1. What's the word on Kellen Lewis - It's clear quarterback Kellen Lewis won't be playing and won't be on the sidelines when the team opens spring practice Tuesday, but he still figures to be the topic of conversation Coach Bill Lynch has to deal with for the next several weeks. Lewis has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of an unspecified team rule, and there appears to be a real concern whether or not he'll be able to return by the time fall arrives. Every indication from the IU coaching staff has left the door open for that to happen, but it's also obvious Lewis has some significant work to do in the off-season to make that happen.
2. What's sort of progress will we see from Ben Chappell – With Lewis out and third-stringer Teddy Schell sidelined for the spring following Tommy John (elbow) surgery, redshirt freshman Ben Chappell is the one and only option for the first-string offense at quarterback. Chappell served as Lewis' back-up in 2007 but took only one meaningful snap – at Northwestern. It was a forgettable moment, as Chappell's one play resulted in an interception return for a touchdown that turned a 14-3 IU lead into a 14-10 game. Chappell will get a chance for the next three weeks to get some valuable work with the No. 1 offense, and he'll also have to show he's capable of leading this offense in the fall.
3. Will there be any position changes of note – In recent years the spring time has been the time when the IU staff has moved players such as John Pannozzo (2005), Justin Carrington (2006) and Nick Polk (2007) in an effort to get them on the playing field. So what position changes might be in the works for this spring? There have been rumors about moving Marcus Thigpen back to wide receiver, but there figures to be another player of two finds himself at another spot on the field. Those kind of moves have paid off in years past.
4. How will Mitchell Evans perform now that he's been switched back to quarterback – Speaking of position changes, the one that will definitely occur is with freshman Mitchell Evans. After spending a couple of days at quarterback last fall, the IU staff moved Evans to safety in an effort to get him on the field quickly. As a result he was one of only two true freshmen to play in 2007 (Tyler Replogle being the other), totaling 12 tackles and two interceptions while playing in all 13 games. But with the quarterback position tremendously thin, Evans will be the team's No. 2 quarterback this spring. Evans' move in the fall wasn't as a result of any deficiencies at quarterback. To the contrary, the IU staff saw a really good athlete who might be able to help immediately in the secondary and on special teams. So expect to see him do some very good things at the position this spring.
5. Is Donnell Jones the likely replacement for Tracy Porter – Kellen Lewis' shoes will be the most difficult to fill this spring, but there's also some issues at cornerback. Last fall's starters Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors have both exhausted their eligibility, and determining who will replace them this fall is a top priority. Last year's No. 3 corner, Chris Phillips, figures to man one of the spots, but the other spot will be hotly contested. The two front-runners figure to be freshmen Donnell Jones and Chris Adkins. After working on the scout team last fall, both benefited tremendously from the team's practices leading up to the Insight Bowl. Based on those efforts, Jones probably heads into the spring as the favorite to start opposite Phillips. Jones has excellent speed and size and will team with Phillips to give IU a couple of very physical corners.
6. Can Kyle Kozak work his way into IU's rotation at defensive end – Two members of IU's 2008 recruiting class – A.J. Thompson and Kyle Kozak – enrolled in January and will participate in spring drills. Thompson is an offensive lineman who doesn't figure to challenge for playing time in the fall, but Kozak has a chance to make an immediate impact at defensive end. The 6-4, 235-pounder is an exceptional athlete who figures to develop into a very good pass rushing threat. He'll have plenty of competition with Greg Middleton, Jammie Kirlew, Ryan Marando, Fred Jones and Eric Thomas, but he does have a chance to work his way into IU's rotation.
7. Will Chris Hagerup win the punting job – Last spring Hagerup had arrived at IU early and the presumption was that he would be the team's punter in 2007. But Hagerup struggled early on and was eventually unable to out-duel Michael Hines for the job. Hines has departed after averaging 39.0 yards/punt last fall, and Hagerup is the obvious choice as Hines' replacement, but there do figure to be a handful of walk-ons who will get a look as well. But Hagerup is clearly the player with the biggest leg and the one the staff would like to see claim the position. Consistency was Hagerup's biggest issue last spring, so that will be something to keep an eye on during the next several weeks.
8. Can James Bailey become a go-to wide receiver - With James Hardy headed to the NFL, IU's quarterbacks will be looking for a new go-to wideout to emerge. Ray Fisher figures to get plenty of balls coming out of the slot position, but someone has to establish himself out wide as well. Bailey is the one with the most experience, having caught 93 passes over the last three years, but he's also struggled with drops. That wasn't as big of a factor with Hardy making up for it with his play, but Bailey needs to eliminate those sort of mistakes if he wants to be more than a third or fourth option in the fall. If he can't do that this spring, look for a talented crop of freshmen wideouts to challenge for significant playing time once they arrive in August.
9. What sort of personality does Dennis Springer bring to the IU coaching staff - Springer replaced Gerald Brown as IU's running backs coach as well as the team's co-special teams coordinator. Springer will be taking over a stable of running backs that has plenty of experience, but no one who has clearly established themselves as a No. 1 tailback. Marcus Thigpen (if he's still at RB), Bryan Payton and Demetrius McCray have all had their moments, but they haven't proven themselves as a 20 or 25-carry/game tailback. This will be a very important time for Springer's tailbacks, since coveted recruit Darius Willis arrives in the fall. If the running back position is as jumbled as it's been for the last couple of years, watch out for Willis when August arrives.
10. Are the seven blocks of Limestone ready to live up to their name - Former coach Terry Hoeppner tabbed his group of seven o-line recruits as the "Seven Blocks of Limestone" when they signed two years ago, and now they'll have their chance to potentially hold down all five starting slots. From left tackle to right, Rodger Saffold, Pete Saxon, Alex Perry, Cody Faulkner and Mike Stark should head into the spring as the No. 1 unit. It's a group that won't get the sort of attention as Lewis, Willis, Fisher and Means in the fall, but it could be the key to the offense's success or failure. They'll need to use the spring to gel as a unit so they're ready to go once fall camp opens.
Spring Poses Plenty of Question for Lynch
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