Wilson not happy with passing game

Just as Indiana’s running game seems to have shown some signs of life, the passing game seems to be going backward.

The Hoosiers rushed for 223 yards last week and passed for just 64. For the second straight week, the Hoosiers’ starting quarterback completed just six passes and finished with less than 70 yards passing. This comes a year after the Hoosiers led the Big Ten in passing yardage.

Obviously, that comes in large part because the Hoosiers have spent the year shuffling through quarterbacks because of injury in the first year of the post-Ben Chappell era, but IU coach Kevin Wilson said he thinks the passing game has been down across the board, especially at wide receiver.

“Our receiver play’s been very, very poor,” Wilson said. “Going back to Penn State with all the drops. We don’t work with any sense of speed and urgency out there. If you watch our receivers play, we play very fast on routes, but if there’s a run play, we jog off the ball. Our young players are battling, getting better, but we need better receiver play. It’s a collective deal. I don’t think the quarterbacks trust the line. I think the receivers don’t practice or play with the speed so that the quarterback knows where it’s gonna be. We’re just an offense and a passing game that’s completely out of sync. That’s real. How do we fix that? We keep practicing and staying positive.”

The quarterback not trusting the line sounds worse than what Wilson meant. The offensive line actually made some improvements on Saturday and didn’t do as poor a job of protection as they had the week before against Illinois when the Hoosiers surrendered five sacks. That had more to do with Wright-Baker returning from an ankle injury after two games on the bench.

“He hadn’t played in a while,” Wilson said. “He was coming off an injury. Playing against a good opponent. He just had to set his feet. Just gotta trust the protection a little bit. He was all over the place, timing was off. He hadn’t been under fire in a while. He’s playing a team that’s top five in the nation. Maybe made the opponent and the challenge a little bit bigger than it was. But you still gotta play within rhythm, within yourself. He was just out of wack Saturday.”

But the line and the wide receivers both bother him. The line includes two senior starters in left tackle Andrew McDonald and guard/tackle Justin Pagan as well as junior center Will Matte, who hasn’t missed a start in his career. The receiving corps, meanwhile, was expected to be the most talented position group on the squad with senior Damarlo Belcher returning after leading the conference in receptions last season and sophomores Duwyce Wilson and Kofi Hughes backed by a strong group of freshmen.

“It’s all subjective talk, but I had been of the opinion that our receiver crowd and offensive line with three seniors would’ve been the groups that would’ve led us,” Wilson said. “Those were the groups that have been the two most inconsistent groups. … A couple of the groups that I thought were going to be good have been pretty disappointing.”

Said co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Rod Smith: “I think they’re probably the most talented group on our team, and that’s probably what disappoints you a little bit is you want more production from those guys. You want more effort, you want more catches, less drops, when they have the opportunity. That’s not pinning anything on just the wideouts. We’ve got more problems than just the wideouts. When you look at it, it’s a pretty athletic group. It’s probably the most experienced group we have.”

Other notes from Tuesday’s press conference:

— Smith and Wilson both said they expected to continue to use sophomore wide receiver Kofi Hughes as a quarterback in a wildcat formation. Hughes, who was a quarterback at Cathedral, rushed seven times for 31 yards against Wisconsin on Saturday, mostly on runs when he took the snap.

“We’ll expand that, absolutely,” Smith said. “How much we see it Saturday, I don’t know. That depends on how the defense plays. How they match up, how they plays us. But we’ll definitely expand that because I think Kofi’s a good athlete, it’s good to get the ball in his hands.”

— Wilson said freshman defensive end Bobby Richardson, junior center Will Matte and senior wide receiver Damarlo Belcher all have a chance to play in Saturday’s game at Iowa.

Richardson missed Saturday’s game with a concussion suffered in Wednesday’s practice. Wilson said he was close to playing Saturday and he did practice Monday. Belcher, who tweaked his knee and came out before halftime of Saturday’s game at Wisconsin, also practiced somewhat Monday. Matte did not practice Monday with a sprained knee, but Wilson said he hasn’t been ruled out.

Wilson said that redshirt sophomore quarterback Dusty Kiel remains out with a high ankle sprain. Senior safety Chris Adkins, Wilson said, won’t play because of a knee sprain. Senior safety Donnell Jones is also out with an ankle injury and senior safety Jarrell Drane is still out.

— Co-defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler was disappointed with the effort Saturday after believing the squad had made progress in previous weeks, especially since the second half of the North Texas game.

“I look at our season so far, we’ve made progress each and every week defensively until last week,” Ekeler said. “We took a huge step back. I’d say that in the last four weeks. I’d felt as though we’d been making progress. Last week, we just laid an egg and came out, guys played uninspired. They played undisciplined. It was like we were a little bit scared to be out there.”

Ekeler was asked if he was afraid some of the older players, especially the seniors, had checked out because of the 1-6 start. He said there have been instances when senior leaders have not been practicing as hard as need be, and he’s been trying to nip it in the bud.

“I told a lot of those guys, ‘Invite your family to the next game if you’re gonna play like that,'” Ekeler said. “‘Because that’s gonna be senior day for you.'”

AUDIO: Kevin Wilson Part 1

AUDIO: Kevin Wilson Part 2

AUDIO: Rod Smith

AUDIO: Mike Ekeler

AUDIO: Kofi Hughes


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  • Chet says:

    Dustin, I don’t remember this much feedback from the coaches in recent years but what I know is what I see in print or online. Are the coaches providing more content than in the past? I like what they are putting out there.

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    Every time I’ve read KW’s commentary I’ve found it analytical, frank and instructive. It really does make it clear why we are losing games, where we should be improving and what we should be expecting from the Hoosiers over the next 2-3 years. Winning is important, but for now, I’m happy we are developing an idea of what we should expect to call good football. And that, is making this season enjoyable despite the losses.

  • Chet says:

    I totally agree. Hi s pressers are like a classroom. This is how the big boys do it.

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    DD I really enjoy your reporting of the KW’s conferences and the detail you include of his analysis. It is very complete, quptes very well selected, answers questions clearly and gives me (and I suspect most other readers)a good idea of what is being achieved and KW’s vision of what he wants to accomplish with IU football.

    I also think (please grab onto your chair as you read this) you’ve done a great job of carrying on the blog. It’s as good as anytime since I’ve been reading it. The depth of some of the conversations here should tell you about the impact you’ve had on the bloggers and the interest in IU sports. We (readers) agree, disagree, get rowdy and, lord knows, testy…but you’ve got all of us interested and involved.

    This report today is an excellent example of what I’ve gradually appreciated more and more. At times I have wacked you pretty good- sometimes unfairly-, and probably owe you an apology for it. Please accept it. You are an a really accomplished sports writer and have shown growth with every story . You’ve earned the respect many readers have for you. You have mine.

  • charles says:

    Can I assume that the mystery senior WR missing from the below paragraph is Belcher as he is mentioned later in the story?

    Wilson said freshman defensive end Bobby Richardson, junior center Will Matte and senior wide receiver all have a chance to play in Saturday’s game at Iowa.

  • Good catch Charles. My bad.

  • Tsao, thank you very much, sir.
    Chet. They are definitely providing more interesting content. That mostly is because they’re not afraid to call players out. I’m sure the Lynch administration could’ve provided us more, but Lynch especially was deeply opposed to anything that came within 100 miles of throwing players under the bus. Better or worse is sort of eye of the beholder that way.
    The press conference dynamic is also a little different and that’s been significant. This year, Wilson and a coordinator from each side take the podium every Tuesday. Last year, the coordinators were available upon request, and they were always good for whatever you’d want to know, but they aren’t up in front of everyone. Facing the firing squad for the podium always makes for a different dynamic. When you’re dealing with players, it usually freaks them out and it takes away from the interview, so I hate putting players in a press conference setting. But with coaches, it does turn it into something professorial, and it allows the reporters in the room to play off each other and build off the answers to each other’s questions.
    That being said, these guys are especially frank to begin with, and my copy appreciates that anyway.

  • davis says:

    DD- You may recall that during the pre-season, in response to a question about whether he was trying to light a competitive fire under his QBs by criticizing their performances to the media, Wilson denied such as a motiviational strategy, saying that “players don’t read the papers.” So as has been asked about the sound of a tree falling in the forest, is anyone thrown under a bus if they don’t read about it in the paper? That is, could it be that KW feels that criticizing players to the press does not = throwing them under the bus becasue they don’t read the papers (or this blog), and thus will never know that they have been “thrown under the bus?” Or maybe KW hasn’t thrown anyone anywhere. My understanding of that term is that it means that someone is avoiding an undesireable situation by shoving someone else (usually innocent) into the path of said undesireable situation. Criticizing someone is not the same as offering them up as a scapegoat for one’s own problems.

  • Possibly. Let me apologize for my wording, because I didn’t necessarily mean that Wilson was throwing his players under the bus. I was more so saying that Lynch was very, very much conscious of not doing it, so he wouldn’t even step near the gray area. Those made for some stilted and dull press conferences, but you sort of had to admire how closely he stuck to that principle.
    Wilson has taken responsibility for his own shortcomings at times, so obviously, he’s not pinning all the failures on the players. I can’t say for certain whether Wilson is too critical of his players in the media or if Lynch was not critical enough, because at the end of the day, I’m not at practice or in meetings and I’m not privy to their discussions. I guess really what I’m trying to say is it’s hard to know which approach to these is better than the other without knowing all of its effects. But from an entirely self-interested perspective — and this is more true now that we’ve learned that Wilson’s “I don’t talk about injuries” policy apparently doesn’t apply to guys who were seeing significant time before they were hurt — this is at least better for press conference copy.

  • D-BONE says:

    Of course he’s down on the passing game, I don’t think they have a D1 QB to legitimately execute it.

    In the meantime, I would say it’s about time the WRs are called out. They should be the best position on the team, but they are consistently never open and look nonchalant to me.

    On the other hand, what motivation is there when your QB can’t deliver an on-target throw consistently.

  • YouWillNeverKnow says:

    I told you all this before the season. Go look it up.

  • Chet says:

    I think, as Dustin stated, he’s just being frank. It almost sounds like a mechanic telling you what problems your car has. I work with special needs children. A piece of advice I always give my co-workers when discussing situations with parents is, “Just be honest, you’ll never have to explain yourself later”.
    Coach is just being honest.

  • cln says:

    This is a total guess, but I would imagine that Oklahoma fans would expect this level of detail from an OC because they are following the team much in the same way we follow IU basketball. If Wilson had not given this level of detail back in Nornan, he probably would’ve been viewed as a bit suspect.

  • Chet says:

    cin, I think you’re on target. I’ve heard that the OC and the DC have their own TV and/or radio shows in places like Norman.

  • HoosierSmitty says:

    It will be really interesting to see how this team develops in the next two or three years as Wilson brings in “his kind of players.”

    It’s no secret our quarterbacks leave plenty to be desired…but I haven’t been too impressed with our receivers either. It’s nice to hear the blame not being placed squarely on the QBs. I’d be interested to know if there’s some discontent among our receivers because of a lack of perceived ability by our QBs. I mean Belcher could be a beast, but he looks terrible. Are they even targeting him that much? Does he lack motivation? You’d think with a guy like Belcher if we just throw him a few more decnt passes, he’s big enough to outmuscle defenders and make a few big plays for us.

  • For what it's worth says:

    Just saw a segment on the Today Show about mechanics from national shops running up charges for unnecessary repairs…sometimes charging in excess of $1000 for a simple $100 repair. Finding an “honest” mechanic is like finding a politician in a Republican debate that doesn’t want to throw Obama under a bus.

    I’m a bit on the fence when it comes to calling out players at a press conference. Sounds like Dustin was also a bit hesitant to completely soul search where he stands on the issue..I remember when Dustin took a ton of heat for perceptions his pointing out a potential scholarship situation to recruits at an AAU event was a completely out of line gotcha moment. Looking back, I was one of the guilty that dished out more criticism than he deserved. We threw Dustin under the bus because of our natural instinct to defend our new coach. I totally understand his pulling back on a topic that could once again place him staring at the exhaust system of a Greyhound.

    Wilson is the coach so I guess either suck it up or hit the road?

    I still have a bit of empathy for players that find ties to coaches that recruited them severed in the middle of their college careers. We tend to give little notice how a coach can become a father figure when so much time is invested in the relationships. We are hesitant to put blame on a first year coach for a team he didn’t build when they are not playing up to snuff, yet we forget how defensive and faithful players can remain to coaches when fans and media take easy cheap shots of blame at the figurehead for all the teams’ woes. Sometimes a great motivator for players is when they believe their coach is being unfairly scrutinized. There is quite the interplay of psychology when it comes to motivation and devotion between players and coach. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to play the role of villain, deflect blame from your players, and let yourself be thrown under the Jerome Bettis occasionally….give the troops a chance to rally behind the new leader in town rather than put them on the defensive by using the podium to obsess over shortcomings found in the players the previous general brought to battle.

  • Hoosier Clarion says:

    Nothing Coach Wilson and staff express about players at the podium of their PC’s has not already been told to this player and that player or a group of players during practice and meetings(like a Prof telling a student why his grade is such). The players know the analysis of their performance long before we are told. That is why we see improvement even if in incrementally small, periodic steps. Wilson has it just about right(on).

  • Chet says:

    The upperclassmen probably do have an affinity for BL but any freshman that signed thinking they would be playing for Bill Lynch didn’t do their homework. That’s pretty much true for the sophs, as well, as BL was given one more season for no apparent reason.

  • Mass.Hoosier says:

    I think most of us on here are fairly astute with what is going on with the football team. Enough to say Kevin Wilson and coaches are not lying. They are only stating what is pretty obvious. These are areas that the team needs to continue to work on to improve. I always try and watch KW’s body language and how he treats players on the sidelines. It seems to me, he has great patience, and is always willing to teach or point something out. It is also clear to me he expects the team to expect more out of themselves. Remember, you can do more than what you think you can. Some of the players don’t seem to understand that. But many are starting to show that they do.

  • Charlie C says:

    I do feel as if Wilson is sacrificing the careers of many of the players . He still says they are not practicing hard which is beginning to sound like a broken record. I think the players are so tired of the total chaos of his coaching decisions, that many are unsure of their roles. Wilson seems totally disorganized and uses his bad-boy image to intimidate rather than to actually instruct and coach.

  • cw says:

    Dustin, your apology for using the words is hallow. You make your living by using words, it is hard to imagine you did not know what you were doing. The press wants coaches to be honest and straight, and when they are, the press throws them under the bus. Over the years Kevin will learn, then his press conferences will be just like all the others.

  • Chet says:

    “total chaos”?

    The past 4 years were ‘total chaos’. What I’m seeing is a BCS level football coach. As Mass.Hoosier noted, when a player comes off the field after making a mistake KW calmly explains what should have been done in that situation, pats them on the butt, and turns back to the game. I’ve never seen him try to intimidate anyone. BL wanted to make sure their feelings weren’t hurt.

  • cln says:

    Lots of busses on this site today.

  • Hoosier Clarion says:

    How the hell could anyone perceive the players to be unsure of their roles? Coach Wilson and staff are honest and tremendously good communicators. Every player knows what role he has, some are disappointed with it and others refuse to accept it. But they are both told their plight just the same. Both get as little PT as can be schemed and their future for the same is not bright.

    With IU, PUke, NW and Minny looking to end up at the bottom of the list for the season has me thinking about the W/L for the the remainder of it. I believe IU could finish out 2-3, PUke 0-6, Minny 0-6 and NW 3-3. Take a close look at the games left.

  • CW,
    I know this is a stunning revelation, but as much as I work with words, there are times when I still screw up with them. Shocking, right? I didn’t actually say Wilson threw his guys under the bus, I said Lynch didn’t want to go anywhere near that. Wilson’s press conferences are more insightful in large part because he points out where his players screw up. I didn’t say that what he does amounts to throwing his players under the bus, but I can see how one could think that I did, so I apologized.

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