Bloomington, Ind. – Memorial Stadium was the site of the Hoosiers' fourth practice of fall camp, a session that was cut short by spitting rain, the occasional lightning bolt and the threat of worse.
The usual 2 1/2-hour practice was whittled down to 90 minutes, as the staff opted to eliminate a handful of the individual position work in favor of getting the special teams, 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work in before bad weather rolled in.
"I think we were trying to be smart, trying to get the heart of practice in," said linebacker coach George Ricumstrict. "The weather cooperated, for the most part."
It was the team's second day in shoulder pads before going to full pads on Friday. Friday will also mark the fifth and final day of the "acclimation period" before the team goes to two-a-days Saturday.
Hoeppner says that even adding equipment during fall camp is an adjustment for the players, who grew accustomed to practicing without pads in the summer.
"We're still acclimating them," Hoeppner said. "Part of it is just getting used to (wearing) your pads…it's so much different with pads on…then we get them used to hitting somebody – we're building up to that. Tomorrow, we'll introduce more contact."
While Friday should feature the most contact the team has been through this fall, Thursday did offer another chance for players to shine in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. Each quarterback had 10 reps during 7-on-7 work, with the group combining to go 14-of-30. Blake Powers was 7-of-10, including a touchdown strike to James Bailey. Graeme McFarland was 3-of-10, while Kellen Lewis was 4-of-10. Both McFarland and Lewis' numbers were skewed by an effort to work the ball deep downfield to IU's wideouts, while much of Powers' work was on underneath routes.
The team was in just shoulder pads Thursday, but that didn't keep the defense from coming up with some big plays and big hits during 7-on-7. On a high Powers' throw to tight end Matt O'Neal, first string free safety Austin Thomas stepped up and drilled the Hoosier tight end, and later Eric McClurg stepped in front of a Kellen Lewis throw for a nice pass break-up. The biggest defensive play, meanwhile, was turned in by outside linebacker Geno Johnson, who stepped in front of an IU wideout and picked off a McFarland pass and returned it for a touchdown.
The 11-on-11 work, meanwhile, didn't produce any offensive highlights. Powers was 4-of-8, McFarland 1-of-3 and Lewis 0-of-1. There were a handful of solid runs turned in by the tailbacks, meanwhile, who continue to battle for the No. 1 job.
Practice concluded with work from the Hoosier place kickers, who looked to redeem themselves from a sub-par performance Wednesday. Kevin Trulock, Nick Ford and Austin Starr each converted a 33-yard field goal from between the hashmarks, but then the group struggled when they moved to the right hash. Ford converted his 33-yard attempt from the right hash, but Trulock and Starr both missed. Trulock – who appears to be the No. 1 placekicker for the time being – then concluded practice by converting the final 33-yard attept from the right hash.
With better weather forecast for Friday, the team will likely return to the typical 2 1/2-hour session tomorrow. And it's a day the staff is looking forward to as it goes full pads.
"We'll introduce more contact tomorrow, and Saturday we'll turn up the juice a little bit more," Hoeppner said. "But I'm a big believer in getting them to the first game fresh with fresh legs and healthy. When it comes to conditioning, I think we're in great physical condition. We're practicing fast, great effort, great spirit. I want to get them to the first game healthy.
You have to hit – you have to condition for that you have to get ready to play football. People – defensive coaches especially – worry about if you don't tackle much, is your tackling going to suffer. We want to build up to that. There will be a lot controlled things."
One of those defensive coaches is Ricumstrict, who is looking forward to seeing what his stable of linebackers will do.
"You try to get as close to football as you can in shells, but we're still not really there," Ricumstrict said. "We'll get some scrimmages in, see how they respond when they get hit in the mouth, only time will tell with that."
News, Notes and Quotes:
- Jahkeen Gilmore has been absent from the first four days of practice due to a class conflict, but should return shortly. In his absence, redshirt freshman Nick Polk has been the Hoosiers' No. 3 wideout, with James Hardy and James Bailey being the No. 1 and No. 2. Brandon Walker-Roby, meanwhile, has been the fourth wideout in four wide receiver sets.
- Matt O'Neal is the team's No. 1 tight end, but another tight end to keep an eye on is redshirt freshman Troy Wagner. Wagner appears to be the No. 2 presently, ahead of Nick Sexton. Wagner is a huge target, standing 6-5 and weighing 238.
- the No. 2 defensive line Thursday consisted of Jammie Kirlew and Brian Faires at defensive end and Todd Newman and Emile Bass at defensive tackle.
- it appears to be a very good bet that freshman linebackers Will Patterson and Mandela Roberts will be contributors this fall. Both have been getting reps with the No. 2 unit this fall at outside linebacker, with Patterson getting plenty of work at the spot Thursday.
- one of the more intriguing spots to watch is the third-string offensive line, where the true freshmen are currently playing. Jarrod Smith is the third-string center, while Rodger Saffold is at left tackle, Cody Faulkner at left guard, Pete Saxon at right guard, and Mike Stark/James Brewer at right tackle.
Thursday Fall Camp Practice Report
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