Bloomington, Ind. – Brian George almost has what he'd like – but not quite.
The emergence of Keith Burrus and the development of redshirt freshmen such as Emile Bass, Jammie Kirlew, Todd Newman and Neal Jones has given the Hoosiers' defensive line coach what every position coach covets.
That quintet, along with projected starters Greg Brown, Joe Kremer and Kenny Kendal, will allow George the luxury of rotating players in throughout games without any significant drop-off. It will also guarantee spirited competition in practice from now until the final week of the season.
That's a welcomed sight for George, but just like any coach, he wouldn't mind having a couple of more.
"I'd like to have about 10," George joked. "I feel pretty good right now, depth-wise. We feel we have a number guys that can play and contribute. That's a good feeling going through camp when you've some guys you can put in there and you don't feel like you're losing much when you're putting the 2s in for the 1s."
Two of those "2s" are redshirt freshmen Emile Bass and Jammie Kirlew, a pair that were good enough a year ago that the staff contemplated playing them. Both traveled with the team in the early going before the staff ultimately decided to save the year of eligibility.
Now a year older and a year bigger, the 6-3, 288-pound defensive tackle Bass and the 6-3, 250-pound defensive end Kirlew are ready to compete and ultimately contribute.
"It's very exciting to know we're going to play," Kirlew said. "Both of us are busting our behinds trying to do the best we can do and do what we're supposed to do at 100 miles per hour."
Adding speed was a point of emphasis for Terry Hoeppner in the off-season, and few epitomize that any better than Kirlew. He's someone who can present problems for offensive tackles with his speed, and he's also capable of chasing down ball carriers sideline to sideline.
Bass, meanwhile, was the scout team's defensive player of the year last season, someone who will likely be the third defensive tackle on the field after Brown and Kremer. The Detroit native has added 15 pounds from a year ago and is equally excited about getting on the field – and on TV.
"I'm excited, and I just want to make sure I don't get embarrassed on national TV," Bass joked. "I'm working as hard as I can and going 100 miles an hour, so that when I do get in the game I'll not good on TV and I'm not get chewed out later during film session."
He's also working hard because he knows he's not too far from being on the first string – or the third string.
"There's a lot of competition at practice and that makes up better," Bass said. "There's always someone right behind you who is almost or just as good as you, so you have to go harder. You're trying to get the spot ahead of you, and you're almost as good as them. Everyone is going at it, and it makes the team better."
Kirlew and Bass might be young, but they're pretty much locks to be on the field this fall. In George's mind, that's a good thing.
"All those guys are doing a great job flying around, and a lot of them are going to play a lot of football this year," George said. "That's a good thing, because they're a very talented group."
Thursday Practice News and Notes:
- Saturday's scrimmage will be at 1 p.m. at Memorial Stadium, while Fan Appreciation Day festivities get underway at 11 a.m. Many of the details of the scrimmage have yet to be finalized, but it doesn't appear there will be a running clock. The staff will likely script plays pitting the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense, the No. 2s vs. the No. 2s, etc.
- one player who has turned some heads this fall is cornerback Chris Phillips. He's solidified his standing as the team's No. 3 corner, which means he'll likely see plenty of action against teams that like to go three and four wide. Phillips had a big interception during Thursday's 11-on-11 work, stepping in front of a Graeme McFarland sideline pass and racing up the field for a touchdown.
- Joe Kleinsmith has been talked about as the team's potential No. 4 cornerback, but he's generally been working out at safety this fall. IU cornerbacks coach Joe Palcic has said he could be a "swing" player who is capable of contributing at either spot.
- the best catch of the day Thursday might have come from a newcomer – Brad Martin. The freshman tight end from Ohio scored on a throw from Dustin Haas on a deep throw down the middle of the field. Martin reached out with his left hand and tipped the ball in the air before securing it for the touchdown.
- Martin's wasn't the only big play from an IU receiver. James Bailey scored on a deep throw from Kellen Lewis in 7-on-7s, as did Ray Fisher on a throw from McFarland. Once the team went to 11-on-11, Andrew Means hooked up with Lewis for a touchdown of his own.
- Charlie Emerson now appears to be the No. 1 right tackle. He worked out at the spot extensively Thursday, and one-time No. 1 Scott Anderson got some reps with the No. 2 unit at left tackle.
- IU quarterbacks coach Matt Canada on Kellen Lewis: "Kellen is special. He's getting better everyday and he's learning how to put the ball in the right spot. He's exciting and explosive, but he's a quarterback. He's not an athlete that plays quarterback – he's quarterback who's an athlete. I believe that. His future is really bright. He's headed in the right direction.
"His decision making is better (than last year). He's a redshirt freshman. You look at the maturity that continues to build with a quarterback, it goes and goes and goes. All those things are getting better everyday, but he has a ways to go – as does Blake (Powers), as does Graeme. We all have a ways to go. But he's awfully fun to coach."
Thursday Practice Report
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