Which position groups will lead the way for IU football in 2022?
The best-of-the-best are likely easy to come up with for diehard fans, as is the area of biggest concern. Below we rank them all from best to worst.
For a complete position-by-position summary of who is back and who is new in 2022, GO HERE.
For the first draft of the two-deep depth chart published by the program last week, GO HERE.
1. Cornerbacks: Let’s start with a hot take, shall we? In Tiawan Mullen and Jaylin Williams, Indiana might just have the best cornerback duo in the Big Ten. Okay, certainly at least one of the best. There are fair questions about who will emerge at the third corner spot and beyond, but IU starts from a position of strength with Mullen and Williams on the edge. Their presence on the field will make the entire defense better and likely allow for greater risk-taking and creativity.
2. Safeties/Huskies: Like the corners, Indiana will be able to put a ton of experience on the field on the back end and at the husky position. Devon Matthews, Bryant Fitzgerald and Noah Pierre are the likely starters, and all of them are productive fifth year players. And there are several experienced players behind them who should allow for rotations without much drop off. Look for Josh Sanguinetti and Jordan Grier to have meaningful roles.
3. Linebackers: Yes the Hoosiers must replace Micah McFadden, but two-year starter Cam Jones is back, and Indiana invested heavily in the transfer portal to find his partner in 2022. Jared Casey (Kentucky) and Bradley Jennings (Miami, Fla.) have experience on the big stage, and returner Aaron Casey could be ready as well. Also true freshman Dasan McCullough is one to watch.
4. Running backs: There are no household names just yet, but Auburn transfer Shaun Shivers could be in line for a big season. The former track star with an absurdly low center of gravity (5-foot-7, 186 pounds) should get his first chance to be a lead back and he looks like a nightmare to tackle. IU also got Josh Henderson (North Carolina) from the portal, second-year backs David Holloman and Trent Howland should be ready to contribute, and freshman Jaylin Lucas is creating buzz because of his shiftiness and speed.
5. Quarterbacks: Missouri transfer Connor Bazelak is expected to start. He was an SEC co-freshman of the year in 2020. Bazelak had his share of ups-and-downs in the SEC, but IU appears to have picked up a capable starter. It is the unproven depth behind him that is a bit more concerning if anything should go wrong. And IU has a long history of not keeping quarterbacks healthy (See: position group No. 9).
6. Tight ends: Tom Allen believes A.J. Barner can become the greatest tight end in the history of the program. So perhaps this group should be ranked higher. Barner is unproven, but he has all the tools with NFL size (6-foot-6, 252 pounds) and speed, and he started to show what he is capable of a year ago while playing behind Peyton Hendershot. Much like the quarterback position, it’s more a question of who is ready behind Barner, especially when it comes to blocking tight ends.
7. Defensive line: While IU lost starters Ryder Anderson and Weston Kramer, veterans like James Head, Demarcus Elliot, and Sio Nofoagatoto’a are back along with promising Cal transfer JH Tevis. This could also be a year for former highly rated in-state recruits Cooper Jones and Beau Robbins to emerge, along with two more transfers from Ole Miss and four true freshmen including Nick James. First year coach Paul Randolph has to find players capable of putting pressure on the quarterback this year.
8. Wide receivers: Indiana lost both starters (Ty Fryfogle and Miles Marshall) along with four others who transferred out of the program. The return of D.J. Matthews should give the offense a playmaker in the slot if he can regain his pre-injury form, but who will step up on the outside? That’s anyone’s guess right now as about ten players are competing for that opportunity under the watchful eye of new position coach Adam Henry, who came to IU from the Dallas Cowboys and has coached multiple NFL stars.
9. Offensive line: This is the group that could make or break the season. It looks like there is enough talent on the rest of the offense, but there have to be holes to run through and time to throw. There was very little of either a year ago. Matthew Bedford, Luke Haggard and Zach Carpenter are expected to take steps forward and should provide some stability, but IU will need others around them to emerge as the Hoosiers look for more physicality and toughness up front.
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