Bloomington – Indiana returned to the football field Tuesday to open its spring practice schedule, but much of the attention on opening day was focused on the sidelines.
That's because a Who's Who list of IU football players are sidelined for all or part of the spring.
The biggest of those names is Kellen Lewis, the Hoosiers' standout sophomore quarterback who is suspended indefinitely for an unspecified violation of team rules. Coach Bill Lynch confirmed Tuesday Lewis will miss all 15 of the Hoosiers' spring practices.
"We're certainly looking forward and hoping he's back in the fall," Lynch said.
But Lewis wasn't the only one missing. Junior wide receiver James Bailey is "taking care of some personal things" according to Lynch, and he has excused him for the next several days as well.
While those are a couple of big disciplinary-induced absences, Lynch's squad is also going to be missing wide receiver Andrew Means to baseball, Marcus Thigpen on most days to track, and a boatload of other players due to injury. Thirteen players are out for either all or part of spring practice due to off-season surgery.
"I've never been through anything like this," Lynch said.
Among those who are out for the entirety of spring drills are: offensive linemen Mike Stark (back), Josh Hager (ankle), James Brewer (foot), Dan Rutigliano (knee) and Pete Saxon (shoulder); defensive linemen Greg Brown (shoulder) and Deonte Mack (shoulder); defensive back Rayshun Calhoun (leg); and quarterback Teddy Schell (elbow).
In addition, running back Demetrius McCray (foot), wide receiver Terrance Turner (knee), linebacker Tyler Replogle (knee), offensive linemen Rodger Saffold (leg), and safety Nick Polk (leg) will be limited in the early going as well.
Lynch said he expects everyone on his current injury report to be ready to go by the time fall rolls around.
"A lot of these (surgeries) were conscious decisions to go ahead and get the surgeries done before spring practice," Lynch said. "A lot of them were ones where they said we can get them through spring…and I said no, because I've done that before and all of a sudden something goes wrong with rehab, and they don't get to condition in the some and then Aug. 2 you're going to be out here (behind)."
Those absences give plenty of other players an opportunity to show what they can do, most notably redshirt freshman quarterback Ben Chappell. Chappell was running a makeshift No. 1 offense on Tuesday, and he'll continue to do so throughout the spring.
"It gives Ben Chappell a tremendous opportunity," Lynch said. "We really think Ben is a good quarterback. Unfortunately people remember one play from last season. Any of us who have played the game have a whole bunch of plays we'd like to put back in our pocket."
That play came in the Northwestern game when he came in for one play when Lewis had to leave with an injury. Chappell threw an interception on a 3rd-and-6 play that Northwestern returned for a touchdown, a mistake that turned the tide of a game Northwestern eventually won.
But Chappell has turned the page on that play as well as the 2007 season. With Lewis' status for the fall far from certain Chappell could very well find himself under center when IU opens the season Aug. 30 against Western Kentucky. If that happens he'll be running the Hoosiers' new no-huddle attack that was unveiled Tuesday.
"We're going fast – we're on the line ready to go," Chappell said. "We're playing fast and under control That's the goal for the spring."
The decision to go no huddle came in the off-season after IU Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada and some of the other offensive coaches traveled around the country to see what other programs were doing. Lynch said that Canada spent time with the Indianapolis Colts to study their offense as well as with Oregon Coach Mike Belotti.
"It's something we're looking at," Canada said. "We spent a lot of time studying it, and we feel it gives us a chance to do some things."
Canada was especially pleased with how Chappell and the rest of the offense performed on the first day of practice with the new offense. Both Chappell and No. 2 quarterback Mitchell Evans were sharp on a day in which the players went without pads.
"I've been here five springs, and that was probably the best first day of spring practice we've had," Canada said. "That's a fact. The tempo, the way we worked…I've got a great room, a bunch of talented guys who can play
Lots Missing on First Day of Spring Ball
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