From South Bend to Bloomington

The 6-5, 275-pound offensive tackle talks about why left decided to leave Notre Dame at the start of fall camp, and what were the reasons that led him to pick Indiana over Ohio State, Louisville and Maryland.

Spend a couple minutes listening to the newest addition to the IU football roster, Chauncey Incarnato, and you might wonder what all of the fuss was about.

The 6-5, 275-pound Incarnato decided to transfer from Notre Dame early last month and in a matter of days had at least 10 scholarship offers from major Division I programs. After weighing his options and taking a couple of visits in August, Incarnato narrowed his list to four before finally picking Indiana over Maryland, Ohio State and Louisville. He's now enrolled at IU, suited up for practice, and prepared to spend a year gearing up for an opportunity to start on the offensive line next season.

Those are certainly the expectations for an IU coaching staff that will have to replace three senior starters at the conclusion of the 2005 campaign, although you wouldn't guess it from listening to the Dover, Ohio, product.

"I'm not the biggest player, I'm not the fastest player, I'm not the strongest player, I'm not the smartest player," said Incarnato when discussing his strengths on the football field. "If I have a quality as a player it's that I never stop, never give up."

He might contend that he's none of those things, but his credentials would suggest otherwise. A top-50 offensive line recruit nationally out of high school, Incarnato picked Notre Dame over a Who's Who of suitors two years ago. After spending his first season as a redshirt, he worked himself up to No. 2 on the Irish's depth chart last spring at right tackle, and appeared poised to contribute as a redshirt freshman.

While that's what was apparent on the surface, Incarnato was still stinging from the dismissal of former Irish Coach Ty Willingham and offensive line coach Mike Denbrock before the Irish's bowl game last fall. Both have since landed on their feet at Washington, but that was little consolation to Incarnato who expected to play for them in South Bend.

"When they fired them at the time I had considered transferring," said Incarnato.

Instead, Incarnato and his family decided it would be best to wait until the new coaching staff was named and to then give spring practice a chance. If he still felt the same way, he had until the start of the fall semester to make a move.

"I went through the rest of the year, I went through spring ball, and things went well with the coaches," said Incarnato. "I got to second string, and there were no real problems or reasons to leave."

Incarnato remained enrolled at Notre Dame through the summer, taking a couple of classes while also going through the summer conditioning program. But as fall camp approached, he began to once again question if he wanted to remain in South Bend.

"We got about a week before camp and I started to think about what I had been thinking about (when Willingham was fired)," said Incarnato.

He also knew that he had to make a decision soon. If he had remained at Notre Dame for the start of the first semester and then decided to leave midway through the season, he'd be forced to sit out the remainder of the 2005 season and all of 2006, leaving him with only two years of eligibility. Ultimately, he decided that he didn't want to remain with the Irish without Willingham and Denbrock on the sidelines.

"A large part of the reason I went to Notre Dame was for the original coaching staff," said Incarnato. "I chose them over a lot of other schools because I thought those were two guys who would really take care of me. They were the biggest reasons I thought (Notre Dame) was a good fit."

After the first day of fall camp, Incarnato said he told new Irish head coach Charlie Weis of his decision. The former New England Patriots' assistant told him he hated to see him leave and didn't want him to depart, but it was a decision that he would have to make.

"I went in and talked with Coach Weis and told him…that I didn't think Notre Dame was for me," said Incarnato. "He told me he didn't want me to leave, that transferring from Notre Dame was the last thing that he wanted to see me do, but that it was a decision that I had to make. He said he couldn't keep me there."

The one stipulation that Weis did have, though, was that Notre Dame wouldn't release Incarnato to a school that was scheduled to play the Irish during his collegiate career, something that ruled out some schools that he considered strongly out of high school, most notably Pitt.

"He said he felt it was in Notre Dame's best interest that when someone transfers from there that they don't play against them," said Incarnato.

That left Incarnato and his family to consider his other options, which eventually resulted in him whittling his list to Louisville, Indiana, Ohio State and Maryland. Louisville was eliminated because its fall semester classes started before Incarnato was ready to make a decision, and Maryland was ruled out after he made an official visit to the ACC school.

"It came down to Indiana and Ohio State," said Incarnato.

On the Friday before IU's first semester started, Incarnato sat down with his family and his high school coach to go over all of the positives and negatives of each program, weighing everything from playing time to academics to location. The question in the end was a simple one but a difficult one nonetheless for Incarnato to answer.

"Which one do you feel is a place you can go and sit out a year and then spend three years and be happy with your decision?" said Incarnato.

Eventually, the answer proved to be Indiana. A big part of that was IU Coach Terry Hoeppner and IU offensive line coach Bobby Johnson, a pair that Incarnato compared to his former coaches at Notre Dame, Willingham and Denbrock.

"I wanted to play for Coach Hep and Coach Johnson," said Incarnato. "I felt like they were both a lot like Coach Willingham and Denbrock – two coaches I felt would take good care of me, do what was in my best interest, and people that I want to model myself after and be around for four years."

It's not often that a player picks Indiana over Ohio State, let alone someone from the Buckeye state. But Incarnato said that Indiana had more of what he was looking for.

"Ohio State is a great program," said Incarnato. "In the state of Ohio when you grow up what you hear from family and friends from the time you're in pee wee football in the fourt grade is if you get good enough in high school you can play for Ohio sTate.

"Growing up you hear a lot of that, but when you mature and start looking at things outside of what maybe your state wants you do to, what's best for you, (picking against Ohio State) isn't as hard."

Now that he's done that, he's ready to spend a season on the sidelines, working on the scout team going against the No. 1 defense and preparing himself for an opportunity to start next season. Even for the humble Incarnato, he's not afraid to admit that's his goal for 2006.

"Every player in college football wants to start as soon as he can," said Incarnato. "If starting next year is something I can accomplish, of course I want to do it. I can't say what my odds are. I do iknow that from (right now) until next year I'm going to work as hard as I can, and if that's good enough to put me in a starting position next year, then great.

"If not, I'll continue to work until I hopefully get there." Top Stories