Saturday Fall Camp Practice Report

Saturday not only marked the first two-a-day session for the Hoosiers, but also provided a chance for some 1-on-1 work between the offensive and defensive lines. IU offensive line coach Bobby Johnson talked about his group's effort, and what sort of impact newcomers might have up front...

Bloomington, Ind. – As Indiana took to the IU Practice Fields for the first two-a-day of fall camp Saturday morning, Terry Hoeppner and staff looked to do bit of a balancing act.

With the team in full pads and players jockeying for spots on the two-deep, the coaches wanted to get a better look at the offensive line's ability to block and the defense's ability to tackle, while also doing everything it can to keep everyone healthy.

"Blocking and tackling, it's the modern-day coaches greatest conundrum," Hoeppner said. "You want to do enough without cross the line. I thought we did a good job today. We got out of it healthy, there was good effort, good spirit, good execution to a degree."

There was the usual assortment of 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work Saturday morning, but for the first time this fall, Saturday session provided a chance for the offensive linemen and defensive linemen to go head-to-head in one-on-one situations. A handful of young defensive linemen turned some heads with their ability to get after the quarterback during the drill, including freshmen Deonte Mack and Greg Middleton. On the offensive side, youngsters Pete Saxon, Jarrod Smith and Kyle Thomas held their own during the drill as well.

There's been plenty of attention on Indiana's offensive line, a unit that lost three starters from a year ago. IU's coaching staff looked to address some needs up front with the signing of seven true freshmen in the '06 class, and there has been speculation a couple could work their way into the rotation early on.

For the time being, though, the front five features five veterans in Justin Frye at left tackle, Thomas at left guard, Chris Mangiero at center, Jonathan Sandberg at right guard and Scott Anderson at right tackle. It's a unit that offensive line coach Bobby Johnson has been pleased with.

"I like the chemistry of the first line," Johnson said. "I think they are getting comfortable with each other. That's the difference with the offensive line and maybe another position. Unlike when you're running 3-4 wide receivers, someone can run a sloppy route or the wrong route – which isn't what you want – but you can still get away with it and be okay. Up front, all five guys have to be on the same page, and I think the guys on the first unit understand each other and communicate real well."

If a true freshman is to contribute, the most likely candidates are guards Cody Faulkner and Saxon, whom Johnson pointed to as the most physically ready to play at the collegiate level. Next up might be Mike Stark, who earned some reps with the second-string at right tackle Saturday.

"Right now, I'm looking for some quality depth," Johnson said. "So I'm seeing which guys in the 2 and 3 huddles understand the scheme, understand the communication that needs to take place, and once I feel comfortable with some guys I'm going to start giving them some reps, maybe throw them in the 1 huddle, not necessarily to compete for the first job, but to see if they understand the scheme."

One player notably absent from the first string is Chauncey Incarnato, the 6-5, 283-pound sophomore who transferred from Notre Dame a year ago. Incarnato has been on the No. 2 unit at right tackle, and Johnson is looking for him to make some strides in the coming weeks.

"Probably the biggest thing he needs to work on is some self confidence," Johnson said. "He is a guy that has a lot of ability. I think he needs to have confidence that he understands the scheme and has the confidence in his physical abilities to execute what he understands. He needs to be a guy, worse case, who provides some depth. Right now he just needs some confidence."

Saturday's practice might have provided the best opportunity to evaluate the players on the lines thus far this fall, but there was also plenty of highlights during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work as well. During 7-on-7s, Kellen Lewis had a solid effort, completing 9-on-10 passes, including 40-yard touchdown passes to James Hardy and Jahkeen Gilmore, along with a 38-yard gain to Nick Polk, who was knocked out at the 2. Graeme McFarland was 7-of-10 as well, including a strike down the sideline to James Bailey for a touchdown on his final throw of the session. Blake Powers, meanwhile, went 4-of-10, including an interception. Powers' interception came when Bailey dropped a throw that was an target, and it popped up into the arms of Geno Johnson.

The quarterbacks spread the ball around to a talented group of wideouts during 7-on-7s, with Ray Fisher (four receptions), Hardy (3), Bailey (3), Chris Banks (2), Lance Bennett (2) and Brandon Walker-Roby (2) catching multiple balls.

During 11-on-11, the No. 1s went up against each other, followed by the No. 2s. here's a recap of how the first couple of series unfolded:

No. 1 Offense vs. No. 1 Defense
- Demetrius McCray run, 2 yards
- Blake Powers screen pass to Marcus Thigpen, 12 yards
- Powers, quarterback keeper, 6yards
- Powers sacked by Greg Brown

No. 2 Offense vs. No. 2 Defense
- McFarland pass incomplete
- Bryan Payton run, 2 yards
- Josiah Sears run, 5 yards
- McFarland screen pass, 5 yards

No. 1 Offense vs. No. 1 Defense
- Powers pass complete to Bailey, 5 yards (nice open field tackle for Leslie Majors)
- Powers quarterback keeper, 5 yards
- Thigpen bounces outside for a 25-yard run
- Powers pass intended for Hardy, intercepted by Tracy Porter

Johnson said he was generally pleased with what he saw from his offensive line during 11-on-11, particularly near the end of the session.

"It's the first day of hitting full go, so the defense was all juiced up," Johnson said. "We've got a good scheme defensively so they are excited and flying around.

"I felt up front we felt our way around a little bit in the beginning. We've got a lot of guys with very little experience and a lot of young guys. Even though they've seen it the last five days now it's moving full speed. So I think we were feeling our way around, and then we calmed down and started picking it up. I think they understand the scheme, and now it's just a matter of adjusting to full speed."

News and Notes:
- one of the biggest differences this fall is the Hoosiers' helmets. Forty different players are wearing Riddell helmets that have been equipped with the HIT System, a technology that allows the IU medical staff to measure the acceleration of a player's head during practice, and thus be aware, real time, when a player has potentially suffered injuries, such as a concussion. The helmets measure each player's head acceleration and then sends that information to a computer. If the measurement is above a certain threshold – which is different for various players – the on-site medical staff is alerted with a page of which player to check on. While the system can't prevent a player from suffering the initial injury, it can prevent a player from suffering a second hit, which is often the one that results in the more severe concussions.

Indiana is the only Big Ten school using to the HIT System, and one of approximately a dozen using it in Division I football.

- for the first time this fall, IU President Dr. Adam Herbert was in attendance. Midway through practice Herbert addressed the entire team and led them in a cheer before they returned to the field.

- the battle for the No. 1 job at tailback appears to be between McCray and Thigpen, but Hoeppner was pleased with what he saw from Josiah Sears as well Saturday.

"The thing about a 240-pound back is he's 240 pounds in the fourth quarter," Hoeppner said. "As a former defensive back, those big fellas, you're really excited about slowing them down early, but in the fourth quarter, you're like, ‘man, I'm tired of hitting that guy.'

"It would be a big plus for us if Josiah can have a good camp and give us some quality snaps. He does some things very well, partly because he's played in the game, and been a running back in pass protection. It's a good problem. You never have too many."

- It's been a pretty much injury-free fall camp thus far. Freshman Cody Faulkner has a bruised shoulder, but is expected to practice Saturday afternoon. Top Stories