Q: Just wondering how the punting game is coming along. I followed (Chris) Hagerup a little in high school, and just wondering if he is growing through the struggles he had this spring.
A: I think that Chris has punted a little bit better over the last several days, but all indications are that Mike Hines is going to be the team's punter this fall. Coach Bill Lynch said as much following Saturday's scrimmage when he said that the punting position had improved as much as any other during the previous week, and he singled out Hines for the consistency he's shown in practice. Hines didn't have the best of days at the scrimmage with a couple of low and short kicks, but he has been solid during fall practice, and it's a position that doesn't appear nearly as dire as it did when camp first started. As for Chris Hagerup, Hines is a fifth-year senior so I'd guess he'll wind up redshirting and will get a shot again in the spring. But unless Hines stumbles badly, it's his job in my opinion.
Q: John, will coach Lynch run the same offence that coach Hoeppner did or do feel he will have his own offense?
A: I think every coach adds his own twist, but I think you'll see an offense that is very similar to the one that was run a year ago. It's important to remember that Lynch was the offensive coordinator a year ago, so he was handling the play calls a year ago for a pretty productive offensive unit. Matt Canada has taken over as the offensive coordinator, and he talked to me over the weekend about striving for a 50/50 balance between the run and the pass. You'll continue to see three and four wide receiver sets as well. Indiana wants to run the ball successfully because they want to keep teams guessing, but it will be a very similar offensive attack to last year.
Q: How are the running backs doing? That has been a position that hasn't been covered. Are you media types keeping it under raps until our first game or what?
A: There's no hidden agenda here…not trying to keep anything under wraps! You're going to see a very similar rotation to what you did a year ago. Marcus Thigpen will be the starter, and Demetrius McCray will get plenty of carries as well. Their strengths remain the same – Thigpen can create a big play if he can get turned up field and get some space, while McCray is the team's best at making someone miss. In the scrimmage, I thought McCray looked the best, and I was also impressed by Trea Burgess who did some work with the No. 1s in short yardage situations. That may have been because Josiah Sears was out with a hamstring injury, so I don't know that Burgess will get much action this year. Bryan Payton and Sears are also options, but it's going to be Thigpen and McCray who get the majority of the carries.
Q: What do you think it would take for IU to go to a bowl game this year, and what player might have a chance to go to the NFL combine?
A: I suppose the easy way out would be to say the Hoosiers need six wins and they'll be in. But to look at it a little closer, I think there's plenty of talent, coupled with a favorable schedule, that suggests IU should be in the postseason this year. In my mind, the keys are going to be keeping the key offensive figures healthy (that would be Kellen Lewis, James Hardy, James Bailey and Rodger Saffold, in particular), and that the defense avoid giving up the big play. Do those two things and this team is capable of winning six, seven maybe even eight games. Watch the week two games against Western Michigan. That's a tough road game against a MAC favorite, and a win should propel IU to a 4-0 start.
As for the NFL combine, Tracy Porter is a lock to be invited, and James Hardy as well if he opts to go pro after this year. Other invitations would be based on what sort of seasons the seniors have this fall.
Q: We've heard James Bailey has made some great plays in spring ball and appears to be the solid #2 option behind Hardy. My question is has he had many dropped passes as well? This is something which has definitely plagued him in the past, and I was wondering if we should expect to see less of that this coming year.
A: Bailey has been really good this fall. Every wide receiver has a drop here and there during a 2 ½-week fall camp, but he hasn't had an unusual array of them by any means. He's made tough, acrobatic catches and has been among the best players on the offensive side of the ball. Look for a big year from him.
Q: Who is the most underrated player on the team?
A: That's a tough one…offensively, I'll go with left tackle Rodger Saffold, and on defense I'll go with Adam McClurg. Saffold is an extremely athletic offensive linemen who is up to 290 pounds. His physical tools allow him to stay in front of some of the league's top pass rushing defensive ends. On defense, few ever mention McClurg when talking about IU's top players, but he's a better athlete than he's given credit for, and he's a veteran on a unit that is still pretty young.
Q: Quite frankly, I am concerned about our experience at quarterback. Should Kellen Lewis go down this season, how are the freshman quarterbacks looking so far. Any standout amongst the freshman QB's?
A: I think this is a situation that any college football team finds itself in – you're very rarely going to find a team that has two experienced quarterbacks. If Lewis goes down, Ben Chappell will be the man the team will turn to. He's gotten a lot of reps with the No. 2s in the fall, has a strong arm, and appears to have a bright future. He's never played in a college game, but Lewis had never played in a college game either when he got his first chance a year ago against Ball State. As for the freshmen, Mitchell Evans has impressed me more than Teddy Schell to this point. But right now, Evans is working out at safety as the staff looks to determine if he's better suited to play in the offensive or defensive backfield. Barring a slew of injuries, you won't see a true freshman quarterback on the field this season.
Answering Your Questions Part II
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