It was a reflection of the Hoosiers’ final spring practice, which beforehand featured fans getting the chance to interact with the players in passing, catching and kicking drills. The team still put in serious work afterward, but it was a relaxed atmosphere overall to cap off spring ball.
“We wanted to extend our lifting period, so we started spring ball later than normal,” Wilson said. “With Little 5 this weekend, our fan base coming in and people out-of-town traveling, it gets so gobbled up we thought last weekend would be the weekend for the spring game… today, it’s like, ‘ok, we’ve done enough, we’ve lifted hard, we’ve practiced hard,’ I was almost to the point, ‘ok don’t overdo it. Let’s have some fun with it.’”
For Wilson and IU offensive coordinator Kevin Johns, a major talking point was the play of senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who has been healthy this spring after a shoulder injury last October ended his season.
Sudfeld looked sharp, especially during his team’s red zone drills. During one of those drills, he hit transfer and wide receiver Marqui Hawkins in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
“We expect a lot from Nate, and I think he expects a lot from himself,” Johns said. “And really, more than anything else I think he realizes his clock is ticking. He’s almost out of time, so I think there’s a different sense of urgency. I know he’s excited for this summer and to get the guys out there and get everyone on the same page.”
Wilson said he thought Sudfeld was the player who’s gotten the most out of the spring session.
“I think it’s the first time he’s kind of taken over,” Wilson said. “It’s been the first time he was truly the guy, and I think he’s grasping how to fit his presence and his voice counts.”
For Hawkins, it marked the closest he’d been to scrimmaging or game speed. He’s been limited by a wrist injury that’s kept him out most of the spring session. He and sophomore wide receiver Dominique Booth both caught the coaches’ attention this spring, as well as the entire receiver group.
“I think Dom Booth has gotten better,” Johns said. “I think Marqui was limited with an injury, but he’s showed up these last two practices and did some good things. But really, right now it’s a chance for these kids to take what they’ve learned these 15 practices and really excel throughout the summer, just to keep improving their technique.”
Both Booth and Hawkins are younger players on Indiana’s roster. There’s plenty of those on the defensive side of the ball too, especially at the cornerback position.
That position is also the one that seems to have the most question marks with starters at both spots gone.
“I think we had great competition,” Knorr said when asked about the cornerback position. “We had a couple guys out this spring, Kenny Mullen and Donovan Clark, but I thought Rashard Fant did some good things. Noel Padmore, who is going to be a third-year player next year, stepped up. I think we can get some depth back there. Guys with not a lot of experience playing, but did some good things this spring competing.”
With the spring session over, Wilson said the players will move into summer conditioning and seven-on-seven drills. Overall, he and the coaches liked what they saw in the spring but are still working to improve.
“Well, I don’t think you’re ever where you want to be,” Johns said. “But I think that we took a step, I really do … we answered some questions, but now, quite honestly, we’re entering into the most important part of the summer, summer conditioning and training, getting ready for the season.
“These kids are hungry, and I expect them to have great summers.”