Bloomington, Ind. – There's a difference when you look at IU quarterback Kellen Lewis this spring.
It's not so much a physical maturation – in fact, the 6-1, 177-pound looks every bit as slender and wiry as he did during his redshirt freshman campaign from a year ago – but there's something that's unlike what on-lookers saw a year ago.
Whether it's in the huddle, when he's under center or even standing on sidelines, last year's experience as a starter has the Jacksonville, Fla., product believing in himself and his abilities as he prepares for a second year as the single most important player on the IU offense.
"There's a confidence to him, coming in as the No. 1 and taking control of the offense," IU Assistant Head Coach Bill Lynch said.
But it's more than just self-confidence. Thanks to a redshirt freshman season that included 2,600-yards plus of total offense, the IU coaching staff and the players are every bit as sure of what Lewis can do when he has the ball in his hands.
"(You can see) the confidence everybody else has in him," Lynch said. "That's something you notice. They expect him to make plays and if he has a bad play, they don't worry about it because they know he's going to bounce back the next play."
The coaching staff, meanwhile, has been pleased to see Lewis is every bit as hungry this spring as he was a year ago. Even though he appears entrenched as the team's starter, his work ethic and attention to detail have impressed both Lynch and Lewis' quarterback coach, Matt Canada.
"It's a different situation for him this spring than last," Canada said. "But he's in here and he's competing every day, he's studying film, and he's trying to get better on a daily basis."
That, in turn, has the staff thinking Lewis can not only match his debut performance from a year ago, he could potentially surpass it.
"He's made the progress we'd hoped," Lynch said. "Sometimes when a young guy has a big fall they might come back and think spring is not that important, but he's certainly had a great approach to it this spring."
SPRING PRACTICE NEWS AND NOTES:
- The tight end hasn't been a featured position during Terry Hoeppner's first two seasons in Bloomington. Two years ago, Matt O'Neal topped the tight ends with 11 catches, and the group had only 15 as a group. A year ago, not a single pass was caught by an IU tight end as IU generally either kept a tight end in to help with blocking, or in passing situations went with four wideouts.
That could change this year. IU has both Blake Powers and Nick Sexton who have impressed in the early portion of spring drills, and the improvement of the offensive line won't make it as much of a necessity to utilize the tight end as just an additional blocker.
"We kind of tell them, we know we'll have two tackles, two guards and a center," Lynch said. "After that, anybody can play…the tight end position can do some things for us. We feel we have some guys who physically have really worked hard and are in a position to help us.
"Nick Sexton is a fifth-year senior, Blake (Powers) is a fifth-year senior. Both are fifth year kids who have invested a lot in this program. They are good athletes and they can help us. We have some young kids, Troy Wagner has really come along, he's a big old kid, too. I think, it's going to be a bigger part of our offense this fall."
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