Fall Camp - Opening Day Report

Bloomington, Ind. – It was a typical hot, muggy August afternoon at the IU Practice Fields Monday, but the Hoosiers' first practice of fall camp was a bit atypical according to Coach Terry Hoeppner.

Bloomington, Ind. – It was a typical hot, muggy August afternoon at the IU Practice Fields Monday, but the Hoosiers' first practice of fall camp was a bit atypical according to Coach Terry Hoeppner.

Indiana had the full allotment of 105 players in uniform as it opened fall camp Monday with a 2 1/2-hour session that Hoeppner said wasn't what he's grown accustomed to in his years of coaching. Despite the fact it was the first time the team has been together as a whole since April 15 – and it marked the first college practice for 22 scholarship freshmen – Monday's session was a sharp one according to the Hoosiers' second-year coach.

"It didn't look like a first day to me," Hoeppner said. "Everything we did, there was pretty good execution. The offense made some plays, the defense made some plays. We actually made a couple of extra points and field goals."

Hoeppner referred back to the 2005 fall camp, his first as IU's head coach. The team had some rough moments in the early going 12 months ago as it struggled to pick up the new schemes on both sides of the ball. That was particularly true at quarterback, where Blake Powers was taking over as the team's No. 1 quarterback.

"Our passing game, if you were here on day one last year, I think all day we maybe completed 10 passes," Hoeppner said. "I'm not saying it was Blake (Powers') fault, but we were so thin at wide receiver. Now we're deep and wide at receiver, and then you add a year of experience to Blake, his understanding of the offense, and our understanding of what to ask him to do.

"Blake Powers had a good first day."

Looking bigger and stronger than a year ago, Powers worked with the No. 1 receivers during 7-on-7 workouts, completing 7-of-10 throws. Projected No. 3 Kellen Lewis also went 7-for-10 during 7-on-7s, while likely No. 2 Graeme McFarland was 6-of-10. McFarland had one of the day's biggest plays during 7-on-7, completing a pass over the middle to sophomore James Bailey, who ran away from cornerback Joe Kleinsmith and raced into the end zone for a score.

It wasn't only Powers, though, that looked solid Monday. The receiving corps looks extremely deep, with James Hardy, Bailey, Brandon Walker-Roby and Nick Polk working out with the No. 1s during 7-on-7s (Jahkeen Gilmore was in class and wasn't at practice). Hardy, the team's leading receiver from a year ago with 61 catches for 893 yards and 10 touchdowns, appeared to be fully recovered from a slew of nagging injuries that slowed him down in the second half of the 2005 season.

"Maybe that's a good weight for him (Hardy said he was at 208), because he looked fast today," said Hoeppner. "He caught the ball and took off today. I'm pleased with not only him, but our receiving corps is deep and wide. The chemistry we're developing, the older guys coaching up the young guys. Pushing each other. The level of hustle we had…for day one I was pleased with the offense and I thought the receiving corps looked good."

While Hoeppner is keeping a close eye on the progress of Powers and the offense, he's also studying the 22 true freshmen who have joined the team this fall. There's a good possibility a handful of them will be called on to help the squad, particularly along the offensive line and at linebacker.

With the exception of outside linebacker Mandela Roberts, no true freshman played with either the No. 1 or No. 2 units Monday (Roberts had reps with the No. 2s). But that could change in the coming days and weeks as the Hoosiers prepare for their Sept. 2 opener against Western Michigan.

"That's part of the excitement today – we recruited seven offensive linemen," Hoeppner said. "Can they play football? They've had good summers. They are big guys who can run. Now, how quickly can they learn the offense, learn to pass protect, it's probably the toughest position to play, physically demanding as well as mentally."

By the time practice came to a close, Hoeppner was already looking forward to Tuesday, a day that will see the Hoosiers return to the field for another 5 p.m. practice at the IU Practice Fields. The team will put on shoulder pads for the first time Wednesday, and they'll go to full pads on Friday.

"I can't wait for tomorrow, because we're going to be better tomorrow," Hoeppner said. "We get to go watch tape now and meet with these guys. We're back at camp and it feels great."

NOTE: For premium subscribers, an additional story will be posted momentarily with news on the placekicking battle, notes on the two-deep, thoughts on the freshmen offensive linemen, and more quotes from Terry Hoeppner...

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