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Improved defense key to Hoosiers' breakthrough

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 12, 2014 at 2:15 pm •  Published: August 12, 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Kevin Wilson spent four years transforming Indiana into his kind of team.

He hit the recruiting trail in hopes of upgrading the size and speed on his roster. The Hoosiers coach critiqued his team's ability to handle success and even took the blame for an errant lateral that may have cost them a crucial sixth win last year.

Now, after all that work and all those struggles, Wilson thinks he's finally on the verge of a breakthrough.

"It's been our best summer. It's not even close because we're more mature, we're more talented, and we're just a higher, better team," Wilson said. "We're making physical gains in strength, we're making them in conditioning, making them mentally."

The real test, as Wilson knows, doesn't come in the weight room or in conditioning drills.

Indiana hasn't been to a bowl game since 2007, largely because of a defense that was getting progressively worse. So Wilson cleaned house.

After firing two defensive assistants, he hired Brian Knorr as his new coordinator. Knorr, who was previously at Wake Forest, immediately switched from Indiana's traditional 4-3 defense to the trendy 3-4, a system players and coaches say is designed to be more aggressive and give the Hoosiers the kind of pass rush fans have been demanding for years.

"I think when our kids get acclimated to it, our speed will be a lot better," Knorr said. "We saw some advancement from the spring to the summer, and hopefully, we'll be able to play with a little more speed and get into some different (blitz) packages in (preseason) camp."

Most of the other key ingredients appear to be in place.

The Hoosiers have an incumbent starting quarterback, a running back with 1,000-yard potential, a deep cadre of young receivers and a Big Ten-sized offensive line. And there are nine starters back from a defense that is committed to changing course after allowing 38.8 points and 527.9 yards per game, both school records.

It's a combination that makes even the blunt-talking Wilson optimistic.

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