Bloomington, Ind. – Whether you're in Bloomington, Ind., or Baton Rouge, La., there are two major objectives for any college program as it goes through fall camp.
Getting ready…and staying healthy.
While the Hoosiers will use their 29 August practices to get themselves as prepared as possible for the Sept. 1 opener against Indiana State, they'll also do everything in their power to make sure everyone is ready to go as well. So even though the Hoosiers were in full pads and hitting at Saturday morning's first two-a-day practice at the IU practice fields, they weren't doing any live tackling.
"We have to be smart – we have to mix the heavy contact with being smart," IU Coach Bill Lynch said.
That can be a source of frustration for the defense, which isn't able to complete plays by bringing ball carriers to the ground during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.
"Yeah, it's real tough," said second-string middle linebacker Matt Mayberry. "There were some instances today where it was tough to not be able to bring someone down. But the offense can't cut (block) either."
A time will come for the Hoosiers to do live tackling in fall camp, but for the time being the emphasis has been on being more efficient on both sides of the ball on third downs, either producing or limiting big plays, and winning the turnover battle.
Lynch said figuring out exactly how much live tackling to do is a question that every college coach is asking at this time of year, as they try to find a balance between being prepared for the opener and avoiding a costly injury that could derail a team's plans for the season.
"You have to tackle because you can't show up on the first game and not tackle," Lynch said. "The worst thing you want to do as a football team is after the opener say we weren't in shape or we didn't tackle well. So you have to do live tackling to do it.
"It's not the tackling you worry about, but when you go live tackling, all 22 bodies are live. Most of the injuries in practice it's because of pile ups or guys get rolled into. That's what you worry about, it's generally not the ball carrier getting tackled or the guy making the tackle, it's everything around it."
Without any live tackling to date, the Hoosiers have remained relatively injury free. Safeties Nick Polk (hamstring) and J.T. Owens (foot) are still listed as day-to-day due to injuries suffered in practice, while left tackle Kenny Love is in a boot as he recovers from an ankle injury suffered Wednesday. Lynch said the staff is being particularly cautious with Polk, whom he said would be practicing if it was game week.
"He's such an important guy and he's a well-conditioned athlete, we're just trying to be smart," Lynch said.
Despite the limitations on the defense, it was still a good day of work for the Hoosier defenders. During 7-on-7s the four Hoosier quarterbacks were a combined 4-of-20 passing against the No. 1 defense. Cornerback Tracy Porter was particularly impressive, picking off a Teddy Schell pass early on, and then coming back on the very next play to break up a Ben Chappell throw to Andrew Means.
During the final 11-on-11, 3rd down competitive drill, meanwhile, the No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense went head-to-head 12 times, with each unit "winning" six of the plays. Jammie Kirlew and Brian Faires each had sacks, Leslie Majors had a diving pass break-up along the sidelines, and Joe Kleinsmith had an interception of Kellen Lewis along the sidelines.
The highlight play of the drill, though, was turned in by wideout James Bailey, who went up with one hand and came down with a Lewis pass over the middle despite taking a hard hit from Porter on the play.
But it was still a good morning practice for the defense, and an injury-free one as well.
"I thought we had been getting hurt earlier in a couple practices with some things," said IU linebackers coach George Ricumstrict. "Today we had a good day. Hopefully we can keep it going, keep growing. But you know how it goes – you have a good day, and the afternoon session, here comes the offense."
Saturday Fall Camp Practice Report
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