BLOOMINGTON-Hoosier quarterbacks coach Matt Canada and the Indiana staff know that beginning in one week, they'll start getting some answers to who is going to lead the Indiana offense this fall.
While IU Coach Terry Hoeppner is in Chicago answering questions about his first season in Bloomington, the biggest question facing the program will be answered by the play of junior Graeme McFarland and sophomore Blake Powers once fall camp opens Aug. 8. The pair will be battling for the starting quarterback job that is now open with the loss of two-year starter Matt LoVecchio following the 2004 campaign.
Both have enjoyed stints as the No. 2 quarterback on the IU depth chart. In 2003 McFarland backed up LoVecchio, while Powers was IU's No. 2 last season. Powers completed 9-of-22 passes for 98 yards and threw two interceptions a year ago while seeing action in six games. McFarland – who left the program at the start of the '04 season but was invited back by Hoeppner – completed 18-of-36 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown in 2003. McFarland earned one start that season, filling in for an injured LoVecchio at Minnesota and completing 12-of-30 passes for 152 yards.
Neither separated himself from the other during spring drills, and it's clear that the position is up for grabs heading into fall camp.
"I don't know what's going to happen, but I do know one is going to win the job, and whoever it is, I have great faith is going to play really well," said Canada. "I don't have any doubt in my mind about that."
While both are short on college game experience, Canada says both have the tools to lead the Hoosiers this fall. The 6'4", 235-pound Powers has excellent size, arm strength and surprisingly good athleticism, while the 6'1", 210-pound McFarland also has a strong arm, is one of the smartest players on the team and is a good athlete as well. Canada said both have been in Bloomington all summer studying film and learning the offense in an effort to give themselves their best shot at winning the job.
"It's very important to both of them," said Canada.
The position, meanwhile, is critical to the success of any football team. With Hoeppner's spread attack, Indiana's offense is also expected to be more balanced than it was under Gerry DiNardo. Despite its 3-9 record, the Hoosiers still ran the ball 62 percent of the time last season. Hoeppner's Miami (Ohio) team, meanwhile attempted 460 passes a year ago compared to 453 rushing attempts in 2004 while going 8-5.
The offense will rely on a quarterback that can make quick decisions and put the ball on the mark and give his receivers an opportunity to do damage after the catch. Those are the items that Canada, Hoeppner and Assistant Head Coach Bill Lynch will be keeping a close eye on beginning next week.
"We're trying to throw a perfect game," said Canada. "Have every throw be perfect – not just a catch, but a perfect throw where you can run after the catch. We want every decision to be right and on time…that's what we're striving for, and if we don't do that, we're going to be critical of it."
Some spectators were critical of the play of McFarland and Powers during the spring, as neither was able to establish himself as the clear-cut No. 1. Canada, though, didn't share those sentiments about the quarterbacks' play.
"There was probably one scrimmage all spring that I was disappointed how we performed in the passing game," said Canada. "It was a Saturday, it was windy, and I felt like the quarterbacks didn't make the right decisions at the right time.
"But overall, for those who felt the whole passing game was struggling – I didn't feel that way. I want it to be better – we all do. And it will be. But I don't know that I was as disappointed in our spring as maybe some others were."
Canada pointed to the fact that the quarterbacks were learning a new system, and the fact that the receiver position was particularly depleted by both graduation and injuries in the spring. That will change in the fall, as the team welcomes six true freshman scholarship wide receivers to the mix.
But most of all, Canada likes what he's seen from both Powers and McFarland, and their dedication to getting better on their own during the summer months.
"I'm excited to see them once camp starts to see how much improvement we've made," said Canada. "This summer is critical for both of them. We said that coming out of the spring."
Powers, McFarland Ready To Battle
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