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BLOOMINGTON -- Brace yourself, says Indiana linebacker David Cooper, for Hoosier defense like you've never seen it before
“I told the guys, there is no excuse this year,” Cooper said. “No excuse. Everybody can say it's a new scheme and everything, but no excuse for any miscommunications, any misfits or anything.”
Bad defense has been a Hoosier tradition for more than a generation, but that seems poised to change thanks to a new coordinator (Brian Knorr), a new scheme (a 3-4 front) and maturing talent.
“We have high expectations and the coaches have high expectations for us,” Cooper said. “We just have to stay consistent, stay in the film room and keep that going throughout the season.”
Today is the official start of practice and expectations are everywhere you look around the program. This is the start of coach Kevin Wilson's fourth season and everything seems in place for the first bowl trip since 2007. IU returns 18 starters, 59 lettermen, one of the Big Ten's best offensive lines, tailbacks and quarterbacks, plus brings in one of its best-ever recruiting classes.
“We're really ready and prepared to have an outstanding preseason,” Wilson said. “We'll need one.
“Even with so many returning players, we have a number of freshmen I would anticipate being in the mix to compete and play this year.
“We're looking forward to a lot of great things.”
Greatness is boosted by that offensive line. Despite being rocked by injuries last season, Indiana still averaged 38.4 points. Now there is depth at every line position, with veterans Jason Spriggs, Bernard Taylor, Dan Feeney, Collin Rahrig and Peyton Eckert leading the way.
“I think it's one of the better offensive lines in the league,” Wilson said. “Last year our starting right guard and starting right tackle missed all 12 games. We were able to accomplish decent offensive numbers with basically half the line out.
“Now we've got every lineman returning, and only two seniors are in that crowd.”
As far as the defense, IU brings in 15 newcomers to add to nine returning starters.
“You'll see some young guys in the mix,” Wilson said. “We're going to be young. We're going to be more athletic. We're making a change. We're going to be a work in progress. But from what I saw in the spring, we're going to be significantly improved on D.”
Freshmen also figure to make an offensive impact, particularly at wide receiver with Dominique Booth, J-Shun Harris, Simmie Cobbs and Coray Keel.
“Dominique Booth, I forget sometimes is a freshman,” senior receiver Shane Wynn said. “J-Shun Harris looks just like I did when I came in. Simmie Cobbs and Coray are two guys that will definitely help us outside.”