Position battles continue to be waged at the IU football practice fields, as Coach Terry Hoeppner's Hoosiers were in pads for the fourth practice of the fall season Thursday evening in Bloomington.
Friday will be a big day for the squad, as it remains in pads and goes to full contact for the first time this fall. Saturday, meanwhile, will mark the first two-a-day this fall.
A closer look at a couple of the most hotly contested:
Outside Linebacker – Jake Powers and Josh Moore are battling to start alongside John Pannozzo and Kyle Killion once the season starts. During the first four days of practice, the duo rotated with the No. 1 and No.2 units, with Moore playing with the No. 1s on Thursday. Moore, who missed the 2004 season due to an injury as well as being kicked off the team by former Coach Gerry DiNardo, has been an emotional sparkplug early on, being a vocal leader both on the field as well as off. He's made tremendous strides from where he was in the spring, when he was very limited in what he could do. No matter who gets the job, though, there's little doubt that both will see plenty of time on the field in the fall.
Quarterback – Graeme McFarland vs. Blake Powers. The pair continue to compete for the starting job left open with the graduation of Matt LoVecchio. Powers got most of the reps with the No. 1 unit Thursday, suggesting that he has edged ahead of McFarland. That said, the job appears to still be very much up for grabs. For the second straight day, McFarland was sharper than Powers, who threw a couple of interceptions on 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. Pannozzo picked off one Powers pass and streaked up the sideline, while safety Adam McClurg picked off another Powers pass midway through 7-on-7s along the sideline. McFarland, meanwhile, hooked up on a 40-yard plus touchdown to James Bailey in the corner of the end zone early in 7-on-7s. McFarland did have one pass picked off on a diving pick by Buster Larkins, who appears to be a lock to start at one of the cornerback spots this fall. To the defense of both quarterbacks, there were a handful of drops from the wideouts, as the defense had the best of the battles Thursday.
Cornerback ¬– Tracey Porter vs. Leslie Majors. A year ago it was Porter who earned a starting job as a true freshman after a strong fall camp. Majors, meanwhile, appeared destined to redshirt, but was forced into action and ultimately into the starting lineup when Porter was lost for the year with a broken arm. Now, the sophomores are competing to start opposite Larkins. It's been Majors who has been getting the most reps with the No. 1 unit, although the pair appear to be running neck-and-neck. Fortunately for secondary coach Troy Douglas, it's been a matter of which one is making more plays instead of which one is struggling more. Both Porter and Majors have been solid this fall, and each has come away with an interception during the first couple days.
Wide Receiver – At a position that was very wide open heading into the fall, things are starting to fall into place for wide receivers coach Billy Lynch. Jahkeen Gilmore has been the best of the wideouts this fall, combining speed and strength to become the most reliable and consistent receiver in camp. Gilmore has come away with big plays deep, and has also been able to go over the middle and come down with the tough catch. In addition, Marcus Thigpen continues to be an explosive weapon in the open field out of the slot, catching balls in the backfield and making people miss after the catch. His speed is a dimension that the staff likes as a complement to the other wideouts. James Hardy, meanwhile, has made big strides from a year ago and from the spring. His hands and huge frame are an enticing target, and he's better able to work in the middle of the field now as well due to his added muscle and weight. The fourth receiver spot – which will be used often in the Hoosier attack – remains up in the air. Possibilities include senior Rhett Kleinschmidt, who has reliable hands and is a good route runner; James Bailey, who has returned from a terrible automobile accident to get back on the field; and a handful of freshmen.
Like Josh Moore, Bailey's return has been a big lift. While he's not 100 percent physically after the accident, he hasn't been limited by in what he can do in practice. He has excellent size and speed as well, and figures to be a contributor if he's physically ready to be on the field. With the freshmen, Andrew Means, Nick Polk and Brandon Walker-Roby have all turned heads. Polk has terrific hands and can make the tough catch. Means, meanwhile, is the best of the group physically, and might be the strongest wide receiver on the team next to Gilmore. Walker-Roby, meanwhile, has been an often-used weapon on reverses during practice, and has tremendous speed.
While wide receiver was a position of concern heading into camp, indications are that there's as much talent at the position as there's been in 10 years. Most of it is young and unproven, but there's no question that some players will emerge and be very good Big Ten wide receivers.
NEWS AND NOTES:
- Freshman quarterback Kellen Lewis continues to impress. While his form isn't nearly as polished as McFarland or Powers, he's been very good leading the No. 3s and on occasion the No. 2s. On Thursday he connected on a nice touch pass deep down the middle to freshman tailback Demetrius McCray for a touchdown. Soon afterwards, he rifled a pass between three defenders for a completion.
- Jammie Kirlew spent most of the day working with the No. 2 defense at a defensive end slot opposite Kenny Kendal. The 6-4, 235-pound Kirlew has worked his way up the two-deep quickly and appears to be a strong candidate to play as a true freshman.
- the team will scrimmage next Saturday, Aug. 20, in Memorial Stadium. The scrimmage will be open to the public. The time has not yet been set.
Football Practice Report - Day Four
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