There's a new sheriff in Bloomington.
When new IU head football coach Kevin Wilson was hired in December to replace Bill Lynch, he vowed to change the atmosphere at Indiana and build a program that would be better conditioned and expect more out of itself. Just competing wouldn't be good enough. Wilson expected his Hoosiers to demand more of themselves both on and off the field, and the march toward a bowl in 2011 would start in the weight room and training table.
Early-morning conditioning drills were ordered to try to weed out any student-athletes who wouldn't be up to the challenge of meeting Wilson's demands. Upgrades were made at an administrative level in terms of assistant coaches' salaries to draw better talent to Memorial Stadium as mentors for the team. A nutritionist was hired to help IU start winning the battle of the bulge.
The result is a team that seems to be taking a little more pride in itself these days. The Hoosiers under Lynch were close on a number of occasions with three of Indiana's seven losses last season coming by seven points or less. IU took Michigan to the wire, the Hoosiers were a dropped TD pass from knocking off Iowa and came within a field goal of beating Northwestern. All three of those opponents, by the way, played in a bowl last season, and Wilson believes IU has enough talent to start picking up some of those victories.
That said, IU will have a lot to replace this season. Top WR Tandon Doss bolted for the NFL Draft. Record-setting QB Ben Chappell graduated, as did WR Terrance Turner and OT James Brewer. The defense lost five starters, including LB Tyler Replogle and SS Mitchell Evans. Indiana faces a full-blown quarterback battle between sophomores Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker, and with Wilson installing a new offensive system, the entire team will have to quickly get up to speed.
Scheme changes on defense will take some adjustment, as well, but then again this year will be about transition for the Hoosiers. Offseason workouts have been conducted at a faster tempo than in the past, and the Hoosiers have quickly bought what Wilson is selling. Why? The answer is simple.
"We're tired of losing," senior-to-be WR Damarlo Belcher says. "In three years we've only won five Big Ten games. So we're like, 'Whatever you want us to do, we'll do it.' We're willing to do whatever."
Now all the Hoosiers need is to find a new leader on the field to take IU to the next level and get the Kevin Wilson Era off to a fast start. Wilson, for his part, is focused on the task at hand and is working to avoid any distractions. He began spring practice before spring break, breaking with IU's tradition of starting workouts after the players' week off, to give his athletes a taste of what to expect. He also has closed practices -- another change from the Lynch Era -- to allow his players to concentrate without distractions.
From controlling what the players eat to how they work to what the public sees, it's clear there's a new regime in power at Memorial Stadium, but as long as he produces results on the field in the fall, Wilson's changes will be welcomed.
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