BLOOMINGTON-It was "hump day" Monday at the IU football practice fields according to co-defensive coordinator Joe Palcic, as the Hoosiers wind down fall camp and prepare to begin their preparation for the Sept. 2 opener against Central Michigan.
"I told them today it was hump day, because we have two practices today, one tomorrow, and then a scrimmage, and then we break camp as far as kids moving out into their housing," said Palcic. "So today was the day we had to get through where we stay focused."
The defense, in particular did that, especially at the close of practice during a couple of different 11-on-11 situations. Palcic said that the coaching staff made a concerted effort to bring their own energy to the practice fields Monday morning, hoping that it would rub off on the players as well.
Adding to Monday morning's excitement for the players was an opportunity to go full contact late in practice, particularly during some 4th-and-1 goal line situations.
"We came out and tried to juice it up a little bit as coaches, and the players responded," said Palcic. "They were more pumped up than we were."
A couple of big red zone and goal line hits were turned in by senior Kyle Killion. In a No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense situation, Killion met Josiah Sears right before Sears crossed the goal line, forcing a fumble and a big celebration from the No. 1 defense. Killion and Pannozzo also teamed up to stop No. 1 tailback Chris Taylor behind the line of scrimmage in a red zone situation.
The offense did have its moments as well during the goal line opportunities, as Graeme McFarland connected with tight end Matt O'Neal for one score, and Sears made amends for his fumble with a one-yard plunge for the No. 2 offense against the No. 2 defense to wrap up the morning's session.
"We don't get many opportunities (in camp) to go full go, where we are actually going to tackle people," said Palcic. "This was an opportunity this morning where we were full go. Goal line is all about will and want and about who is tougher.
"I liked how they responded. If we can stay up like we did this morning, and get that excitement going and get one more in, then we're on the down swing from there."
Palcic, who coaches IU's safeties and is the team's co-defensive coordinator along with Brian George, said he has been pleased with the energy and effort from the defense this fall. He applauded the units effort in both of those categories during Saturday's scrimmage, but singled out one area that the unit must get better in.
"We got to see a lot more after watching film, and I felt like we missed too many tackles," said Palcic. "We do a thing after every game where we count the number of tackles missed and the number of yards gained after that missed tackle. In the scrimmage, we missed 12-15 tackles for upwards of 100 yards. They made their big plays on offense out of missed tackles, so we have to eliminate those."
One area that he was pleased with was the six turnovers that the defense forced, including two that were returned for touchdowns. After Saturday's scrimmage head coach Terry Hoeppner said he wants the IU defense to score 10 touchdowns this season.
"That's a lofty goal, but shoot for the stars, and maybe we'll be okay with six or seven," said Palcic.
"We believe we can do it. I guarantee we'd lead the nation in defensive scoring if we got those 10. So we are going to go after it, and every time we get our hands on a ball, everyone has to block, everyone has to get ready to go and help us get in the end zone. So we're going to go for it and see what we can do."
While the goal line situations were the most hotly contested portion of Monday's practice, the quarterbacks continued to battle as well. During 7-on-7 drills, projected No. 1 quarterback Blake Powers went 5-10, including one incompletion that should have been intercepted by Courtney Clency. McFarland, meanwhile, was 7-10 including a red zone touchdown throw to Marcus Thigpen, while Kellen Lewis was 6-10, including touchdown throws to Brandon Walker-Roby, Thigpen, Nick Polk and James Bailey.
NEWS AND NOTES:
- Both Matt Lewis and Aaron Mitchell are back on the practice field. Lewis had been out with a bone bruise on his knee, while Mitchell had been out with a neck injury. Lewis is still working out at defensive tackle, while Mitchell was working out with the No.1 defense in nickel packages and also with the No. 2 unit at safety.
- James Hardy was back on the practice field, but wasn't in pads and thus didn't participate in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills. Hardy has a sore Achilles, which has limited his practice time for the last week. In his absence, James Bailey has been getting plenty of reps with the No. 1 offense. The 6-2, 200-pound Bailey is coming off a solid scrimmage on Saturday, when he caught three passes for 69 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown.
- Six-foot-two, 275-pound true freshman Emile Bass got his first opportunity to practice in full pads on Monday. A clerical error with the NCAA Clearinghouse delayed Bass' IU debut by a week and a half, and he had to go through an NCAA-mandated five-day "acclimation" period before he could suit up in full pads.
- Bloomington (Ind.) North graduate Kyle Thomas has officially been moved from defensive end to offensive line, and has switched to No. 67.
- Freshman Kevin Welch, a 6-0, 190-pounder from Newport Beach, Cal., has moved from safety to wide receiver. Welch caught one pass for 13 yards in Saturday's scrimmage.
- Junior center Chris Mangiero was on the sidelines Monday and in day-to-day with an ankle injury.