We have one last Interview with an opposing blog for the season, and it is with Crimson Quarry. We here at Hammer & Rails don’t always get along with the guys at Crimson Quarry, but they were still nice enough to have Kyle Swick stop by to talk about the football Hoosiers:
T-Mill: I have to admit that I am impressed by Indiana this year, and the Hoosiers deserve credit for beating the teams they should. What has been the biggest reason for the turnaround?
Kyle: Kalen DeBoer. His impact cannot be overstated. The offense under Tom Allen’s regime was completely dysfunctional while Mike DeBord was in charge. It was uninspiring and ineffective, meaning the defense had to carry the burden each and every game. Michael Penix has looked All-B1G caliber in this offense and Peyton Ramsey looks like a new quarterback entirely. DeBoer has excelled at diagnosing the strengths and weaknesses of the squad, emphasizing the former and minimizing the latter. Previously, it felt like we were trying to force players into roles and systems they weren’t suited for, instead of designing a system around the players we had. DeBoer doesn’t ask guys to do things they can’t do and doesn’t stay married to a specific game plan. The adaptability and effectiveness on offense has allowed a young defense to learn on the fly without having to bear the burden week-to-week.
T-Mill: The Hoosiers got pretty banged up in the Michigan game. Who is out for Purdue and how significant are the losses.
Kyle: Looks like we’re (relatively) full strength after some clarity from Tom Allen today. Whop Philyor missed the Michigan game but is expected to be back. Starting tailback Stevie Scott and tackle Matthew Bedford are the big question marks right now. IU has rotated tackles a lot since losing Coy Cronk early in the year and Bedford was a big part of that rotation. Stevie Scott has certainly been the bell cow of a young RB corps, and Indiana has struggled to run with their other guys. If Scott were to miss the game, I’d expect DeBoer to heavily substitute the horizontal pass game as our “rushing offense,” which has been our answer in games where the run game just wasn’t working.
T-Mill: Tom Allen absolutely deserves a raise and has built a pretty impressive base in three years. Is he getting a raise or could someone poach him?
Kyle: I imagine Tom Allen will get PAID this offseason, and Fred Glass has hinted as much. I’m not concerned about him being poached for a couple of reasons: first being that he truly, truly loves it here. He’s a guy that says he’s honored to coach this program and you actually believe him. As a B1G coach, it’d have to take a pretty big job to poach him, but I don’t think those kind of opportunities are going to line up to hire him anytime soon. For all Tom Allen has done for this program, his bottom line isn’t going to be all that appealing to trustees across the country. I just can’t see a place like Florida State being able to sell a guy who just cashed in his first winning season at Indiana as an answer for them. At least not yet. But if Tom Allen can turn Indiana into a consistent winner in this division ... who wouldn’t want him?
T-Mill: After Michigan carved up the secondary is there concern with Purdue still having a solid passing game even with Aidan O’Connell playing?
Kyle: The defense is young and figuring things out. There is a lot of rotation between snaps as the coaching staff is unafraid to switch things around if they think they can get a better mix. Watching from nearly field level, the secondary was not great but no secondary is going to hold up for as long as Michigan’s offensive line was giving Shea Patterson. On the rare occasions that Indiana generated pressure, Patterson was predictably unable to do much about it. I probably turned to the other guys four or five times on Saturday to say “any time we get [Patterson] to have to move AT ALL he can’t do anything.” But Indiana simply couldn’t make it happen. The front seven has to be better, and I like them to bounce back from what was easily their worst game of the year. That should make things easier on the DBs, in theory.
T-Mill: Who are the top reserves if Whop Philyor and Stevie Scott can’t go?
Kyle: Whop should be good to go, so no worries there. Indiana is wildly deep at WR as it is. Even if you take Whop out, the Hoosiers would line up Ty Fryfogle, Nick Westbrook, Donovan Hale, and David Ellis in 4-wide sets. Of course you’d always rather have Whop out there, but IU fans can’t be too nervous with those four guys ready for snaps behind him. They’ve all played and played well this season, providing a great mix of experience and talent. Things get dicier behind Stevie Scott, as neither Ronnie Walker Jr. or Sampson James have distinguished themselves in backup roles. But they’ve also not had the opportunity to get into a game and play a full complement of snaps.
T-Mill: Finally, what do you see happening on Saturday?
Kyle: Last I checked the line had Indiana at -6.5 which sounds about right. I think Indiana is the better team this year by a fair margin but I’m wondering if their confidence is shot after another almost-win against a top team in the East and then a complete egg-laying at home. Indiana is certainly a program that is prone to spiraling out of control after a couple of setbacks and on the road in a rivalry game is an awful place to try and get yourself out of a rut. But this is a team that has been doing very un-Indiana things all season long, and I have faith that Tom Allen will have them ready to go. Indiana wins, Purdue covers. I’m just glad we’ve already achieved bowl eligibility without needing this game to make it happen, for once.
BONUS QUESTION: What are your thoughts on Mitch Daniels wanting to move the Bucket game to Lucas Oil?
Kyle: 100% in favor of it if they continue to insist on playing it Thanksgiving weekend. The campuses are dead anyway and frankly neither atmosphere is so good that it’s worth preserving. They should absolutely try it out since the date takes a ton of students out of the equation.