BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – After a substandard effort by the offense during Saturday's 90-play scrimmage, the close of Tuesday's practice had to bring some small level of relief to IU Coach Terry Hoeppner.
During Indiana's ninth practice of the spring season, the No. 1 and No. 2 offenses closed practice with back-to-back scoring drives, courtesy a 39-yard field goal by Austin Starr with the No. 1s and then a 36-yard field goal by Kevin Trulock with the No. 2s.
Despite those two drives, though, the defense continued to have its way with the offense this spring.
"We're flying around right now and hitting people," said senior safety Will Meyers. "We put in some new things to adapt to our personnel, and it's been looking really good."
The Hoosiers closed practice with some 11-on-11 scrimmage work, with the first three drives resulting in no points. Each of the first two drives ended with three-and-outs for the No. 1 offense led by Blake Powers. The first drive lost 10 yards after a five-yard loss for Demetrius McCray and then a blown option play, and then Powers threw an incompletion to end the series.
The second series wasn't much better, as McCray lost a yard on first down, followed by an incompletion from Powers who was throwing the ball away under pressure from Charlie Emerson. Powers' third down pass was broken up, and the No. 1 unit was unable to get a first down on its first two drives.
The No. 2 unit had more success on its drive, moving the ball inside 15-yard line behind redshirt freshman Kellen Lewis. Most of the yardage came via a 37-yard screen pass from Lewis to Bryan Payton, who streaked down the sideline before being tripped up by Jake Powers. The drive eventually stalled at the 10, but Trulock missed a 27-yard field goal wide right on fourth down. Hoeppner then turned to Michael Hines for an identical kick, but Hines also missed a 27-yarder wide right.
After a team meeting, though, the offense moved the ball with more luck at the close of practice. Powers led the No. 1 offense on a 38-yard drive that set up Starr's field goal, and then Graeme McFarland orchestrated his own scoring drive that was capped with Trulock's field goal. Powers hooked up with James Hardy for an 18-yard gain on a third down to keep his drive going.
Ultimately, though, the defense kept the offense out of the end zone. IU co-defensive coordinator Joe Palcic has been pleased with what he's seen from the defense this spring, and not only from some of the returnees.
"I think we've seen improvement every day," said Palcic. "I'm especially pleased to see some of the young guys, some of the redshirts playing well. Emile Bass for one has done a pretty good job up front, Jamie Kirlew, and probably the biggest surprise of the spring is Austin Thomas. He's a guy that's going to see a lot of playing time. We're going to get him on the field, whether it's at safety or a linebacker position."
While the offense has continued to be a step behind the IU defense this spring, that's not a surprise – or anything new – according to Meyers.
"It's a lot easier for a defense to come out here and be together than it is for the offense," Meyers said. "Every spring I've been here, the defense has always been better than the offense."
Meyers chalks that up to the cohesiveness that the offense is still trying to develop, along with the fact often times the defense knows what it's looking for on a give play.
"We have a familiarity playing against them day after day, knowing what they are going to run out of what formation," Meyers said.
While the defense had its way with the offense during 11-on-11 work, things were much better for the offense and the quarterbacks during 7-on-7. The Hoosiers' three quarterbacks combined to go 20-31 with no interceptions, despite getting off to a 2-for-7 start. IU was led by Powers' 9-of-11 effort, while McFarland was 5-of-11 and Lewis was 6-of-10.
One wideout who stood out Tuesday was redshirt freshman Nick Polk. The newcomer made arguably the catch of the day, hauling in a McFarland pass with one hand over the middle. The Milwaukee, Wis., native had five or six catches during 7-on-7 drills and was a top target of each of the quarterbacks.
Tuesday Spring Football Practice Report
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