IU seeks winning formula
He thinks a lack of confidence and a struggle for leadership ruined the Hoosiers’ 2008 football season and wiped out the memories of a bowl bid the previous year. Patterson is sure that Indiana has turned the corner—and it’s his job to make sure everything works.
“Last year, we had the mindset that we accomplished something,” he said. “We went to a bowl game (in 2007). But I don’t think anybody really knew how difficult it would really be to get back. I’d say it was disappointing and we did kind of take a step back.”
To move forward, the Hoosiers (3-9) have to avoid the pitfalls of last season.
Yes, injuries sapped the offensive line of experience and depth, and the struggling defense even put more pressure on the offense to score. When the offense couldn’t do that consistently, Indiana wound up losing seven of eight Big Ten games.
But the brutally honest Patterson believes there were bigger flaws.
“Leadership was one of the main reasons we didn’t overcome the adversity,” he said. “When you’ve got a lot of young guys trying to run the team ... it didn’t work out very well. That’s not going to happen this year.”
Certainly not if Patterson has anything to say about it.
With players like defensive end Jammie Kirlew, quarterback Ben Chappell and offensive tackle Rodger Saffold in control of the offense, Patterson, one of the most respected Hoosiers, should have plenty of help.
Kirlew, a defensive end, is a fun-loving, hard-nosed player who likes organizing team events. He also wants to win.
Saffold is a three-year starter anchoring an offensive line that suddenly gained more experience and depth last year because injuries forced younger players into action earlier than anticipated.
And Chappell, the only junior of the four, won’t have to contend with a quarterback battle this fall. He lost last season’s competition to Kellen Lewis, then took over when Lewis got hurt.
Indiana planned to go with Chappell this fall and move Lewis around. But Lewis, a former all-conference selection, was kicked off the team in the spring.
That hasn’t detracted from what Chappell, the hometown kid, already has accomplished this offseason.
“Everybody around here knows Ben Chappell, and I’ve not heard one bad thing about him,” Kirlew said.
Chappell completed 52.3 percent of his passes, threw four touchdowns and three interceptions.
He’ll have to do more this season, but at least he has the support of his coaches and teammates to take the lead.
“Ben to me is the exactly what you’re looking for in a quarterback,” coach Bill Lynch said. “He’s a very good leader. You can tell guys rally around him. He understands the passing game, and he understands what we’re trying to do offensively.”
A year ago, the Hoosiers allowed 35.2 points a game.
Patterson and Kirlew will be the key to a turnaround. Kirlew led the team with 10½ sacks, and he still has Greg Middleton helping on the opposite side. Middleton led the nation with 16 sacks in 2007 before finishing with only four last season.
Patterson was fourth on the Hoosiers with 55 tackles and was one of only five players with an interception. He doesn’t believe that was good enough.
“I know there were a few games, it didn’t show in the numbers, but I know there was a lot more I could have done last season,” he said. “That’s going to be different this season.”
The biggest advantage may be an attitude change.
Patterson and Chappell contend that it’s time for the older players to take control of the team.
“It (leadership) has been a huge focus not only from the coaches’ standpoint but also from the players,” Chappell said. “From my standpoint, it was a huge problem last year, and it was really lacking. It’s been a huge focal point.
“We’ve got a lot of guys on the team who can be leaders, and we need them to be successful.”
Indiana at a glance
-- Location—Bloomington, Ind.
-- Stadium—Memorial Stadium (52,692).
-- Coach—Bill Lynch, third season at Indiana, 16th overall.
-- 2008 record—3-9, 1-7 in Big Ten (11th).
-- Last bowl—2007 Insight Bowl (lost to Oklahoma State, 49-33).
-- Returning starters—15 (6 offense, 9 defense).
-- Key players—QB Ben Chappell, DB Ray Fisher, DE Jammie Kirlew, DE Greg Middleton, LB Will Patterson, OT Rodger Saffold, DB Austin Thomas.
-- Key recruits—DL Javon Cornley, QB Dusty Kiel, OL Pat McShane, RB Nick Zachery.
-- Key departures—LB Geno Johnson, DB Joe Kleinsmith, QB-WR Kellen Lewis, DL Ryan Marando, K Austin Starr, RB Marcus Thigpen.
-- Coach’s quote—“I think they have an understanding of the expectations. I’ve seen real growing in them being accountable, and I think it always starts with the older guys.
“It starts with the seniors, and I really see that with them. These guys have played a lot of football, and I think any good football team has leadership and ownership. When you get enough of them, they really fight for it.” — Lynch.
September: 3— Eastern Kentucky. 12—Western Michigan. 19—At Akron. 26—At Michigan.
October: 3—Ohio State. 10—At Virginia. 17—Illinois. 24—At Northwestern. 31—At Iowa.
November: 7—Wisconsin. 14—At Penn State. 21—Purdue.