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Forget gimmicks, IU's Wilson wants to win

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Hoosiers boosted by new helmets, late signing

Thursday, June 6, 2013 - 6:40 am

Yes, Indiana has five new football helmets. That includes two that honor the past, one that honors the state and one -- shiny chrome with a red-and-white candy-striped tone -- that seems more suited to Oregon's push-the-limits fashion sense.

But first, consider coach Kevin Wilson prefers substance over style, results over glitter. While he and his assistant coaches can't work with the players over the summer (although strength coaches can), he expects the players to run their own drills and workouts.

“We're not getting you in shape this summer, we're getting you better,” he said. “Now, that's voluntary, but you voluntarily win and lose all the time. You've got to make the choices that winners make.”

One recent choice Wilson made was the late signing of Nate Hoff, a 6-2, 320-pound lineman with offensive and defensive potential. He originally signed with the Naval Academy but wound up at the Naval Academy Prep School in Rhode Island to shore up his math. Eventually Hoff's plans changed and he signed with the Hoosiers.

He will provide another big, strong guy for a perennially struggling defense that needs all it can get. He has bench-pressed 475 pounds and squatted 600 pounds. While at Solon (Ohio) High School he placed fifth in the Ohio state wrestling tourney.

IU's connection came from graduate assistant Ryan Stanchek, who once played for the Solon football coach. Stanchek knew of Hoff and facilitated the process.

“We got on him kind of late,” Wilson said. “We had a couple of spots available. You don't want to take a gamble, but each year we've taken a guy late. We've been fortunate. (Tailback) Stephen Houston turned out OK. (Safety) Timmy Bennett turned out OK. We think they'll be great this year. We don't need to knee jerk and panic. We need a guy who can help us.”

Hoff seems that kind of player, especially when IU is thin at defensive tackle.

“We've got a kid who is 320-plus pounds,” Wilson said. “We probably need to trim him down. We can get him on campus for summer school. He's very strong. He's a big, strong kid, and looks it. On tape he looks good.

“We need to keep getting bigger and stronger in the defensive front. He has played offensive line. He could be a guard if we needed it, but I think we have enough guards and centers. We need some D-line help. It's another big kid to get into the mix. That was the one position coming out of the spring that I still felt we were little bit shy of the depth we needed to have.

“We're excited to have him. He has a military background. He's a quality player. When you take a guy late, buyer beware, but we did some research and we like what we got.”

IU also researched its new helmets, which were debuted during a team gathering Sunday night.

Why five?

“If you jump in, you might as well jump in with a few different ones,” Athletic Director Fred Glass said. “Five feels about right.

“We tried to hit a rhythm of being fun, but still tied to our traditions. Even the chrome helmet still has the candy stripes. We tied it back to something essentially Indiana. That's cool.”

It was cool enough to produce a Wilson wisecrack.

“We were told there was a guarantee that we would tackle better, block better, score more points and win more games with those helmets, or we get our money back.”

Then Wilson turned serious. When you have a two-year record of 5-19, that tends to happen.

“We won't be gimmicky. We're not trying to be an arena team. The kids like it. It's good for the student body. It will be good for recruiting. But at the end of the day, we still have to win a bunch of games.”

As far as how often IU will use each helmet, no one could say.

“We'll see how the team fares with them,” Glass said. “We'll be nimble.”