Bloomington, Ind. – The Hoosiers ran for cover Friday.
Friday morning's practice session began at the IU practice fields, but a cloud burst sent the team into the locker room. After the rain stopped, Coach Terry Hoeppner's team tried to get the first of the day's two-a-day sessions underway again – this time at Memorial Stadium – but a heavy downpour sent them into the Mellencamp Pavilion for the first time this fall.
Under the cover of the program's indoor facility, the Hoosiers' went through the usual array of position drills before moving into 7-on-7 and finally 11-on-11 work. The players were in shoulder pads and shorts as they went through one of their final tune-ups before Saturday's Fan Appreciation Day and public scrimmage, which gets underway at 11 a.m., followed by the 1 p.m. scrimmage.
"They did alright with the adjustment (of going indoors onto the turf)," said IU safeties coach Mike Yeager. "I'd hope anytime players play football, it doesn't matter where they're playing. They handled the change and their assignments pretty well."
That goes for Yeager's safeties as well, a group that is considered one of the team's strengths this fall.
"We have three seniors with (Will) Meyers, (Eric) McClurg and (Troy) Grosfield," Yeager said. "All of them are playing well. We also have a good mix of young guys too, led by Austin Thomas, Brandon Mosley and Joe Kleinsmith. It's a good mix right now and good competition. It's wide open - the depth chart is fluid."
The depth at safety is important, since it appears the Hoosiers will be utilizing three safeties on the field with their base defense. In addition to the traditional free safety and strong safety spots, IU has added the "Buck" position, which features a safety who will often line up in the box and be a key in the team's run and pass defense.
That position currently features senior Will Meyers on the first unit and redshirt freshmen Josh Bailey on the second string, while true freshman Matt Mayberry sees time with the No. 3s at the spot.
The position seems to be a particularly good fit for Meyers, who has always been very good against the run. A year ago he ranked second on the team with 84 tackles, including seven tackles for loss. The position change should allow him to be an even bigger playmaker now that he's a little closer to the line of scrimmage.
"Meyers is a very smart kid," Yeager said. "He can play anything. He played some high safety today, so he can play all over the place for us."
Bailey, meanwhile, is a player who played cornerback a year ago before moving to linebacker in the off-season. The 6-1, 220-pounder has since moved to the Buck position, where he's managed to pick things up quickly.
"He's a good athlete and he's making a lot of plays," Yeager said. "It's tough to do, and he's picking it up really quickly."
While there's been plenty of attention on the team's new defensive position, Indiana is also solid at the traditional safety spots. Yeager has seniors Eric McClurg and Troy Grosfield battling for the No. 1 strong safety spot, while the 6-2, 210-pound Thomas has been a mainstay on the No. 1 unit since spring practice.
Thomas has been a player who has emerged as a big playmaker in the secondary. While there was already plenty of veterans at Yeager's disposal, Thomas' play last spring made it all but impossible to keep him off the field.
"He is really good against the run," Yeager said. "He flies down against the run, and he's pretty good against the pass, too. He's getting better and better at staying on his keys. When he stays on his keys and gets a little more disciplined, he has a chance to be pretty good."
The same goes for Grosfield, who is coming back from off-season knee surgery. Grosfield missed spring practice but is back this fall and provides Yeager with another player who he can trust in the team's last line of defense.
"He's smart and flies around," Yeager said. "He's a playmaker – people saw that last year. Gros(field) is a good open field tackler, and Thomas is a great open field tackler, which is what safeties live and die on."
Friday Hoosier Practice Report
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