Bloomington, Ind. – With temperatures in the low 70s it was an atypical day for early April in Bloomington as IU Coach Terry Hoeppner's Hoosiers completed their 13th spring practice session at Memorial Stadium.
While the temperatures were a bit out-of-the-norm for this time of year, what took place on the field was similar to what Hoeppner has seen in the last couple of weeks. And that's not necessarily what the second-year Hoosier coach wants to see with the spring season set to wrap up Saturday with the annual Cream and Crimson game.
"We're still making mistakes," Hoeppner said. "It's time to stop doing that. Then again, we also made some plays. So today was a typical spring practice. I thought it was, quite frankly, a little sloppy. We didn't execute as well as I would have liked."
After spending the first half of practice working out by position, the final 60-70 minutes included two different 11-on-11 sessions with some 7-on-7 passing work in the middle. The Hoosiers capped the day with some red zone work for both the No. 1 and No. 2 units.
During the afternoon's first 11-on-11 session, Blake Powers was on target, completing 4-of-5 passes to four different receivers. Graeme McFarland led the No. 2 unit, going 1-of-2 through the air. Redshirt freshmen tailback Demetrius McCray probably had the session's most electric play, breaking free up the middle for a 50-yard touchdown run.
The 11-on-11 work also revealed the Hoosiers are still tinkering with the No. 1 offensive line. On Tuesday the No. 1 unit included Justin Frye at left tackle, Paul Hearn at left guard, Chris Mangiero at center, Jonathan Sandberg at right guard and Scott Anderson at right tackle. Chauncey Incarnato and Kyle Thomas worked at right tackle and left guard, respectively, on the No. 2 unit, although both still are among a group of seven offensive linemen the IU staff has tabbed as its No. 1 unit.
"We've shuffled that position around a lot to develop depth there," Hoeppner said. "You want to be able to do that. We've identified seven offensive linemen to go with the 1s, and seven with the 2s."
Offensive line continues to be one of the biggest concerns heading into the fall. The line will get a big boost from a talented group of true freshmen that will arrive in August, and Hoeppner said that group will get a long look once fall camp opens. But he admits it's a difficult position for a true freshman to step in and play at any level, let alone the Big Ten. That's why continued progress from the front five is imperative on Thursday and then again Saturday for the team's Cream and Crimson spring game.
"I think maybe it's the most improved position this spring," Hoeppner said. "That's probably the only direction we had to go."
During 7-on-7 work, McFarland shined, completing 7-of-8 passes. Powers went 4-of-6, while Kellen Lewis completed 3-of-8 throws. The returning starter, Powers continues to get most of the snaps with the No. 1 offense, while McFarland appears to be the team's No. 2 and Lewis the No. 3 right now.
After practice Hoeppner said he's not in a rush, though, to announce anyone as a starter.
"I'm not going to…summarize it like that," Hoeppner said Tuesday when asked how contested the quarterback position is. "There's a long time between now and Sept. 2. A lot will go into that. (Powers) was with the 1s for the most part today, so we'll see. I haven't put a date, or a deadline, I have to come up with a starting quarterback by such and such a date. I think competition is great."
Hoeppner did say, though, that Powers has made strides during the spring.
"He's done some really good things," Hoeppner said. "I'd say it's not a two steps forward, one step back. I think we've made three steps forward and occasionally half a step back. I want to eliminate that half step back. Clean it up, learn from it."
The day ended with red zone work for the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense, followed by the No. 2s going against each other. The No. 1 defense surrendered a first down on a Powers scramble to the eight-yard line, but then forced Kevin Trulock to boot a 28-yard field goal.
The No. 2s, meanwhile, had much better luck. McFarland completed an eight-yard out to Chris Banks, followed by an eight-yard run for Kenni Burns down to the three-yard line. The drive was capped by a three-yard touchdown run for redshirt freshman Justin Carrington, who took a couple of big hits but still managed to get the ball across the goal line.
That was a good way for Hoeppner to end the day, but he still wants to see things a little bit crisper before spring practice concludes Saturday.
"We have two more opportunities to clean it up," Hoeppner said. "Hopefully we're better than that. Hopefully we can clean it up. That's the challenge…You'd like to leave spring on a high note."
Tuesday Spring Practice Report
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