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New rules, different defense, same IU goal

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For more on college sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Hoosiers preparing to make winning plays

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 8:33 am

For college football, winter has come to summer, and it has nothing to do with the weather.

Coaching interaction with players is no longer a NCAA sin during May, June and July.

Indiana coach Kevin Wilson embraces the new summer rule change (basically making it the same as in the winter), although he wants to ensure it doesn't wipe out family time.

Still, in what looms as a pivotal season for his program, he's set to maximize the opportunity.

What does that mean?

The NCAA now allows football coaches to spend up to eight hours a week for eight summer weeks with their players. They can't conduct football drills, but they can attend weight lifting and running sessions, plus have two hours a week of meetings.

That's probably too much meeting time for veteran players, but it should be invaluable for freshmen. It also provides new defensive coordinator Brian Knorr with more time to implement his new system

“We're allowed more interaction with the team in the summer,” Wilson said. “It used to be just strength coaches.

“It's just like it is in the winter. I can go to the weight room. I can be in during the running workouts if I choose to. I can watch change of direction (running drills), but I can't be part of football things.

“That's fine. It is summer. It's nice to play golf, go to the beach. Coaches need family time.”

Wilson basically gave his players the month of May off. He allowed them to go home or, at least, not have to be involved with academics and athletics. Players are back now (more than 120 including walk-ons). They'll get another week off in late July before preseason camp begins.

“We'll go till July 25, then have a quiet week before we start reporting Aug. 3 and 4,” Wilson said.

IU appears poised for a breakthrough season. It returns 18 starters from a 5-7 team that lost once by six points and once by three. It also adds a top-40 national recruiting class.

“I like our guys,” Wilson said. “We have a lot of guys back on offense and defense. We have a good recruiting class on paper, but the game isn't played on paper. I like the competitive side, the building side, but we want more wins. We need more on-field success. We've made a lot of gains with our values, but we've got to get over the hump in play calling and game planning and performance.”

The Hoosiers have improved in each of Wilson's first three seasons, going from 1-11 to 4-8 to 5-7. The offense now ranks among the nation's best, averaging 38.4 points last season, which should have been enough to win at least six games and become bowl eligible. But a defense that allowed 38.8 points was too much to overcome.

So Wilson hired Knorr, defensive line coach Larry McDaniel and safeties coach Noah Joseph. They've installed a 3-4 concept instead of keeping former defensive coordinator Doug Mallory's 4-3 approach.

Wilson stressed a turnaround depends more than just the defense. The offense has to become, if anything, even more prolific. Special teams must replace record-setting kicker Mitch Ewald.

“We've got to get to those magic number of wins,” Wilson said. “It's taking care of the ball, scoring and getting stops. Being good in the kicking game.

“At the same time, you can talk about how you match up with teams. I think we'll match up well enough that we'll be very competitive. In the last two years we've had 14 home games, won 7 and lost by two, three, three, four and six points. That's five one-possession games you're short on. That's 12 games you're right there.

“At the end of the day, you've got to make the plays to win. The more confident you are, the more you win. The more you win, the more confident you are. We have to get to that point.”