Indiana begins one of the most important seasons in the history of its football program on Sept. 4. The Hoosiers are coming off a 6-2 campaign and an Outback Bowl berth in 2020 and are expected to be a preseason Top 25 team. We are profiling each of the 12 teams Indiana will face this season as they try to build on that momentum
Date/Time/TV: Sept. 11, 7:30 p.m., BTN
Location: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington
2020-21 record/result: 2-4 overall, 2-4 in the Big Sky conference in the FCS, no playoff berth
Returning Starters, Offense (11): QB Mike Beaudry, RB Nick Romano, WR Jermaine Jackson, WR Cutrell Haywood, WR Hayden Hatten, TE Logan Kendall, LT Logan Floyd, LG Matthew Faupusa, C Chad Bagwell/Greyson Harwood, RG Nate Azzopardi, RT Seth Carnahan
Offensive Outlook: Because the FCS chose to move its fall season to the spring due to COVID-19, Idaho is packing two football seasons into one calendar year, which is going to be a bear. However, the fact that seasons played in the 2020-21 school year didn’t count against anyone’s eligibility works out even better for programs at that level because fewer of their athletes had reason to consider an NFL jump. The Vandals didn’t return every player who started a game on offense last season, but they did return at least one player who started at every position. They return all four players who completed at least one pass, nine of 10 players who had at least one carry and eight of nine receivers who caught at least one pass. The Vandals were eighth in the Big Sky in scoring (23.3 points per game) and sixth in total offense (386.8 yards per game). There were eighth in the league in passing offense and 10th in passing efficiency, but fourth in the league in rushing. They return the third leading receiver in the Big Sky last season in Hatten, who caught 43 passes for 613 yards and three touchdowns in just six games. Hatten was a first-team All-Big Sky selection. So was fullback Logan Kendell.
Returning Starters, Defense (10): DT Jonah Kim, DT Nate DeGraw, DT Noah Ellis, WLB Fa’Avae Fa’Avae, MLB Tre Walker, Buck LB Charles Akanno, CB Jalen Hoover, CB Wyryor Noil, FS Tyrese Dedmon, SS Jaxon Woodward
Starters Lost, Defense (1): SLB Christian Ellis
Defensive Outlook: Ellis, a first-team All-Big Sky pick, is a significant loss, as he was the team’s second-leading tackler with 51 in just five games. However, Walker was not only first-team All-Big Sky, but a first-team All-American in the FCS after a season in which he recorded 54 tackles including 4.5 for loss and 2.0 sacks in just four games. Dedmon and Hoover were also second-team all-league picks. Thanks to that strong linebacker corps, the Vandals finished second in the conference against the run, allowing just 111.7 yards per game. (First if you don’t count Montana, which played just two games.) However, they had major problems against the pass, finishing ninth in the conference by allowing 331.8 yards per game through the air.
Special Teams Losses (2): K/P Cade Coffey, LS Cameron Lang
Special Teams Outlook: Coffey was a second-team all-conference punter, averaging 45.85 yards per punt, and he also hit on nine of his 10 field goal attempts, including one from 51 yards. However the Vandals can go to Logan Prescott, who kicked two field goals, making one from 47 yards, and four punts last season behind Coffey. He averaged 45.75 yards per punt, so he clearly has the leg for the job.
Overall outlook: Paul Petrino’s Vandals have some talent and with everything they have returning, they should finish with more than two wins in 2021. They’ll be dealing with the wear and tear of two seasons played so closely together, but so will everyone else in the FCS. That being said, one of those wins should not come at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 11. The Hoosiers’ had a historically successful season without fans — outside of players’ family members — in the stands in 2020. The home opener should be packed for a primetime game and the Hoosiers should be able to turn it into a laugher quickly. Anything less than domination will lead to a lot of questions about where the Hoosiers really stand.
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