Bloomington, Ind. – With football camp set to close today, one Hoosier is relieved to know he's finally done enough to show he's ready to play this fall, while another is hoping he's done the same.
Mike Hines has waited four years to get a chance to handle the punting chores, while freshman defensive tackle Jeff Boyd has spent 2 ½ weeks trying to make his way onto the field as a true freshman. While there are virtually zero similarities between their journeys, they share a hunger to be on the field this fall.
"It's been a while – four years being the back there behind Tyson (Beattie)," said Hines. "Now, my chance is finally here, and hopefully I can do a good job."
Boyd is one of a handful of true freshmen who has a legitimate chance to play this fall, and it's an opportunity he desperately wants.
"I'm trying to put it out of my mind, because the more I think about trying to play, I end up trying too hard and messing up," said Boyd.
While Boyd is still unsure about his prospects of playing this fall, Hines has all but locked up the team's punting job. After backing up Tyson Beattie for four years, the walk-on from Ft. Wayne's Homestead H.S. out-dueled scholarship freshman Chris Hagerup in both the spring and the fall and is expected to handle the job this season.
"All summer I was working on getting more consistent, working on my steps and my drop and it's paid off," Hines said. "I've been hitting them longer and hitting them more consistently."
Coming out of the spring, the punting situation was arguably the team's most glaring weakness. Indiana brought in Hagerup in December so that he could go through spring drills and presumably win the job in the fall, but he's struggled badly and paved the way for Hines to win the job.
And win it he did. While Hagerup's struggles turned this match-up into a walk-over, Hines has continued to get better during the fall and appears to be well equipped to replace Beattie.
"Our punting game has probably improved as much anything on the football team in the last week," IU Coach Bill Lynch said over the weekend. "I think Mike Hines has really become a consistent punter…he's made great improvement. We all talked about that coming out of the spring where we were with that phase and we're feeling a lot better right now."
Hines might be settled in as the team's punter, but things remain unsettled with Boyd. The 6-2, 275-pounder arrived as one of the biggest names in the Hoosiers' 2007 recruiting class, and he's still not sure if he'll be on the field when IU kicks off the season Sept. 1 against Indiana State.
"I don't know if I'll be playing or not," Boyd said.
If Boyd doesn't play, it won't be due to a lack of productivity. He's been one of the most impressive freshmen this fall, providing some much-needed pressure on the quarterback from the defensive tackle position. He had a sack in last Saturday's scrimmage and added a pair of additional tackles behind the line of scrimmage against the run game.
His obstacle is a great deal of depth at the defensive tackle position. IU Co-Defensive Coordinator Coordinator has at least five veteran defensive tackles he's comfortable playing – Greg Brown, Joe Kremer, Keith Burrus, Kevin Burrus and Emile Bass – and he's hesitant to squander Boyd's redshirt season if he might only be a spot player.
"Fortunately and unfortunately we've had a couple of injuries so he's had an opportunity to show a lot of things in camp and has done a great job," George said. "I wouldn't feel badly about putting him in at this point. Hopefully we don't have to, but he's done a good enough job he could go in there and give us some downs if we needed him to."
The coaching staff will likely spend the next handful of days evaluating Boyd to determine if he will in fact get a chance to play this season, something he admits he desperately wants.
"It is my No. 1 goal right now," Boyd said. "I want to get a chance to show what I can do."