It was "execution" that was the focus of the day as Coach Terry Hoeppner's Hoosiers went through the second practice of the fall season Tuesday afternoon at the practice field adjacent to the Mellencamp Pavilion.
After a good first practice of the fall season, Hoeppner and the rest of the coaching staff wasn't looking for any sort of let up as it prepares for the 2006 campaign. Hoeppner came away impressed with what he saw on Tuesday from both sides of the ball.
Offensively, the focus remains on the quarterback position, where Graeme McFarland and Blake Powers continue to battle for the starting job. Powers appeared to have the better outing Tuesday, looking sharp on deep balls as well as his throws over the middle. On two occasions Powers connected with Jahkeen Gilmore for would-be touchdowns deep down the sideline, and Powers avoided some of the miscues that plagued him during the spring.
McFarland, meanwhile, also had his moments on Tuesday, but did throw a pair of interceptions late during 11-on-11 work. Safety Troy Grosfield stepped in front of a McFarland throw for an interception early during the drill, while Jake Powers did the same late in the practice session, returning it for a big gain.
While the sophomore Powers likely had the best of it on Tuesday, this remains a hotly contested battle that likely won't be decided until the Sept. 2 Central Michigan game nears.
It's still questionable who will be throwing the ball this fall, and the same can be said for who will be catching it. Early on junior Jahkeen Gilmore has been impressive and appears poised to make a big jump from where he was a year ago. But after Gilmore, it's a hotly contested battle for the second and third wide receiver spots.
In the mind of wide receivers coach Billy Lynch, that's a good situation.
"The best thing we have going for us versus this spring is they are all healthy and they are out here running around," said Lynch. "We have six or seven guys competing for a limited number of spots. They're pushing each other."
While Gilmore overshadows his fellow IU wideouts in experience based on his 23 catches in 2004, Lynch likes what he's seen from the returnees as well as the newcomers early on. With 14 wide receivers in his arsenal, he has players with size like James Hardy and speed such as Marcus Thigpen. There are also a handful of freshmen such as Nick Polk, Andrew Means and Brandon Walker-Roby who have made quick impressions as well, giving Lynch plenty of options.
"We have as talented a group (of wide receivers) as I've ever been around," said Lynch. "As a whole, this is a very good group. The problem is we don't have much experience. We know that. So we have to do a great job with every rep in practice – they are all crucial for us."
There has been little opportunity for much shuffling to occur with the offensive and defensive lines, as the team has yet to practice in pads. As was the case Monday, both line units continued to work on a series of footwork and hand drills. Two young defensive linemen that did turn some heads, though, were true freshmen Jammie Kirlew and Neal Jones, both of whom showed plenty of explosion off the line in passing situations. The 6-4, 235-poudn Kirlew arrived in Bloomington listed as a linebacker, but has spent his time working at defensive end. After practice, Hoeppner suggested that both were strong candidates to make the IU travel team this season.
On the defensive side of the ball, both Josh Moore and cornerback Leslie Majors are making strong cases for a spot on the No. 1 defensive unit. Moore, who is returning after missing the entire 2004 season, has been seeing plenty of reps with the No. 1 defense at outside linebacker, and had a big pass deflection on the first play of 11-on-11 drills.
Majors, meanwhile, has been working with the No. 1 defense at one cornerback spot opposite Buster Larkins, while Tracy Porter saw action with the No. 2 unit Tuesday.
OTHER NEWS AND NOTES:
- Freshman Bruce Hampton has been all but ruled out for the season with a shoulder injury. The 5-10, 178-pounder from University Heights, Ohio, arrived at IU with the injury from his high school days, and didn't practice either day.
- Courtney Clency, one of the most well-traveled players on the IU roster, has switched positions again, moving back to cornerback. The 5-9, 190-pounder got a look at wide receiver on Monday and during the spring, but the staff opted to move him back to cornerback on Tuesday.
- Alex Stscherban, a 5-11, 235-pound junior fullback, is no longer with the team. Stscherban didn't report for fall camp.
- The Hoosiers added a fifth quarterback to the roster on Tuesday – Bryce Lowery from Evansville North H.S. Lowery joins McFarland, Powers, scholarship freshman Kellen Lewis, and walk-on Dustin Haas as quarterbacks at the disposal of quarterbacks coach Matt Canada. There was also a sixth quarterback that worked into drills Tuesday – athletic director Rick Greenspan. A four-year letterwinner in baseball at Maryland in college, Greenspan fired a series of strikes during wide receiver drills and joked with Hardy after one pass if the two-sport standout wanted Greenspan to take something off his throws.
- The Hoosiers have been without the services of 6-3, 275-pound defensive tackle Emile Bass, who is waiting for a matter to be straightened out with the NCAA Clearinghouse. He is expected to have his situation straightened out in a matter of days and should join the team shortly.
Tuesday Afternoon Practice Report
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