After months of preaching about the promise of this year's football team and the potential of the IU program as a whole, Terry Hoeppner and staff took to the field for the first practice of fall camp with a message for the 2005 squad.
With the Sept. 2 season opener now only 25 days away, Indiana's debut fall practice didn't feature the usual Hoeppner "word of the day" as a point of emphasis for practice. Instead of a word, Monday's message was actually an acronym – "Walk." While Hoeppner kept what each letter stood for to himself and his team, the message was that it was time for words to be replaced with action.
"It's time to quit talking the talk, and walking the walk," Hoeppner said following the two-hour practice session.
For those 104 players in attendance, they got their first opportunity to do just that.
Certainly the most closely watched battle will be at quarterback, where junior Graeme McFarland and sophomore Blake Powers are battling to replace Matt LoVecchio under center. The pair head into the fall neck-and-neck for the job, and Assistant Head Coach Bill Lynch was pleased with what he saw from both on Monday afternoon.
"I thought Blake and Graeme both threw the ball well," said Lynch. "You just go back to the first day of spring when everything was new. All the terminology, the coaches, everything was different.
"Now we can see a comfort factor with them out there, that they knew where to go with the ball. Their reads were good. Not every throw was perfect, and there were some things, but at least you could tell they knew where to go with it and were making good decisions. That's a result of the work they did over the summer."
Joining the duo at the quarterback position was true freshman Kellen Lewis, a late scholarship addition from Jacksonville, Fla. Lynch was also pleased with what he saw from the newcomer.
"I thought the young quarterback, for the first day, showed some real poise too," said Lynch.
Many were concerned with what Indiana would get from the quarterback position after a spring season that had its share of ups and downs. Lynch and quarterbacks coach Matt Canada didn't necessarily share that view, and Lynch said that the work that the quarterbacks put in over the summer was already evident on the opening day of camp.
"The passing game, I thought for the first day, the alignments were good, we ran good, clean routes, I thought the quarterbacks threw the ball well, and that's because they had a chance to work on it all summer," said Lynch.
"Sometimes in the spring, particularly with the passing game, it can be hard because sometimes the weather isn't great. They haven't been outside throwing, and it takes a while. But these guys have been here since May doing it, so it was like another day for them. So I thought that was real progress."
Among the noteworthy items to surface from the debut practice:
- Freshman Todd Newman has switched from tight end to defensive tackle. The 6'4" product from Bartlett, Ill., was listed as 245 pounds in the IU media guide, but IU Coach Terry Hoeppner said he's at 260 now, and that figures to be on the rise. "He's going to be 275, there's no doubt," said Hoeppner.
- Another apparent position switch came for 6'1", 191-pound true freshman Josh Bailey. The Warren Central H.S. standout spent Monday's session working out at cornerback. While there will certainly be a learning curve for the Indianapolis area product, he has excellent size and strength, and his wide receiver past makes him adept at going up for jump balls as well.
- Indiana will go through fall drills with 104 players instead of the NCAA-allotted 105. That's because freshman Terrance Turner is expected to be a "greyshirt", meaning he'll join the team in January.
- One big change from the spring was the abundance of wide receivers at the disposal of wide receivers coach Billy Lynch. After scrambling to find enough healthy bodies to put on the field in the spring, Lynch had 14 wideouts to work with on Monday.
Early on, it appears IU's top three wideouts on the depth chart are Jahkeen Gilmore, James Hardy and Marcus Thigpen. When IU went four wide late, Lance Bennett joined the trio on the field.
Each had his moments on Monday. Gilmore made a couple of big catches deep downfield on Monday, and also showed the ability to go up and come down with the ball in traffic. He appears destined to be the No. 1 target. Hardy, meanwhile, made an acrobatic catch down the sideline and also turned around a Hoosier corner for a big gainer on a post route.
Another surprise was the play of redshirt freshman James Bailey, who is back on the field after missing the spring following a serious car accident. But Bailey was back on the field and participating in all of the drills with the other wideouts, and made a couple of nice plays as well.
Other freshmen who turned some heads were Andrew Means and and Nick Polk. Means has excellent size for a true freshman.
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Be sure to check back tomorrow for comments from Graeme McFarland on the first fall practice, along with additional thoughts from Lynch.
QBs Battle as IU Opens Fall Camp
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