Bloomington, Ind. – Bill Lynch had a good idea a freshman or two would help out this fall.
He just didn't know which one.
Thirty years of coaching at the collegiate level has convinced the Hoosiers' head coach that you can't go into camp with any preconceived notions about which true freshmen will be ready to play right away, irregardless of what the recruiting rankings suggest.
"That's the thing about playing freshmen, you never know who's going to be ready," Lynch said. "Some guys just make the adjustment easier. Some come in and don't have the homesickness, miss their girlfriend…don't have all those distractions. And the offense or defense comes natural and they just go out and play."
That was certainly apparent a year ago, when arguably the least-publicized of the Hoosiers' seven offensive line recruits – Rodger Saffold – was the first to play and start in his debut season. Walk-on J.T. Owens, meanwhile, provided further credence to Lynch's theory, as the Indianapolis product made such an impression with his special teams play that he was on the field in the Hoosiers' opener against Western Michigan.
While the season opener is still three weeks away, the freshman who's made the most noise in the opening week of camp is linebacker Tyler Replogle, the 6-2, 230-pounder from Centerville, Ohio. Replogle spent the first five days of fall practice on the No. 3 unit at middle linebacker, but made the switch to strongside linebacker on Saturday and is now the team's now No. 2 behind sophomore Will Patterson.
"I think (SAM) is a better fit right now for him," said IU linebackers coach George Ricumstrict. "It's probably where we were trying to create the two-deep, where we needed one more kid."
That kid was expected to come from a crop of true freshmen that also included Ian Reeves, Dane Conwell and Darius Johnson. Replogle has been the one who has picked things up the quickest and appears well positioned to play as a true freshman.
"I've just been trying to get in the playbook and learn everything," said Replogle. "Coming in as a freshman, that's the main thing. Get in the playbook, learn what the team is doing, and try to help wherever you can."
Replogle has done that, and he's done it with a style that's been a bit hit with the coaching staff.
"He's a smart kid, and he plays full speed all the time," said Ricumstrict. "That's something you pick up right away – you don't have to coach his effort."
That effort helped Replogle put up some huge numbers during his high school career. Replogle totaled 407 tackles in his three years as a starter, including 133 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks a year ago. Those totals helped him earn second-team All-State honors, and made him one of the bigger names in the Hoosiers' 2007 recruiting class.
Now, he's poised to make an immediate impact at the collegiate level. While it's been apparent for some time that linebacker was a spot that a newcomer could contribute this fall, Replogle said that hasn't been his focus.
"Right now, it's just about doing everything in your ability to study the playbook, working your butt off, and trying to fit in and keep working hard," Replogle said.
Replogle Makes Early Impression
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