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Indiana Football: Five Biggest Questions Heading into Spring Ball

Spring ball for Indiana is starting on March 9 with the Hoosiers' pro day taking place on April 2.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — With Indiana football ready to head back out onto the field this spring, there was a lot of movement with players and coaches from the end of the season until now.

Spring ball begins March 9 for Indiana, and with that being only one week away, we decided to discuss the five biggest questions heading into the spring for the Hoosiers.

Since Michael Penix Jr. is missing out on spring ball, will he be ready for the 2021 season?

This is probably the biggest question when trying to project Indiana football for the 2021 season.

Two weeks ago, Penix spoke to the media and said he is still only rehabbing, which means he won't be participating in any of the on-field activities during spring ball for the Hoosiers. The Hoosier quarterback is recovering from a torn ACL that he sustained against Maryland on Nov. 28, 2020.

Penix was in good spirits, though, and he said he is on schedule, if not ahead of schedule, in his road to recovery. He should begin participating in more on-field activities over the summer.

And as for the season, Penix thinks he'll be ready for the opener on Sept. 4 at Iowa.

"I know for sure that I'll be ready come game day."

Who will replace Jamar Johnson?

The departure of safety Jamar Johnson was one of the bigger losses for Indiana this offseason. There is still a load of talent coming back in the secondary for the Hoosiers, and there's a couple of different options that can replace Johnson.

First and foremost, there's the experienced Raheem Layne, who didn't play at all last season due to injury. Layne is expected to be healthy and have a big season in 2021.

Then there is also Juwan Burgess, who had 29 tackles and forced two fumbles in 2019 at the safety position, but he was the backup to Johnson last season. He could reemerge as the starter in 2021.

Bryson Bonds and Josh Sanguinetti, who were both freshmen last season, saw some valuable minutes and could be tasked to jump to safety if needed.

Will new defensive coordinator Charlton Warren have a seamless transition from Kane Wommack?

The short answer appears to be yes on this. Warren was a great hire by Tom Allen, but we won't really know until we see the product on the field.

Warren is inheriting a defense that led the nation in interceptions and led the Big Ten in takeaways last season.

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Warren is coming from Georgia, where he was the defensive backs coach for two years. Warren is very familiar with the 4-2-5 defensive scheme that Indiana runs as well.

The best thing about Warren is he is joining the program with a fresh set of eyes. Bringing in a guy with as much experience and energy as Warren, who can continue what Wommack was doing at Indiana but also add in certain wrinkles here and there is the best case scenario for the Hoosiers.

What does Indiana need to work on most?

The run game.

Indiana's rushing attack wasn't the most effective last season, and a lot of that had to do with the changing pieces on the offensive line and lack of time in the offseason to add in new things.

But with a full offseason this year, and brand new running backs coach Deland McCullough from the Kansas City Chiefs, Indiana should be able to maximize its running backs this season.

No Stevie Scott hurts a bit, but Sampson James, Tim Baldwin Jr. and David Ellis have all shown flashes of the talent they have.

Especially if Penix isn't 100 percent or if Jack Tuttle needs to play certain stretches, the Hoosiers are going to need the run game to make things easier on the quarterback next season.

What freshmen do you have your eye on?

Jaquez Smith is a 4-Star SI All-American Candidate and one of the highest-rated recruits in program history.

Coming in at the wide receiver position, it'll be interesting to see if Smith can contribute early on in his career, especially with Whop Philyor leaving for the NFL.

Another freshman is Joshua Sales, who is an offensive tackle from Brownsburg, Indiana. There's going to be a lot of options for the offensive line this season, and Sales has the chance to compete for some playing time.

James Evans is Indiana's freshman punter from Auckland, New Zealand, and he will likely fill Haydon Whitehead's role from last season.

Indiana is returning so much talent from last year that a lot of the freshmen will be learning and developing this season more so than playing. That being said, this is a talented recruiting class that will carry Indiana into the future.

  • PENIX ON ROAD TO RECOVERY: Michael Penix Jr. provided an update on his recovery process. CLICK HERE
  • INDIANA FOOTBALL BECOMING DESIRED DESTINATION: Tom Allen has turned Indiana football into a place coaches and players want to be. CLICK HERE
  • MCCULLOUGH BRINGS CHAMPIONSHIP EDGE TO INDIANA: New RB coach Deland McCullough talks what he wants to accomplish at Indiana. CLICK HERE
  • INDIANA FOOTBALL 2021 SCHEDULE: For Indiana's full 2021 schedule, CLICK HERE