ISU NOTES: Emotions Will Run High for Opener

Bloomington, Ind. - Bill Lynch, Tracy Porter and Josiah Sears talk about a variety of topics, ranging from the pre-game Terry Hoeppner ceremony planned for Saturday; which true freshmen are likely to play this weekend; what items Lynch will be keeping a close eye on in the game; and more...

Bloomington, Ind. – Bill Lynch will be watching more than the scoreboard Saturday.

As the Hoosiers gear up for Saturday's 8 p.m. season opener against Indiana State, the first-year IU coach has a checklist of sorts. Ultimately it's about what the scoreboard reads when the clock hits 0:00, but Lynch said he'll be keeping an eye on a couple of other things as well.

Offensively, Lynch said he's hopeful that he'll see an offensive line that continues to progress from where it was a year ago. One of the team's biggest question marks a year ago, IU returns four starters up front this year in Rodger Saffold, Pete Saxon, Jon Sandberg and Charlie Emerson and Lynch wants to see a group that continues to emerge as a strength.

"We all talk about (James) Hardy, (James) Bailey and Kellen (Lewis), but they're only as good as the guys up front," Lynch said.

Lynch also said that eliminating the big-play on defense and the turnovers on offense has been a focal point of camp, and that's another item he hopes to be pleased with after Saturday's game against the Sycamores. On special teams, he said he's hopeful punter Mike Hines can carry over his success in camp to a game.

Ultimately, he's looking for an effort from his team that doesn't make anything easier for their I-AA opponent.

"An opener is so much taking care of yourself," Lynch said. "I've always felt the very first thing you have to do is keep from losing a football game. In an opener, those are the things you have to be conscious of. You're sound in the kicking game, you don't have any punts blocked, you don't let someone return a kick on you, you have to make sure you take care of the ball, you don't have a lot of foolish penalties."

- Don't expect to see many true freshmen on the field Saturday. Lynch said only one or two players are poised to make their college debuts against the Sycamores.

Linebacker Tyler Replogle appears to be the only sure-fire contributor among the first-year players, while safety Mitchell Evans is also a possibility. Replogle is the team's second-string SAM linebacker and a regular on the special teams units, while Evans has been in the two-deep mix at safety and is also a special teams contributor.

"I really think Tyler Replogle will be in there," Lynch said. "It's funny some kids come in and make the adjustment. (No.) 46, he's around the ball. I don't care what drill we're doing. When I watch film at night…46 keeps jumping out. I'd say he'll play."

Evans, meanwhile, spent the first 10 days of camp at quarterback before moving to safety. His move to safety wasn't necessarily due to any sort of struggles at quarterback, but rather a way to try to get a very gifted athlete on the football field as soon as possible.

"Coming in, he was a quarterback/safety guy, and we were down with injuries at safety and they moved him," said Tracy Porter. "He's a downhill guy. He won't shy away from sticking his head in there to make a tackle."

- On paper, Indiana's opener against the Sycamores appears to be a mismatch. Indiana State is not only a I-AA team, but one that has won only one game in the last two years and gave up an average of 44.8 points and 303.4 rushing yards per game a year ago.

But Lynch knows that it will be an emotional game for many ISU players who weren't recruited by the likes of Indiana, and he's also aware of the fact that their confidence will be as high as its been in some time.

"The first game for any team in any season is a time of great hope," Lynch said. "There's no time throughout the year that you have the excitement of the start of the first football game. I don't care what football team you are or what your past shows you, you've worked extremely hard…they're anxious to play and have great excitement."

- Josiah Sears and Tracy Porter have been tabbed as the team's captains for the 2007 season, as selected by their teammates. Porter figures to be one of the Hoosiers' top defenders after totaling 10 interceptions over the last three years, while Sears is the likely tailback choice for the coaching staff in short-yardage situations.

Both said being named captain was a bit of a surprise, but something they welcomed.

"It's a huge honor," Porter said. "To have your teammates look at you as someone that best represents the team that they want to follow, I take that as a huge compliment…I have to be that guy to set the example for my team."

"Both of us have been lead by example type of guys…being elected captain by your peers is a huge honor and we're happy to have it," Sears said. "They said we're behind you and we want to follow you. I'm excited about it."

- Saturday's opener figures to be an extremely emotional game for players, coaches and fans alike. Before kick-off, IU officials plan to have a tribute to former coach Terry Hoeppner, who passed away in the spring after an 18-month battle with brain cancer.

Porter and Sears said they know the game will be an emotional one, and they're not exactly sure how they'll respond.

"Honestly I have no idea - I've never been in this situation," Sears said. "I know they're going to play something they played at the funeral on the scoreboard. I don't know if I'll be able to watch it. I know it will be tough."

During the "Celebration of Life" ceremony at Assembly Hall after Hoeppner's passing, IU officials played a video commemorating Hoeppner's life. It included footage from him as a youth, images of him and his family, as well as video from his various coaching stops which culminated with his arrival in Bloomington.

"Emotions, they just come up whenever they're ready to," Porter said. "The Coach Hep stuff was tough on us…in the end, we're going to go out and do what he wanted us to do, and that's play hard and get this victory."

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