Indiana hopes for change despite player movement
By MICHAEL MAROT
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) When coach Kevin Wilson got his first look at his Indiana team Thursday, he came to one brutally honest conclusion.
The Hoosiers can't just talk about being better, they have to prove it.
"To me, we don't change till the scoreboard changes," the second-year coach said minutes into his comments at Indiana's media day. "We take classes, we train to be football players, but ultimately I'm not sure we've changed until we make the scoreboard change."
Hey, almost anything would be better than that rocky 1-11 record from Wilson's debut season at Indiana.
But it was hard to avoid the comparisons.
After a handful of players walked away from the program last season, Wilson started this season by announcing three more players were leaving, three others including veteran receiver Kofi Hughes would be suspended one game for violating undisclosed team rules, another had not yet reported to attend to a personal matter and four more would miss camp because of injuries.
What a start.
While some player movement was expected after Wilson was hired in December 2010, athletic director Fred Glass hopes the revolving door slows down this year.
But Wilson made no apologies for taking the hard stance against four of this year's players. Hughes, cornerback Lawrence Barnett and safety Forisse Hardin were all suspended for one game though Wilson has not said which game or games they will miss. Receiver Jay McCants also was booted off the team with no explanation given.
"They (the rules) have been explained, articulated and known," Wilson said with his usually blunt tone. "We're not going to have one guy back us into a corner here. The best players will be held to the highest standards."
Indiana also said safety Shaquille Jefferson and receiver Logan Young had left the program to "pursue other opportunities" and freshman defensive end Adam Kranda would be welcomed when he does report to camp. Wilson expects Kranda to be in town soon.
Still, there are indications will be different in 2012.
"I can honestly say with 99.9 percent certainty that the grumbling and moaning is gone. It did happen," running back Stephen Houston said. "I had to let my ego go. It's about team and goals this year."
Coaches have detected a difference, too.
Not only are players more familiar with the offensive and defensive systems, they also seem to be more committed to excelling on the field.
"I go back to when we came off the road recruiting in January," assistant offensive coordinator Kevin Johns said. "Our team was different. I think our team, collectively, made a choice that enough was enough and they made the commitment to give everything they've got."
Apparently, it's not just the players expecting big things this season.
Glass said the school had sold 26,033 season tickets as of Thursday, an increase of more than 4,000 over last year, and there's still a month to go before the Hoosiers' home opener Sept. 1 against Indiana State. Student season tickets were running higher, too, at 12,000.
Plus, when Indiana trotted out for its first practice, Glass was joined by the immensely popular men's basketball coach Tom Crean - the architect of Indiana's remarkable turnaround last season.
"I think the success of the basketball program has a good effect on our department all across the board," Glass said. "There is enthusiasm in the university and absolutely it carries over to in football. When Tom Crean is Tweeting to his five gazillion followers what's going on out here, that helps, too."
The real barometer, though, will come on the field.
And that's something Wilson knows cannot be sugar-coated.
"We have a chance now to have a great preseason," Wilson said. "But now you've got to go do it."
Updated August 2, 2012