What a Difference a Year Makes for Lewis

Twelve months ago, Kellen Lewis was a third-string quarterback just trying to get an opportunity to impress the IU coaching staff during spring drills. Now, he's the single most important player on the Hoosier offense.

Bloomington, Ind. – Kellen Lewis finds himself in a very different situation this spring than last.

A year ago, the 6-1, 177-pound Hoosier quarterback was third on the IU depth chart, simply trying to wrestle some spring practice reps away from incumbent starter Blake Powers and fifth-year senior Graeme McFarland. While there were certainly rumblings among those close to the program that this third-stringer would push for playing time in the fall, few could have anticipated the success Lewis would have once given his chance.

By the time the 2006 season had come to a close, Lewis had thrown for 2,221 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for another 421 yards and five scores. He had a couple of huge games that drew national attention, including a six-touchdown effort in the Hoosiers' rout of Michigan State as well as his debut at Ball State when he came off the bench and accounted for 316 yards of total offense in the Hoosiers' come-from-behind win.

Now, the sophomore-to-be finds himself entrenched as the Hoosier starter, arguably the marquee name on an Indiana offense that figures to be even more explosive this season than last year.

"Kellen knows his situation," said IU quarterbacks coach Matt Canada. "He's coming off a very good freshman season. He did a lot of very good things, but he can do a lot of things better."

Canada says Lewis is well aware of that fact. The Jacksonville, Fla., product has spent plenty of time this off-season studying film of his play last fall and has identified plenty of areas that he can improve.

"He's a great student of the game," Canada said. "He understands things, he sees things one time, and make the right adjustment."

But Canada and the IU football team is counting on more from Lewis than just making the correct reads and putting the ball in the right spot. With nearly a year of starting experience under his belt, leadership on the field and off will be an added responsibility as well.

"Stepping in as a freshman, the way things went down, he was a little timid with (leadership)," Canada said. "He'll only be a sophomore, but he is the quarterback, and he's proven he can be a good player. So stepping up his leadership responsibilities will be important."

Lewis isn't the only player the IU staff will turn to in that regard. On offense, offensive linemen Johnathan Sandberg and Charlie Emerson along with wide receiver James Hardy figure to be critical in that regard as well. On the defensive side, cornerback Tracy Porter, linebacker Adam McClurg and defensive tackle Greg Brown are proven commodities who have spent plenty of time in the program.

But there's something about the quarterback position that makes leadership a necessity for the unit to be successful.

"Great players are given the duty to be leaders," Canada said. "You just have to do that, in whatever way you do it."

Canada thinks Lewis can handle that, and he also expects the Hoosier offense to be even more explosive this season than last. A year ago, Indiana averaged 23.1 points/game, including three 30-plus point performances in the Big Ten in wins over Illinois, Iowa and Michigan State.

"I think we can do a lot of good things," Canada said. "We feel good about what we're doing throwing the ball and running the ball.

"I think we found our identity last fall, we understand who we are and what we want to be – we want to play to our strengths. We want to play to our strengths. We have a very talented group of wideouts, a very talented group of backs, and a quarterback who isn't too bad."

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