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April 16, 2013Football season is right around the corner, and it's never too early to talk about the greatest sport in the world. TheWolverine.com spoke to beat writers that cover all 12 of Michigan's 2013 opponents to talk about their impressions of the teams.
Michigan's 2013 Schedule
Aug. 31 - Central Michigan
Sept. 7 - Notre Dame
Sept. 14 - Akron
Sept. 21 - at Connecticut
Oct. 5 - Minnesota
Oct. 12 - Penn State
Oct. 19 - Indiana
Nov. 2 - at Michigan State
Nov. 9 - Nebraska
No. 16 - at Northwestern
No. 23 - at Iowa
No. 30 - Ohio State
Despite just a 5-19 overall record under third-year head coach Kevin Wilson, many in Bloomington believe the Hoosiers have the talent to earn bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007. The rebuilding program seeks another step forward in 2013, and that progress will be heavily dependent on the continued growth of a potent aerial attack.
Here is a quick look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Wolverines' high-octane Oct. 19 foe ?
Offensive Strength: Wide Receiver
Indiana dealt with constant uncertainty at quarterback in 2012, but still led the Big Ten with 311.2 passing yards per game. What drove the progress? Scheme and skill on the outside.
The pass-happy Hoosiers will return an efficient group of wide receivers, led by juniors Cody Latimer (805 receiving yards and six touchdowns) and Shane Wynn (660 receiving yards and six scores).
Standing at just 5-7, Wynn displayed his monster talent during IU's spring game, stockpiling 97 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Although stifled at times by differing detrimental factors, fifth-year senior Duwyce Wilson and senior Kofi Hughes have also displayed big-play tendencies.
Wilson is a big-bodied redzone threat that recovered from a severe knee injury suffered in 2011 to record 230 receiving yards and a touchdown last season. Hughes, who was suspended for Indiana's opening contest in 2012 due to an unspecified violation of team rules, clawed his way out of the doghouse to tally 639 receiving yards and three scores.
Additionally, Indiana is expecting contributions from explosive four-star commit Taj Williams, who was ranked the 214th overall prospect in the 2013 class according to Rivals.com.
"They have a lot of talent at receiver, a lot of talent," said Peegs.com writer Matt Weaver. "Cody Latimer, Shane Wynn and Kofi Hughes all had great years last year. Duwyce Wilson did not put up great numbers, but he played hurt the entire year - he was coming off of an ACL injury the year before and had a sports hernia as well. Now he's 100 percent and he is very coachable."
Offensive Areas to Watch This Offseason: Quarterback
Redshirt sophomore Tre Roberson became the first freshman in program history to start a game under center in 2010, and secured the same role heading into last season. After a 280-yard passing performance in a season-opening 24-17 victory over Indiana State, the dual threat quarterback broke his leg in the Hoosiers' second game.
He was granted a medical redshirt, and returned in full force this spring, but struggled during IU's spring game, completing only 7-of-18 passes (38.9 percent) for 63 yards.
Although he remains the favorite to win the spot in 2013, a quarterback controversy has been ignited by the two gunslingers that combined to replace him a year ago. Junior Cameron Coffman appeared in 11 games and threw for 2,734 yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and sophomore Nate Sudfeld displayed brief flashes of brilliance in relief duty, passing for 368 yards and seven scores against one pick.
Coffman completed 17-of-23 passes (73.9 percent) for 174 yards and two touchdowns during Indiana's spring football game, and Sudfeld hit 14-of-16 receivers (87.5 percent) for 187 yards and a score.
"If I had to choose right now it would probably be Tre Roberson," Weaver said. "He can do everything as a quarterback, both running and throwing.
"I would say he is the odds on favorite, but Cam Coffman played pretty well last year and threw for a lot of yards, and Nate Sudfeld also displayed a lot of promise. Tre is probably the first in line, but that's definitely not etched in pen."
Defensive Strength: Linebacker
Pinpointing a strength for a unit that finished dead last in the Big Ten in both total defense (463.5 yards per game) and scoring defense (35.2 points per game) is no easy task.
But there is hope on the defensive side for the rebuilding program. The Hoosiers return much of their linebacking corps from a year ago, and will be adding a cavalcade of athletic newcomers as reinforcements.
Redshirt junior David Cooper (86 tackles, nine for loss), fifth-year senior Griffen Dahlstrom (48 tackles, seven for loss), fifth-year senior Jacarri Alexander (30 tackles, three for loss), and redshirt junior Chase Hoobler (26 tackles, one for loss) will all be back and are battle tested in Big Ten play.
The unit will be further solidified by the arrivals of JUCO transfer Steven Funderburk and three-star prospect T.J. Simmons, who enrolled early and has turned heads during spring ball.
"It's a really good question because there is going to be a lot of new faces all over the defense," Weaver said. "I would go with linebacker because that is where they have the most guys back.
"They have four guys that have played in David Cooper, Jacarri Alexander, Chase Hoobler and Griffen Dahlstrom, and I am also optimistic because of some of the new guys they are bringing in.
"They added a JUCO transfer in the spring in Steven Funderburk, who they are pretty high on. Freshman linebacker T.J. Simmons enrolled early, and is a good-looking prospect, and they have three more linebackers coming in this fall. I think one or two from this group should see the field this year."
Defensive Areas to Watch this Offseason: Defensive Back
The Hoosiers finished ninth in the Big Ten in pass defense (231.3 yards per game), and that number could have been far worse had IU's opponents not frequently built double-digits leads and turned the focus to clock management. Indiana clearly struggled to make game-changing plays in the defensive backfield, intercepting just seven passes, but return starting experience at every spot.
Fifth-year senior safety Greg Heban (91 tackles) highlights the group, which will also welcome a plethora of talented youngsters including 2013 four-star prospects Antonio Allen and Rashard Fant.
"At defensive back, it is kind of up in the air who is even going to play," Weaver said. "At corner, the starters at the end of the year were [redshirt junior] Brian Williams and [redshirt senior] Antonio Marshall, but it wouldn't shock me if neither one starts this year.
"I think Marshall probably has a pretty good shot, but Williams' spot is a little more up in the air as [junior] Kenny Mullen is having a pretty good spring. Mullen was the starter early last year, but just seemed to hit a rough patch and lost his confidence.
"At safety [junior] Mark Murphy played a lot last year, but just kind of struggled - I think he was playing hurt. Antonio Allen is a big recruit at this spot. He will be a freshman, but I don't see why he won't get on the field right away.
"Greg Heban will probably play at free safety. He is a former walk-on that has really turned into a terrific player, and is probably as close to a set-in-stone starter as there is. Tim Bennett, a junior who was a JUCO transfer last year, will also get some work back there."
"They have eight home games, and I would classify them all as somewhat winnable games." Weaver said. "I think this team goes to a bowl game.
"The road schedule is going to be tough, so going 0-4 on the road could be expected, but this is a team that could have beat Michigan State last year, but ran out of gas, and played Ohio State tough. Coach Wilson and his staff have done a good job of getting the talent level up.
"The biggest thing won't be the starters, but the depth guys. At a school like Michigan, when you lose a starter you bring in another really, really good player. At Indiana, that is not always the case. IU isn't quite there yet, but the roster is getting better. It is getting to the point where, if a starter goes down, it isn't such a big drop off moving to the next guy.
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