Five Step Drop – Week 4

Photo: James Cocherell

In this weeks Five Step Drop, we focus on last weekends game verse the Cincinnati Bearcats and their game on Saturday at WKU.

The Hoosiers lost in front of one of the largest crowds in Memorial Stadium history.  Falling 38-24 to the Cincinnati Bearcats, IU found a multitude of ways to shoot themselves in the foot and cost themselves a top 10 win. 

From the opening kick until the 5-minute mark of the 2nd quarter, the Hoosiers were well on their way to dominating, leading 14-0.  At that point, UC had only crossed the 50-yard line once and IU had squandered a redzone opportunity that would have given the Hoosiers at least a 17-0 lead.  Then, on a 3rd and long, Micah McFadden drew a targeting call that led to his ejection and a UC first down.  From that point on, it was all Bearcats thanks to the Hoosiers continually getting in their own way with 4 total turnovers, 2 of which in the redzone. The most difficult part of this game to swallow for fans will absolutely be the fact that if you change 1 or 2 plays, it is completely conceivable that the Hoosiers win.

First Step – Week 3 Offense

Another game, and another inconsistent performance by the Hoosier offense.  Do you blame the play calling?  Quarterback? The overall execution? Honestly, in this game it came do simply shooting themselves in the foot.  The Hoosiers had a total of 4 turnovers and failed to score on 3 redzone trips.  This game was winnable.  THAT is the most difficult thing to explain.  The offense showed signs of returning to last seasons level, but still lacks consistency.  The key cogs to the Hoosier attack all had inconsistent days.  Ty Fryfogle had arguably his worst game as a Hoosier, with only 1 catch and 4 drops.  Michael Penix went 17-40 with 3 interceptions.  Stephen Carr also joined the inconsistent crowd by collecting 52 yards on 21 carries with a long of only 7.  Simply put, this was a very poor overall performance by the offense and the offense continues to be the glass ceiling on this team.

Second Step – Week 3 Defense

For the third straight game, the Hoosier defense showed signs that it can hang with good offenses.  Sadly, things got a little messy in the closing minutes of the first half following the ejection of Micah McFadden following a targeting penalty.  I’m sure many fans were frustrated with how drastically it seemed the fortunes changed for IU following the ejection.  The thing to realize is that McFadden is probably the most important singular piece on the defense given his role.  When he was on the field, the group was flying around and creating havoc.  While things did get messy and the defense ended up surrendering 31 points, they held the Bearcats to 328 total yards and 3.3 yards per carry.  Simply put, the defense put forth a plenty strong effort for the Hoosiers to have walked away with a victory.  If this is what the defense can provide going forward, IU can still have a successful season.

Next on the schedule for IU is the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.   Coming off a bye week, WKU welcomes IU to their house hoping to score a big upset on a Big Ten squad.  The Hilltoppers will look to use their bye week to tighten up their defense and take advantage of the slightly turnover prone Hoosiers!

Third Step – Week 4 Offensive Preview

For as prolific as Western Kentucky’s offense is, their defense is close to the polar opposite.  Their defense surrendered 21 points to UT-Martin and 38 points to Army.  Naturally, their defensive metrics are skewed thanks to playing the run heavy option attack of Army.  Regardless, this defense appears to present a nice opportunity for the Hoosier offense to get back to the basics.  For the Hoosiers, the gameplan will likely look similar to the Idaho game.  Expect to see a heavy dose of Stephen Carr with a nice sprinkling of Michael Penix with some play action and shot plays.  However, I would love to see a few changeups from OC Nick Sheridan.  If the Hoosiers could utilize some tunnel and bubble screen action or jet motion/pop pass to get the best athletes the ball in space, it could help open up the inside run game.

Fourth Step – Week 4 Defensive Preview

Western Kentucky historically is an all gas, no brakes style of team.  They’re going to spread you out and throw the ball a ton.  Through 2 games this season, the Hilltoppers have scored 94 points and have over 900 passing yards.  Senior transfer Bailey Zappe is the key cog in the WKU attack, throwing for 10 touchdowns this season and 83 total touchdowns in his career.  For the Hoosiers, the key will be about creating pressure on Zappe and having good communication in the secondary.  If IU can force WKU into longer drives, they should be able to create some negative plays.

Fifth Step – Player Spotlight

Last weeks players we spotlighted both had great first halves.  Sadly, following Micah McFadden’s ejections, things went downhill.  This week, the spotlight is not on one or two players, but an entire unit.  Verses an inferior opponent with a less than stellar defense, IU’s offensive line MUST step up on Saturday.  This is arguably the last “get right” game on the schedule and it’s time for some gelling to happen.

Five Step Drop – Week 3

Doug McSchooler – freelancer, FR170771 AP

Moving forward, the Five Step Drop article series is how we at ATB Hoosiers will be reviewing the game from the week before and previewing the next game on the schedule.  The hope is that we can be your one stop shop for Hoosier content. 

The first 2 steps will be a review of both the offense and defense from the week before.  Steps 3 and 4 will be an offensive and defensive preview with a few keys to victory for each side of the ball.  The 5th step is going to be a player spotlight.  This can be either a player who played at an extremely high level the week before or could play a large role in the Hoosiers getting a win in the next game.  In place of this small explanation there will always be a very broad review of the week before to set the table for the first and second step!

Week 2 overview

Last week, the Hoosiers had a stereotypical “get right” game when FCS Idaho came to Bloomington.  Following a very underwhelming performance in Iowa City, this was an opportunity for the Hoosiers to get back to the basics.  They finished with a 56-14 victory and were able to get some young guys and backups some live action snaps.  The one thing that was obvious from the opening kick was the energy on the field and in the stands. The Hoosier faithful showed out with well over 40,000 people and a packed student section.  I can tell you from experience, that is an unheard-of crowd unless someone like Michigan or Ohio State is in town.  #LEO was in full affect and it’s amazing to see the players feeding off the crowd!

First Step – Week 2 Offense

I’m sure if you go a read articles by other Hoosier sources, they’ll focus on some big plays and the fact that the offense played fine.  That’s it…fine.  Now I’m sure you saw the Hoosiers scored 56 points and now I’m telling you the offense was just “fine”.  Well, it’s the truth.  The Offense ended the game with a total of 338 total yards of offense, and 76 of those yards came on one play in the 4th quarter when backup QB Jack Tuttle hit A.J. Barner for a TD.

It is way too early in the season for overreacting and saying this offense is going to cost the Hoosiers a special season, but that doesn’t mean questions can’t be asked based on this performance.  Ignoring Penix’s rushing due to a couple of sacks, the Hoosiers averaged 4.17 yards per carry vs Idaho.  Truthfully, that number would be ok if it was against Ohio State or Michigan…not Idaho.  The offensive line struggled to open consistent holes in the run game and allowed several pressures.  Moving forward, if the Oline can’t play more consistently, the offense will likely have a glass ceiling as it reaches Big Ten play.

I’d love to say that is the end of the questions for the offense following the Idaho game. There have to be some questions posed to Offensive Coordinator and Head Coach about Michael Penix.  This is the third straight game where the pass game has lacked any creativity.  Sans the 76-yard toss by Tuttle, the Hoosiers passing game went 12/19 for 83 yards.  In 2 games, Penix hasn’t looked anything like the Penix of old.  I still see flashes of the quick release, nice tight spiral, and velocity on a few of his throws, but overall, he seems very tentative.  Moving forward, the hope is that Nick Sheridan is just easing Penix back into the offense and this has just been a bump in the road to a 3rd consecutive bowl game.

Second Step – Week 2 Defense

For all the questions there are with the offense, there are next to none with the defense.  The Hoosiers came out as if they were shot out of a cannon.  From the first snap, the intensity was high and it lasted the entire game.  Allowing only 261 yards, the defense clearly overmatched and overwhelmed the Vandals, as they should have!  Through 2 games, the defense is clearly still running hot following the success they achieved in 2020.  Outside of the long TD run in the Iowa game where Reece Taylor lost contain on the edge trying to make a big play, the defense is showing the ability and potential to carry the offense and all its questions.

Normally Special Teams are just an afterthought.  However, vs Idaho, the defense and specials squads tag teamed to bury the Vandals before halftime.  The Hoosiers scored 2 ST touchdowns in the first half and set the offense up with quality field position all night.  There is no way around it, the game ball goes to the 3rd and often ignored phase of the game in this one!

Third Step – Week 3 look ahead on Offense

This week, the Hoosiers get #8 Cincinnati.  The Bearcats haven’t played anyone of note, their defense has shown it is pretty stout and has several draftable prospects.  Cincy has only allowed 21 points to this point. They have also held teams to under 4 yards per carry in both games and forced 5 turnovers.  For the Hoosiers, the key will be continued continuity on the offensive line.  Yes, I have serious questions about that group.  However, if the Oline can build on some of the positives from the Idaho game, perhaps they can take a little pressure off of Penix and allow him to continue knocking off the rust.  It’s also time for Nick Sheridan to empty the bag a little. IU has try to get the playmakers that exist on this offense into space more frequently.

Fourth Step – Week 3 look ahead on Defense

This is going to be a very fun matchup between the Cincy offense and IU defense!  The Bearcats are led by quarterback Desmond Ridder, who will certainly be drafted this spring.  In the first two games Ridder has completed over 72% of his passes and has 6 touchdowns to 1 interception.  On top of a dynamic passing game, running back Jerome Ford is averaging 7.8 ypc and has 4 TDs.  The Cincy offense will be the first intense challenge for this Hoosier defense.  The first key is to attempt to limit big plays for the Bearcats.  If the Hoosiers can force Ridder to make smart decisions on 8-10 play drives, the chances of him making mistakes are much higher.  The second key is to get pressure on Ridder.  If the Hoosiers can’t make negative plays and put the Bearcats behind the chains, it could be a long day.

Fifth Step – Player Spotlight

I have two players that I’m keeping an eye on Saturday vs Cincinnati, Micah McFadden and Ryder Anderson.  Both have shown an ability to make plays in the backfield, and that will be vital on Saturday.  Simply, if the Hoosiers can’t make Desmond Ridder sweat, I’m unsure they can win.

2021 IU Schedule Preview and Record Prediction

The 2020 rendition of the Indiana Hoosiers football squad will go down as one of the most successful teams on the field and having overcome some of the biggest hurdles.  Covid rocked the college landscape which led to some unique atmospheres, forfeits, and drama. Following that turbulent season, the Hoosiers come into 2021 with arguably the highest expectations it’s seen since the first Bush Administration.  In this schedule preview, TD Hunter and I will give a key or two for each game and take a shot at predicting IU’s record this season

@ Iowa

TD: IU kicks off its season with a big win over Big Ten rival Iowa and all eyes will be on the return of Michael Penix Jr. Assuming he comes back ready and healthy, the Hoosiers should boast one of the better offenses in the conference. IU tends to have a tough time against the Hawkeyes and playing at Kinnick Stadium presents its challenges but IU’s opportunistic defense should keep Iowa at bay and give the Hoosiers a big win to start the season. 

Prediction: IU wins 28-20 (1-0)

Jake: Iowa is always a weird matchup for the Hoosiers.  IU has historically had an explosive enough offense to prevent Iowa from doing what they do best and turn the game into a rock fight.  I fear that Penix will take just a little too long to knock the rust off and Iowa will be able to win both sides in the trenches.

Prediction: IU loses 27-24 (0-1)

vs Idaho

TD: In the first home game of the season, the Hoosiers host the Idaho Vandals in what should be a relatively easy game for IU. Indiana outclasses Idaho at virtually every position and there’s no reason to think this should be a close one, but anything is possible in football. There is a chance IU loses focus and begins to look at a big game a week ahead and Coach Allen must do everything he can to keep his hungry team zeroed in on the task at hand. If all goes well, the Hoosiers could put this one away by halftime. 

Prediction: IU wins 45-13 (2-0)

Jake:  This is one of two true trap games early in the season.  However, there is no reason that this IU team should lose to Idaho in Bloomington in the first home game with fans in well over a year.  Would love for the Hoosiers to get up big and give Jack Tuttle some run in the second half.

Prediction: IU wins 52-17 (1-1)

vs Cincinnati

TD: In a big matchup, Cincinnati heads to Bloomington in a showdown between two ranked teams. The Bearcats return many of their starters that took them to the Peach Bowl last season, including quarterback Desmond Ridder, and will be a tough test for an IU team still looking to prove that its own success last year was not a fluke. It should be an exciting game but the Bearcats are just too complete of a team to topple and hand IU its first loss of the season. 

Prediction: IU loses 31-21 (2-1)

Jake:  Last time I checked, there are only single tickets available for this game in Bloomington.  This will be peak IU Football atmospheres as the Hoosiers welcome the Bearcats.  Cincinnati is lead by NFL Draft prospect Desmond Ridder and are also coming off of a great season that saw them in a New Years 6 bowl game.  It’s hard to say what numbers will matter but if IU can get pressure on Ridder and force some poor decisions, IU can win this game.  Expect a close one worth watching!

Prediction: IU wins 34-31 (2-1)

@ Western Kentucky

TD: I may be in the minority but I believe that Western Kentucky isn’t a bad team. A slew of new transfers should boost the offense and a strong defensive front should give this team a fighting chance in most games. Any team playing Western Kentucky could find themselves in a game that’s a little close for comfort. IU could be reeling from an emotional loss the previous week and traveling to an opposing stadium is never easy. Still, IU is just too talented and while the game is close for three quarters, the Hoosiers begin to pull away in the fourth and bounce back from their loss to Cincinnati. 

Prediction: IU wins 31-14 (3-1)

Jake:  Oh look, another trap game.  Western Kentucky is almost always solid and nearly beat the Hoosiers in Bloomington in 2015.  By now, the hope is that the trenches on both sides of the ball are starting to stabilize and Penix has knocked off all of the rust.  I can’t imagine that Tom Allen lets his team come out so flat that it costs them a win.

Prediction: IU wins 38-24 (3-1)

@ Penn State

TD: A year after their stunning loss to IU, the Nittany Lions will be seeking vengeance in a big way. Penn State returns a majority of their starters from last year and they all remember the last second heart breaker against the Hoosiers that began their season’s tailspin. Quarterback Sean Clifford enters his third season as the starter and the players around him are just as experienced, giving this offense potentially dangerous cohesiveness. I believe this is a game that IU gets humbled and Penn State moves on from its big loss last year. 

Prediction: IU loses 38-21 (3-2)

Jake:  I think the Hoosiers will find a way to win one of the big road games this year, but I struggle deciding which one.  Penn State turned their season around slightly at the end of the year after a terrible start in 2020.  However, their QB is still Sean Clifford.  So while Penn State fans may argue that the Nittany Lions are the better team on paper, IU is superior at the most important position.  Can IU win? Of course.  Will they? Meh.

Prediction: IU loses 34-28 (3-2)

vs Michigan State

TD: When a team has a big question at quarterback and questions all along the offensive line, that tends to be a recipe for disaster. IU absolutely dominated Michigan State in every facet of the game last year and there’s little to suggest that will change this year. Michigan State is still facing those same big questions despite over twenty new transfers coming in. Coach Allen, meanwhile, has his Hoosiers focused and the team is really finding itself and figuring out who they are at this point in the season. There’s little to doubt that the result this season will be much different from last season and IU gets a convincing conference win. 

Prediction: IU wins 34-10 (4-2)

Jake: Last year in East Lansing IU dominated the Spartans in almost every fashion and won in shut-out fashion. IU is returning almost every key piece from that team and while the Spartans will hopefully be better, it won’t be enough

Prediction: IU wins 31-17 (4-2)

vs Ohio State

TD: In my opinion, this is one of the more underrated rivalries in the country. IU always seems to play Ohio State tough and that has made for some thrilling games but the result is usually the same with OU coming out on top. Last year, the Hoosiers gave the Buckeyes fits in a close win for Ohio State and that really helped to quiet several of IU’s doubters. This year will be another big game as IU looks to prove that it belongs at the top of the conference but Ohio State is just too talented to get around. Ohio State remains at the pinnacle of the Big Ten and beat the Hoosiers in yet another exciting, back and forth affair. 

Prediction: IU loses 35-31 (4-3)

Jake:  In sports, you often hear about teams being “due”.  It’s not a real thing or the Cubs wouldn’t have waited over 100 years and the city of San Diego would have seen a championship team by now.  IU hasn’t beaten Ohio State since the whoopin they threw the Buckeyes in 1988.  Any advantage the Hoosiers could hypothetically have thanks to OSU’s roster turnover is erased by the game being in the middle of the season.  However, if IU can force turnovers like it did last year in Columbus, maybe Penix has some magic in that left arm of his and can make things interesting.

Prediction: IU loses 38-28 (4-3)

@ Maryland

TD: Maryland is a tough team to gauge because they should be better than what they actually are. Taulia Tagovailoa makes Maryland exciting and helps to keep defenses honest. The Terps also boast one of the better secondaries in the country, with every starter returning. Maryland gave IU some fits last year and this has “trap game” written all over it. IU will have trouble with this game, especially since it’s at Maryland but they still take the victory. 

Prediction: IU wins 24-21 (5-3)

Jake: As TD said, this is a weird one to prognosticate.  If Tagovailoa has been able to continue progressing in the offseason, the Terps will certainly be a pesky team this season.  This is one of those games where I feel team chemistry and coaching matter, and I just think IU wins in both of those categories.  IU’s defense travels well and gives Maryland and Tagovailoa just enough of a fit to limp home with a victory in yet another trap game.

Prediction: IU wins 27-20 (5-3)

@ Michigan

TD: This is a big game for both programs. A matchup that is later in the season, a win for either team could swing crucial momentum towards the victor. Head coach Jim Harbaugh has lacked consistency during his tenure at Michigan and the cries of Wolverines fans to can the high priced coach are getting louder. The offense is a little more experienced than it was last year and the defense shows plenty of potential. IU matches up well with Michigan but this is a better Wolverines team than we’ve seen the last few years. Michigan takes a close one in a major Big Ten rivalry game. 

Prediction: IU loses 27-21 (5-4)

Jake:  As I said earlier, I think IU wins one of its big road games this year.  Why Michigan? Well, they have yet another new quarterback with Milton transferring to Tennessee. Is that it? Of course not! They also weren’t able to defend the pass last year and unless things just randomly happened to change in the offseason, I don’t expect them to be much better this season! Unlike my counterpart, I expect a bit of a barn burner in this one.

Prediction: IU wins 35-31 (6-3)

vs Rutgers

TD: If IU ever needed a pick me up game, this is it. Going 1-2 over the last three weeks isn’t ideal but a home game against conference rival Rutgers could be just what the doctor ordered. Rutgers showed significant improvement last year in Greg Schiano’s return to the team and the Scarlet Knights are bringing back 19 starters, making this unit a bit more cohesive. Still, Rutgers is not close to IU in terms of talent and the hungry Hoosiers take this one in a game that turns things around for the team. 

Prediction: IU wins 37-14 (6-4)

Jake: IU comes off of a huge win in Ann Arbor and Tom Allens focus for the team is to come out strong.  Schiano’s teams at Rutgers have always been hard nosed and seem to overachieve based on expectations.  Schiano has also been able to upgrade the recruiting level since his return and there is a nice influx of new talent on this roster, mixed with plenty of returning starters.  I expect IU to come out flat and then claw their way back to a victory in the second half thanks to superior talent.

Prediction: IU wins 30-21 (7-3)

vs Minnesota

TD: This should be an enticing matchup as IU’s defense looks to stop one of the Big Ten’s most thrilling players in running back Mohamed Ibrahim. Ibrahim averaged an astounding 153.7 yards per game last season and added 15 touchdowns on top of that. He’ll be running behind an excellent and experienced offensive line which suggests he should have a repeat performance in 2021. If the Gophers can get above average quarterback play, this offense could be lethal. The defense is still a big question mark, especially in the secondary, and IU can exploit that to their advantage. The defense can stack the box in order to slow Ibrahim down unless Tanner Morgan can show some improvement. This should be a fun game against an exciting player but one that IU should handle. 

Prediction: IU wins 38-17 (7-4)

Jake: After 2 straight emotionally draining wins, it doesn’t stop here on senior day.  If IU really has taken the next step as a program, this is almost a guaranteed win regardless how much rowing of boats Minnesota does.  But I have a bad feeling Tanner Morgan and Ibrahim come out and punch the Hoosiers in the mouth and they just don’t have enough left in the tank to pull this one out.

Prediction: IU loses 31-27 (7-4)

@ Purdue

TD: There’s nothing like a big rivalry game to wrap up the season. The game wasn’t played last year so it’s good to see the Old Oaken Bucket game return. The records between these two teams never matter as this is one of the biggest games IU plays all season. In-state bragging rights over rival Purdue is of the highest importance for the Crimson and Cream faithful and IU has the talent to win this one easily. The Boilermakers have a few highly talented players that should keep this game interesting for a bit but in the end, IU has their number and keeps the Old Oaken Bucket in Bloomington. 

Prediction: IU wins 45-21 (8-4)

Jake: No special insight here…it’s just a good old fashioned rivalry here.  Numbers and records don’t matter.  There’s also only one result I’ll ever predict!

Prediction: IU wins 41-28 (8-4)

Final thoughts

Final records: TD and Jake both have the Hoosiers going 8-4

Both of us feel an 8-4 record is well within reach, which would send the Hoosiers to their 5th bowl game in 7 years.  This would also give the Hoosiers arguably the best 3 year stretch in the program’s history with a combined record of 22-11.  If Michael Penix can stay healthy and can be more efficient, the dream of #9Windiana is still alive and well for the Hoosier faithful!

2021 IU Preseason Draft Prospect Spotlight

The 2020 Indiana Hoosiers were one of the most successful teams in school history, finishing the season 6-2 and earning a bid to the Gator Bowl.  However, the Hoosiers didn’t have much of a presence in the 2021 NFL Draft.  Safety Jamar Johnson was the only Indiana player selected and 4 others were able to sign Undrafted Free Agent deals.  IU fans are hoping for a very similar result on the field, but can the 2021 version of the IU Hoosier draft prospects have a greater impact on the draft next spring? 

On the surface, it would appear to be a near certainty that there will be more than 1 drafted Hoosier on this team and more than 5 total that will be playing on Sundays next fall given how many preseason All-Americans and All-Conference players on the roster.  However, one thing to remember is that great college players aren’t always great professionals! Some examples of great college players that didn’t quite translate to the next level are Kellen Moore and Matt Leinart.  And sometimes guys who are just good in college go on to be great players at the next level, such as Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs.  That’s something to keep in mind as you read the short evaluations on the players and the projected draft range for them at the moment! Also, they haven’t played a single snap in 2021 and no one says they can’t vastly improve.

2021 Offensive Draft Prospects

  • Michael Penix
    • Penix is arguably the best quarterback in the Big Ten this season, and the key cog to the Hoosiers dreams of a historic season.  Penix has an above average arm, quick release, and nice athleticism despite 2 ACL injuries.  However, Penix must become more consistent play to play, drive to drive with his accuracy and ball placement to be considered in the top 50 of the draft. Regardless of how well or poorly Penix plays, though, his injury history is going to be a cloud hovering over his draft stock that he may not be able to overcome.
    • Projected Draft Range: Late Day 2-Early Day 3
  • Ty Fryfogle
    • Fryfogle is your stereotypical thick bodied college receiver who wins at contested catch opportunities at a high rate.  He has phenomenal hands and flashes an ability to win down the field despite likely not being an elite athlete.  With that said, Fryfogle doesn’t create much separation which typically is necessary for a smooth transition to the next level.  Even players such as Laquon Treadwell, who won in a similar fashion and was a first round pick, has just never been able to stick or become a primary weapon for a team.
    • Projected Draft Range: Mid to late Day 3
  • Peyton Hendershot
    • Hendershot is a 6’4” roughly 250-pound athletic TE that really flashed for the Hoosiers in 2019.  He flashed nice athleticism and an ability to make big plays down the field and with the ball in his hands.  2020 was not nearly as positive for him.  Hendershot had several drops and didn’t look as dynamic as he was in 2019.   However, the biggest issue for Hendershot will be his off-field issues tied to his arrest for domestic battery.
    • Projected Draft Range: Late Day 3-UDFA

2021 Defensive Draft Prospects

  • Micah McFadden
    • McFadden is one of the highest regarded linebackers in the country following a 6-sack season in 2020 as an off-ball linebacker.  He has great feeling and timing when blitzing and is a solid tackler/finisher.  He’s also a very good run defender and shows the ability needed to take on/shed blockers to limit gains.  In coverage McFadden is lacking, but that is partially due to lack of reps. Despite needing work in coverage, he does have ball production that show he’s not a total liability.
    • Projected Draft Range: Late Day 2-Early Day 3
  • Tiawan Mullen
    • Mullen is an absolute ball magnet.  What he lacks in size (roughly 5’10” 180-pounds) he makes up for in tenacity.  Not only is he a quality cover corner, but he is a great blitzer from the slot.  It’s extremely difficult to watch Mullen and not get Kenny Moore vibes.  His size will likely cause him to fall in the draft, but he could be a starting slot corner in the NFL from day 1.
    • Projected Draft Range: Day 2

Players with NFL Potential

  • Steven Carr
    • Carr was a 5-star recruit at USC who flashed early but was never able to sustain success.  He will likely be the lead back for the Hoosiers and will have a clear opportunity to break out. If he can provide some balance to the Indiana offensive attack, he’ll likely get some attention.
  • Caleb Jones
    • Jones has the one thing you can’t teach, size, and he has it in spades.  He’s an absolute mammoth of a man, but last season admitted to gaining bad weight during quarantine, eclipsing 390-pounds.  During the offseason he rededicated himself to his dream of playing at the next level by shedding 30 pounds.  Can the loss of weight help him be more consistent in pass protection?
  • Marcelino McCrary-Ball
    • McCrary-Ball plays the husky position in the Hoosiers 4-2-5 defense.  He is a hard nosed box safety and leader who could excel at the next level on special teams. However, he must be able to come back from a myriad of injuries he’s sustained during his career in Bloomington, he could make an appearance on day 3.

Indianapolis Colts and RAS

I find the connections between RAS and draft picks very interesting. I have done a number of articles relating to the Green Bay Packers and their connection to RAS and their draft picks. So I decided to do an article about it for other teams.

For those that do not know what RAS is it means Relative Athletic Score. Created by Kent Lee Platte. You can find his site at: https://ras.football/

I am only using teams whos GM/front office have been in place for at least three drafts. Its basically impossible to find correlations with only data from a couple drafts to work with. I feel like we can identify some trends with these teams. I like to take averages at each position so it give you an idea of where teams prioritize athletes.

Now I know everyone will say “well all you are going to find is that teams like to draft athletes”, “teams always want to get more athletic”. Which can be true. But there is more to it than that. Maybe its because its numbers and they don’t understand numbers? I am not sure. I am actually a film guy myself, but like I said earlier I still find it interesting.

Now that that is out of the way. First off we will start with the Indianapolis Colts.

Quarterbacks:

Since being hired in January of 2017 Chris Ballard has only drafted two quarterbacks. Also as we all know athleticism in quarterbacks is generally not seen as important. Even still it is interesting to look at the scores. With Jacob Eason scoring a 3.46 and Sam Ehlinger a 6.82 they average out to a 5.14

Running Backs:

With running backs Ballard has drafted four. With all their scores averaged out it comes to a 7.95. From the looks of it unless you have a special skill set(like Hines who can play all over), Ballard really likes his running backs to be athletic. If you take him out the average goes up to a 8.7.

Wide Receivers:

Now when it comes to receivers Ballard definitely has a type. Outside of Campbell all have been 6’1+ and even Campbell is close at just under 6’0. Their average RAS score comes out to a 8.26. Also of interest is it seems the Colts do not prioritize agility testing. All of them have been between poor to average in agility scores. Although Campbell had a good short shuttle score of 4.03 he does not have a 3 cone number on file. They all are also over 200 pounds. Three of them being 225+

Tight Ends:

With tight ends there is not much there to work with. Ballard has only drafted one tight end in his time. Kyle Granson in 2021 in the 4th round. Kyle has a score of a 7.72. He looks more like an h-back at 6’1 1/2 240lbs.

Offensive Line:

Since 2017 Ballard has drafted seven offensive linemen. three offensive tackles and four offensive guards. Their RAS average score was a 7.81. So pretty good, not super athletic, but up there. Now there is one guy dragging that score down. Zach Banner. He was drafted in the 4th round in Ballard’s first draft. His score was a 1.44. Which is really bad. If his score is removed the average shoots up to 8.87. So that tells us that Ballard really likes athletic offensive linemen. He also likes to draft linemen that are over 300. The lightest was Danny Pinter at 306. Five of them were 310+

Defensive Line:

Similar situation to tight end. Ballard in his time has only drafted two interior defensive linemen. Grover Stewart in the 4th round in 2017 and Robert Windsor in the 6th round in the 2020 draft. Both scored well athletically. Stewart had a 7.79, and Windsor scored at 8.68. They also have Tyquan Lewis who plays both end and tackle. If he were to be listed as an interior linemen his RAS would be a 9.69. So it seems they like relatively athletic interior linemen. Both Stewart’s and Windsor’s size and athletic testing vary so there is not much that can be gleaned from it, other than like like guys who are relatively athletic. It may be a position that he does not value as much draft wise.

Edge Defenders:

Here is where we get some interesting information. Ballard has drafted six edge defenders in his time. Their average ras score is a 9.22. This means he really values major athletes at this position. The lowest score was Terell Basham in 2017 with a ras of 8.2, the others are 9.3 or above. All have been between 250-270 when they were drafted. Ballard seems to like a range of sizes. Some smaller and some bigger. He likes fast guys. All have a 40 time of 4.7 or faster. Most importantly is overall a high level athlete.

Linebackers:

Another position of interest with the Colts. Ballard has drafted eight linebackers in his time. Seems as if it is a position he puts a lot of value in. As far as the RAS scores they have averaged a 7.3 which is pretty athletic. Even more interesting their top linebacker Darius Leonard didn’t test all that well. His RAS was a 4.9 which is basically average. If you remove his score the average goes up to a 8.2. So outside of Leonard who they must have saw something on tape that told the front office he was more athletic than he tested. They like to bring in really athletic linebackers. They also seem to like their linebackers 240 or under which kind of follows with their preference of uber athletic linebackers.

Defensive Backs:

Now this position is pretty interesting in regards to their RAS scores. So they have drafted nine defensive backs in the Ballard era. Nothing too crazy about that. One of the interesting parts is that four of them have no RAS scores. I do believe Julian Blackmon and Malik Hooker were coming off injury and that’s why they have no workout numbers. The other interesting thing is that the average score of the guys they do have RAS for is a 6.91. So a little above average. That in itself is really interesting. It tells me that athleticism is not a priority for this front office. At least not as the level it is for a number of other teams. For example Marvell Tell had a 9.2 RAS all the others are 7.35 or lower. All their db’s are of relatively average size as well.

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