana returns their top two specialists from last year. The K, Campbell, was 13/18 on the year and has a huge leg. The P, Evans, was one of the worst in the B1G. Indiana should see an improvement on the special teams this season.

Three Things to Watch

  1. Illinois interior line play. The middle of the line picked up a few holding penalties, and never seemed to make the impact I expected. Chase Brown did damage against the Cowboys, but it was mainly on the edges. Indiana will focus on stopping the perimeter, which means Illinois needs to improve on the interior.

  2. The middle eight. The last four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second. Some people place a lot of weight on these, and I am one of them. Closing out a half strong, and then starting strong sets the tone for a game. Illinois ran 12 plays offensively during the Wyoming game in the middle eight, and only two would be considered successful. One was a nice catch by Brian Hightower, the other was a completion to Pat Bryant. Intermixed was a very bad holding penalty. This will be a tight game, Illinois needs to excel during this time.

  3. Pace of play. Illinois ran 86 plays on Saturday, and the game featured 148. Compared to previous seasons, Illinois was running at a quick pace. Indiana should also feature a more uptempo offense this year. If the offenses struggle to get first downs and maintain the pace, this could be a puntfest.

Scouting Review - Offense


Walt Bell was hired as thew new OC at Indiana in the off-season. The common link between Bell and Allen seems to be DJ Durkin. Durkin hired Bell as his OC at Maryland, and was a co-DC with Allen at Ole Miss. Personally, using Durkin as a reference immediately deducts points from Allen in my mind.

Bell is a disciple of Blake Anderson, who comes from the Larry Fedora mold. Quite a bit of the staff at Indiana has also crossed over with Mike Gundy and Todd Graham historically. The common theme of all the coaching staffs was running up-tempo and a power run game. I think Allen is trying to replicate Kevin Wilson's tenure at Indiana.

The Walt Bell offense at UMass was painful. It averaged 16 points and 300 yards per game. The passing attack was non-existent, and the running game was only slightly better. As anemic as that production was, it still outpaced Indiana. The Hoosiers averaged 290 yards per game while averaging 17 points per game. A points per game average propped up by the 56 they scored against Idaho. The Hoosiers scored 11 touchdowns in nine B1G games.

The Indiana personnel to run the offense is another question mark. The transfer portal was an active topic all off-season for the Hoosiers. 2020 hero QB Michael Penix transferred to Washington after an injury plagued 2021, to be replaced by former Mizzou starter Connor Bazelak. Emery Simmons transferred in from North Carolina to help replace graduating Ty Fryfogle at WR. Running backs Shaun Shivers (Auburn) and Josh Henderson (North Carolina) helped beef up the RB room. This is a nice infusion of skill talent.

The main issue for Indiana is that the offense lived and mainly died by the offensive line, and their was no magic bullet for the Hoosiers in the transfer portal. They return three starters, so it's not a total remodel up front for the Hoosiers. The line should anchor around LT Luke Haggard and C Zach Carpenter (a Michigan transfer), but if Indiana improves the line is going to be a work in progress. Last season's RG Matthew Bedford kicks out to RT, so the RG will be new while the LG returns from an injury. That is a lot of returning experience, but this same group was the worst OL in the B1G last year. The Hoosiers are relying on the coaches to generate the improvement. Playcalling can help, Bell needs to get the running game going to slow down opposing pass rushes.

Again, Walt Bell is a tough scout here. Indiana has two QB options, the aforementioned Connor Bazelak, who I believe will start, and Jack Tuttle. Both are transfers to Indiana in the last two seasons, with Bazelak coming from Missouri and Tuttle from Utah. Bazelak's reputation is built on a massive game against a suspect LSU. He eventually lost his job at Missouri. Tuttle never had a job in a bad QB room in Utah. From this pile of ashes Bell is trying to raise a phoenix.

To help with the QBs, Bell should employ the Blake Anderson playbook which emphasizes a quick passing attack with a power run game. It also is focused on tempo. Or more succinctly, the same premise of the Illinois offense. The main difference is that the Anderson version utilizes the counter as the primary gap block and employs more read-option concepts.

The main gap run look for Bell should be the counter run. I watched a few UMass games from last season, but the skill talent for the Minutemen was pretty poor. I pulled a few general themes from the Florida State game though. I then watched the Utah State - UConn game (I'm a sucker for terrible FBS also rans out of New England), and noticed quite a few similarities. Unless Bell completely changed his stripes, I think that would be the gameplan. Here is the UMass counter utilizing 2 H-backs.

Bell starts the play off showing Pistol, then moves over to the Ace Shotgun set. The Pistol was something he utilized with read-option at UMass.

The WR motions and mimics the pulling guard in this motion, with the H-back as the second pulling guard. This is a read option (in this case the DE who the QB definitively did not read). The keep looks like this.

The DE loses position and concedes the outside. I believe Bell will keep this wrinkle, but I suspect the WR blocking was implemented to cover up a porous OL. If they have confidence in the OL blocking, the Utah State Anderson version looks like this.

The play still has the read option elements, and utilizes the RPO look of the flare from the motioning receiver opposite the run. There is an obvious addition to the playbook featuring play-action as well.

My take would be that Indiana is more prone to start using WR motion that more closely resembles the Utah State pass attack vs. the motion WR as the lead blocker. Should the run game stall, Bell may revert back to previous form and use the WR as the lead blocker.

Utah State will use the same personnel but change the formation to generate the same look.

Illini defenders will need to be aware of the personnel and alignment. Utah State caught UConn out a few times using tempo and changing the formations like this. Both instances are using the Slot receiver in motion, on one play he is starting from the slot and the other he is in the backfield.

Formations and motion are a key component of the Walt Bell playbook. UMass also ran tempo to keep the Seminoles basic. One formation he used was a trips formation close to the near tackle. This effectively created two more gaps to the edge, and keep the defense guessing since the H-back and slot can both pull.

This is an option of the near side CB. It fails in execution, but the play design is to get the LBs scraping on the "toss" to the RB. Bell was able to utilize the formation more effectively in the passing attack.

This is a dual screen action against the Seminoles. The blitz still almost got home on the QB, but the overaggressive pass rush left them open for a big play. Illinois will be susceptible to this as well, and I would expect to see this early on.

If I were Walt Bell, I would start off the game utilizing this play.

Wyoming had success running similar plays last week. The H-back as the lead blocker will pull the Illini safeties up in run support. If the DTs can't stymie this at the line of scrimmage, the safety is the last line of defense. Indiana can chew up some yards early running this, then use play action to beat Illinois down the seam with a safety cheating up.

Using the same formation, I think Indiana might attack the Illini corners as well. Indiana will need to complete some easy passes, and they need to keep the Illini secondary honest. Utah State uses this play to great success.

The motion opens up the center of the field, the play-action freezes the LBs, and the secondary has to hand off receivers. In this instance, Bonner could have held this a moment longer and hit his second option, the top-side WR breaking open in the gap. He took the safe throw to the sideline. Indiana will also begin using the safe throw. The middle of the field will open up though if they can get the run game moving.

One other aspect of the motion used by Bell is it being utilized to set up WR screens. Bell used this last year against Florida State.

The Z receiver motions across to block for the slot. The Anderson playbook has iterations of this same concept. Here is Utah State running something similar.

I suspect the Utah State version will be more prevalent as Indiana has a few good TE/H-back options.

Walt Bell running this offense is intriguing to me. I honestly have very little idea where he will head with an offense possessing talent again. His time with Taggart at Florida State involved a rotating cast of players on the offensive line. The statements preaching the importance of the run game then mimic the comments now. This game is an opportunity for the Illini DL to bottle up the run game. When Bell's OL failed to provide an above average run game, opposing defenses buried the QB in the pass game. I believe similar to his time in Tallahassee, Bell will keep the QB clean in the first half, and the second half will see increased pressure in the backfield. For that to occur, the Illinois front needs to be more dominant in the line, the unit had a single TFL against Wyoming.

Scouting Review - Defense

Indiana football began it's resurgence in 2019 and peaked in 2020. The defense during those two seasons were lights out, and Kane Wommack was the DC. Wommack left in 2021 to take over at South Alabama and was replaced by Charlton Warren. It did not go as planned. Warren led a unit that created 5 INTs to couple with 17 sacks. They were hammered by Rutgers by 35. The defense was lost.

Allen fired Warren and has taken over play-calling duties again. To assist in the defensive gameplan he hired Chad Wilt. Wilt is a highly regarded defensive line coach most recently at Minnesota. Wilt has been learning under Minnesota DC Joe Rossi, who knows what it takes to turn around a tire fire defense.

The defense last year was a tire fire too. Indiana lost their best defensive player from a season ago, but do return some starters. To augment the return to relevance, Indiana hit the portal hard on defense as well. They added LBs Bradley Jennings (Miami), Jared Casey (Kentucky).

The DL was also a major issue as the Hoosiers could not generate a pass rush. Indiana finished with only 17 sacks a season ago. To help address the issue, they brought in JH Tevis (Cal) at DT and Myles Jackson (UCLA) on the edge. LeDarrius Cox (Ole Miss) also transferred to Indiana as an interior defender. Indiana is hoping to easy button their way out of their DL issues.

The good news is that the secondary is solid. Taiwan Mullen is an All-B1G level corner and is as lockdown as one will see in the conference. The rest of the secondary is experienced but was unable to stop opposing offenses due to the lack of a pass rush. Overall, the defense created a mere 9 turnovers last season.

The base shell of the Indiana is the 4-2-5. Allen, like most 4-2-5 adherents, runs two hybrid players on the edges. They use a hybrid DE/OLB (Smoot ran this position at Illinois under Banks), as well as a Husky LB (Similar to the STAR Martin is running). The coverage on the back-end leans towards Cover 3 for running teams. Here is the base last year against Michigan.

By bringing the safety down in pass coverage it allows him to aggressively support the run defense. Here is the same look against the run, and you can see the same safety come up and make the play in run support.

Michigan never really made them pay for the aggressive downhill safety play. Watching the replay, it almost looked like Indiana the playcall, because the defense was aggressively attacking the run and the safety coming downhill often looked like this.

Michigan continued to have success due to the line controlling the LOS. Illinois might struggle against this due to the outside edge pressure. Indiana will utilize this to stop Brown off-tackle where he is most dangerous. Indiana may also bring run-blitzes such as this to stop the attack.

The hybrid DL is in a stand-up position here. Indiana is also blitzing the backside LB and the safety is filling at the snap to create an 8-man box. Lunney will most likely use more WR spacing to pull the Husky further away and get single coverage for the receivers.

Indiana moved to a 3-4 defense a few times last year as well in an effort to generate pressure. When they are in the 3-4 shell, they normally bring 5. The Illini OL will need to give DeVito time with these types of looks.

One of the safeties is a Robber in this case, which is a cause of concern for the Illini offense. DeVito had clear, short, and easy throws last Saturday. Friday night Indiana will increase his distance per throw and make him put the ball in more danger. Tommy the Gunslinger making an appearance will create problems. Ideally, the Illini OL keeps him clean again. When DeVito is comfortable in the pocket he steps into his throws and makes crisp passes. DeVito also throws a very catchable ball.

The Indiana defense last year was not good, and the problem was amplified by injuries and a putrid offense. Allen has a good track record with defense and should see an improvement as he takes over the defense this year. The collapse from a year ago is not something that will be fixed by hitting the transfer portal alone though. The Hoosiers aggressive defense leaves them vulnerable to teams that can pick apart the zones. Allen may be having his Don Brown moment in the B1G.

What does it mean?

It is second nature for me to dump on Indiana football. I want them to fail from the deep emotional scars I carry from the 2006 Illinois loss to the Hoosiers. A day that Illinois was clearly the better team, but ill-advised football (like a swinging gate 2-pt. conversion try) snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. I'll stop, this is more Detlef's territory on the history.

The main point of that is to say I may not be an objective observer, but I think Tom Allen just hired his Mike Schultz. Bell has never been a successful playcaller while having full reins of the offense. I believe the Indiana team to be on par with Illinois on talent and Allen clearly knows how to coach defense. I believe the Hoosiers will grind the defense down by year end with offensive ineptitude. Which means Illinois caught Indiana at a bad time in the schedule, this game would lay out for the Illini much better later in the season.

Bell will bring a coherent gameplan for the Hoosiers, and they will pull some tricks to break big plays for Indiana. Indiana should look revitalized compared to last season's performance. The key to the game is Illinois' ability to stay on the field. The Illini had 26 first downs a week ago, and had 260 rushing yards. Illinois also dominated time of possession with 36:36 on offense. If Illinois can stop the drive killing penalties, they should be able to wear down the Hoosiers.

For Illinois to Win:

The Illini need to quash the Indiana running game and force the QB to beat them. The Indiana OL was poor last year, and appears to be the same cast for this year. The offense faltered once the semblance of a run game disappeared. Opponents had an open invitation to the backfield then. Illinois needs to avoid biting on gimmicks Bell will utilize, and better play from the interior linebackers. If they can do both, Indiana's run game should falter.

The Illini also need to pass to win. Indiana has historically been strong against the run. As seen above, they will sell out to stop it. Illinois needs DeVito to continue throwing catchable balls and freeze the secondary from selling out.

For Indiana to Win:

Indiana needs to exploit the soft interior of the Illini OL. Chase Brown is the best back in this game and Indiana will focus on him. The Hoosers need to bring exterior pressure to bottle up the run game. The pressure is a feature of Allen defenses, and they need it to slow the Illini rushing attack. Michigan made them pay in 2021 by establishing the run on the interior and a quick passing attack to the edges. Indiana needs to stop the interior runs, and make DeVito make tough throws to the space vacated by blitzing defenders.

For the Hoosiers, they need the skill talent infusion to overcome the deficit they have on the OL. If Indiana can get on the board early, they can control the Illini and scheme out the solid Illini secondary.

Illinois +3

Illinois showed some weakness against a Wyoming team that is clearly not very good. The Illin interior OL struggled to get going, and the Cowboys had success running the ball against Illinois. Illinois put all of that on film, but also have game reps to address the gaps. On the other side, Indiana infused a great deal of talent via the transfer portal during the off-season. Nebraska showed last week that new talent may not mesh well when presented with adversity as a group. Indiana also turned over half of the coaching staff. If Illinois can play them even early, the Hoosiers will begin to fold in the second half.

Illinois also put on film that DeVito can make the Lunney offense work, and Chase Brown is a nice safety valve for the offense. Against Wyoming, Lunney made a point of targeting Williams, but Pat Bryant and Brian Hightower showed a depth at WR that should allow the gameplan to integrate them more. This should alleviate some pressure on the OL. Lunney vs. Allen should make for an interesting game.

Conversely, I prefer Ryan Walters to Walt Bell any day of the week. In a game where coaching will make a tangible difference, Walters is the safer bet. I think Walters will make the adjustments needed after a scary first quarter and shut the Hoosiers down. I'm picking Illinois to win and cover.

Craig YTD Against the Spread:



Dan Allen on September 1, 2022 @ 11:44 AM

Walt Bell as Mike Schultz? God, I hope so. Schultz was a disastrous OC for Illinois!

BelieveInIllinois on September 1, 2022 @ 12:49 PM

Thank you again Craig for doing this!

Liam on September 1, 2022 @ 07:24 PM

Great prep, Craig. Can't wait for the game, so glad for the Friday Night Lights.

GalesburgIllini on September 2, 2022 @ 12:16 PM

What's in a breakfast quasadilla?

The same ingridients that could go in a breakfast burrito?

Flat vs. rolled?

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