As Graeme McFarland goes through his fourth fall football camp in Bloomington, the 6'1", 220-pound junior quarterback is determined to focus on the future and not dwell on the past.
That past has been a rocky one for McFarland, who heads into fall camp battling with sophomore Blake Powers for IU's starting quarterback job. A coveted recruit in former coach Gerry DiNardo's first recruiting class, McFarland spent his debut season as a redshirt before serving as Matt LoVecchio's back-up in 2003.
While the Hoosiers struggled to a 2-10 mark in ‘03, McFarland's opportunities to see the field were few and far between. Despite a handful of lopsided scores early on, McFarland remained on the sidelines, unable to see game action even in mop-up duty.
It wasn't until LoVecchio went down with a head injury against Ohio State in late October that McFarland got his first chance to be under center. In a game that was already well out of hand, McFarland went 6-for-6 on a fourth-quarter drive for 54 yards, leading IU to its only touchdown in a 35-6 setback.
The following week, McFarland was pressed into a starting role when LoVecchio was a last-minute scratch due to the concussion he suffered against the Buckeyes. McFarland went 12-of-30 for 152 yards in a lopsided loss to Minnesota, but he'd soon find out that his season was over.
After the Gopher contest, it was discovered that McFarland had suffered a kidney injury as a result of a hit in the game, an injury that would subsequently require surgery. The surgery and rehab kept McFarland out of spring drills in 2004, and he was replaced by Powers as IU's No. 2 quarterback.
While McFarland did return in the fall of ‘04, it was quickly apparent that Powers was now the No. 2 in the eye of DiNardo. Eventually, McFarland would opt to leave the football team and spent the spring pitching for the IU baseball team.
When McFarland opted to re-join the team once Terry Hoeppner was hired in December, it became apparent that there were reasons other than the kidney injury that resulted in McFarland's departure last September. Still, his focus isn't on where he's been, but where he's potentially going.
"I'm just happy to be back," said McFarland.
Not only is McFarland back, but he's competing with Powers for the starting job. While neither was satisfied with his performance in the spring, both appear to have made significant strides during the summer months. That bodes well for an IU offense that will rely on the pass much more than it did the last three seasons.
That progress is the result of long hours this summer, when both spent their time in Bloomington studying the offense, watching film and working out with their teammates and wide receivers.
"Summer is vital," said McFarland. "Without the summer, you go straight from spring to fall, and we wouldn't have gotten any better. I think we did a great job today, I think we improved a lot from the spring, and that's all a tribute to the summer, working out, running and 7-on-7s."
Even on the first day of fall camp, it was quickly apparent to the coaching staff, the players and on-lookers that the quarterbacks were sharper than they were during the spring.
"Sometimes in the spring, particularly the passing game, you can struggle," said Assistant Head Coach Bill Lynch. "It's one of those things because 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."
McFarland was equally pleased with the progress he's made.
"Spring was tough…I didn't do as well as I would have like to, and I don't think any of the quarterbacks did as well as they would have liked to," said McFarland. "But with new coaches, a new offense, it's going to start off slow. The way things went today, I'm looking ahead, looking forward, and not really looking back on anything right now."
McFarland and Powers are competing to lead an IU offense that will have a much different look than a year ago. DiNardo's "Midwest Coast Offense" been replaced by Hoeppner's version of the spread attack, and the personnel will be different as well. Not only will there be a new quarterback under center, but both starting wide receivers and the starting tailback will be new this fall as well. The one lone returnee from last year's backfield – three-year starting fullback John Pannozzo – has made the switch to defense since the fullback is rarely used in Hoeppner's attack.
There will be plenty of new faces and new looks, and McFarland is excited about the chance that he has to be the one leading the attack.
"Conceptually, (the offense is) a little bit different (than last year's)," said McFarland. "But we're going to run the ball, we're going to throw the ball. It's offense, it's nothing too crazy about it. But I like it a lot, as far as how they set up reads for the quarterbacks, the way (Quarterbacks) Coach (Matt) Canada teaches it, what he tells us to read, I like it. It's fun, it's fun to learn and fun to execute."
This opportunity has McFarland feeling much like he did four years ago when he first arrived in Bloomington, then a wide-eyed 18-year-old from Birmingham, Ala., who was just excited to get his chance to play college football.
"It all feels new to me, being back out here after a year off, everything seems like I'm a freshman right now," said McFarland. "Not from the standpoint of learning the game, but from an excitement standpoint, it feels like it's the first day."
McFarland Focused on the Future
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