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Hoosiers look for solutions to keep QBs healthy in hopes of turnaround after 2 poor seasons

FILE - Indiana coach Tom Allen talks with quarterback Dexter Williams II (5) during the team's NCAA college football game against Penn State, Nov. 5, 2022, in Bloomington, Ind. Indiana opens their season at home against Ohio State on Sept. 2. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler, File)

(AP) — Indiana coach Tom Allen knows the story all too well.

He has used six different quarterbacks and seven have taken game-day snaps over the past two seasons. Predictably, Indiana went 6-18 during that span.

This season, Allen wants and needs to change the script. So as Brendan Sorsby battles newcomer Tayven Jackson for the starting job and Dexter Williams II recovers from offseason knee surgery, Allen is searching for other solutions.

“I just think we’ve got to make sure we do a great job protecting those guys,” he said. “It starts up front, it starts with being able to run the football and it starts with taking pressure off the quarterback.”

Clearly, making progress in both areas would help.

Since Allen’s first full season as coach in 2017, the Hoosiers have allowed 2.3 sacks per game and have rushed for more than 3.6 yards per carry just once. The result: Indiana hasn’t had an opening-day starting quarterback finish the season since 2018.

Allen believes things could be changing in 2023.

Right tackle Matthew Bedford returns after missing 11 games last season with a knee injury. He’ll be flanked by three additional returning starters and the group has a new position coach, former Wisconsin assistant Bob Bostad.

There is also a potentially dynamic combination of running backs, led by the physical and versatile Josh Henderson. Christian Turner, a transfer from Wake Forest, could fit into the mix but the key will be getting speedy, shifty Jaylin Lucas more touches in his second season.

“The areas in my game I want to showcase is that I can play slot (receiver), that I can play anywhere on the field no matter where you put me,” said Lucas, the Big Ten’s return specialist of the year. “When I catch the ball, I’m able to take some five-yard gains and turn them into 50, 60-yard touchdowns and just make guys miss.”

Will it work? The Hoosiers don’t have much of a choice.

“What we want at that position is a guy who can extend plays,” Allen said. “But at the same time once you pick who it is, you’ve got to make sure you’re building everything around them so they can be at their best and can be comfortable.”

KEEPING QUIET

Allen has not indicated who his quarterback will be Sept. 2 against Ohio State.

Jackson, a transfer from Tennessee better known as the younger brother of basketball All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis, may have the inside track. But Sorsby is still competing. And it’s unclear whether Williams would play when he returns from the dislocated knee he suffered in last year’s season finale.

CHANGING DEFENSE

After allowing a Big Ten-worst 33.9 points per game in 2022, Allen went outside the locker room to find answers.

He beefed up the defensive line with players such as Andre Carter, a 273-pound end who played at Western Michigan. He wanted experience at linebacker to replace Cam Jones and Dasan McCullough, and he landed Jacob Mangum-Farrar, a sixth-year player from Stanford.

Allen also agreed to give up play-calling duties. Former Ohio State analyst Matt Guerrieri takes over.

“I’m glad I did it (last year), but, obviously, I feel like in order for us to get better and move forward, I wanted to bring somebody in to be able to call that,” Allen said.

THE SCHEDULE

Indiana opens the season trying to snap the FBS’ longest active losing streak against a single foe, a 27-game skid against the Buckeyes.

That’s followed by a manageable stretch featuring two home games against non-power conference foes, a date with Louisville in Indianapolis and a trip to Maryland before getting into the meat of a brutal conference slate.

The Hoosiers visit Michigan, Penn State and defending Big Ten West champ Purdue while hosting Wisconsin and Michigan State.