Hoosiers Gearing Up For 'Track Meet'

New co-offensive coordinator Rod Smith minces no words when describing the Hoosiers plans for their new offense. "We're just trying to turn this thing into a track meet and get as many plays and try to score as many points as we can." That philosophy is what's behind some intense off-season conditioning for the Hoosiers.

When you start a new job you hope to be given plenty of direction and also be allowed to ease into things with a slow start. If you're a college football player starting over with a new staff you will certainly be given plenty of direction, but easing into things is a pipe dream. That's certainly how it's been this winter for the players under new IU Coach Kevin Wilson and his staff. As the team prepares for start of spring practices next month the focus has been on conditioning, and it's going at a little different pace this off-season.

"One of the most overlooked factors in college football is conditioning," said assistant coach Rod Smith. "Our guys are going to be in great shape. We started our workouts and right now they are doing a lot of running and a lot of moving stuff. When you control the conditioning factor I think you gain a real edge against your opponents."

The Hoosier coaches are placing such a heavy emphasis on conditioning because they don't want to be limited by physical factors as they build their offense for this fall. The new staff is comprised of guys with many different backgrounds, but they all share a common theme—the desire to crank up the tempo.

"Obviously, the overall philosophy will be an up-tempo style," said Smith, the co-offensive coordinator for the Hoosiers. "It will be a no-huddle, try to get as many snaps as we can, keep the defense off-guard as much as possible kind of offense. We're just trying to turn this thing into a track meet and get as many plays and try to score as many points as we can."

Right now the staff is still trying to get a grip on their personnel. They've seen game tapes and practice videos, but are anxious to begin spring practices where they can really get an idea of their team and their capabilities. There's been speculation that the Hoosiers could look for a mobile quarterback that excels out of the option read format, a la Michigan or West Virgina. Others have pointed to Wilson's Oklahoma background and expect the Hoosiers to use a drop-back passer in a more traditional spread attack. The truth is that the coaches are keeping an open mind as they head into spring practices and aren't married to any one scheme.

"Well we're pretty flexible (at Oklahoma) so we'll see what we've got," said Wilson. "We'll play to what we can block and we'll play to what the quarterback can handle. If he can't do it or we can't block then it doesn't matter. So we'll start there."

Smith, who worked with some electric playmakers at the quarterback position in Pat White and Denard Robinson at previous stops, says circumstances always dictate the offensive philosophy.

"Denard and Pat were guys that added a lot of options and value to the system already in place, but it's not that were only looking for guys that can really run with the ball," said Smith. "You have to remember that at the same time we also had a lot of success with a guy at South Florida named Matt Grothe, who was mobile but he wasn't a burner. So basically the offense conforms to whoever the quarterback is and what he can do. Whether it will look more like an Oklahoma offense, or more like Michigan, or more like Northwestern, well that will depend on what the trigger man is like. We will mold the offense around him."

What the Hoosiers do know is that whoever lines up behind center will be responsible for leading an offense that attacks and is aggressive. Don't look for the 2011 Hoosiers to spend a lot of time milking the play clock.

"You want your offense to have as many snaps as possible," said Smith. "The more opportunities you have, the more chances you have to score obviously and the greater chance you are going to be successful I think. Your offense will thrive off your defense and vice versa."

In order to run that type of system the staff knows they will need their players in top shape. That work has already begun as the team has experienced many early mornings this winter as they work to get ready for a fast pace this spring. Every morning starts with a long run and four days a week that is followed with weight lifting. The pre-dawn workouts have been intense, but it's well worth the sacrifice to the IU staff.

"I just think when you go up-tempo you change the game in terms of you put a defense on the field a little bit and not let them dig their cleats in the dirt so to speak and then you dial some things up and you might make them a little more vanilla and at the same time do some things that make conditioning a real factor," said Smith. "If you are prepared for that and you have trained your athletes for that and your decision-making is on point then positive things will happen throughout the course of the game."

For the IU players the negatives of early wake-up calls are only being softened by the possibilities of the positives ahead.

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