Bloomington – The first day of spring practice was like a lot of other days for Ben Chappell.
The Hoosiers' redshirt freshman quarterback was zipping balls to wideouts like Chris Banks and Terrance Turner. He was operating behind an offensive line that included up-and-comers like Dennis Ziegler and Alex Perry.
But this wasn't the scout team or No. 2 offense that the Bloomington native was orchestrating. Instead, Chappell has been handed the conductor's baton to the Hoosiers' first-string, no-huddle, spread ‘em out offensive attack. With Kellen Lewis suspended for the duration of spring practice, Chappell will get an opportunity to show he's capable of running a Big Ten offense.
"Ben has a great opportunity," said his position coach, Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada. "He came here and was recruited here to be a starting quarterback at Indiana."
Chappell served as Lewis' back-up in the fall and attempted only two passes. No one remembers his 14-yard completion to Trea Burgess in the final minutes of IU's season-opening 55-7 win over Indiana State, but everyone recalls his other attempt. With Indiana holding a 14-3 lead over Northwestern, Chappell replaced an injured Lewis for one second quarter play. Chappell threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, a play that turned the tide of a game that the Wildcats eventually won, 31-28.
"Unfortunately everybody remembers one play from last season," said IU Coach Bill Lynch. "But we think he's really going to be a good quarterback."
He'll get his chance to prove that this spring. He'll be working behind an offensive line that will be missing projected starters Mike Stark and Pete Saxon for the duration plus Rodger Saffold and Cody Faulkner for a portion of the next 15 practices, but it's still a chance to get plenty of reps so that he'll be ready if needed once the Aug. 30 season opener arrives.
Chappell said he isn't giving a great deal of thought to the absence of Lewis, but rather on what he has to do to familiarize himself with the Hoosiers' new no huddle approach.
"I haven't really approached (the spring) different at all," Chappell said. "I wanted to do the best I could to be the best quarterback I could this spring, and everything else is out of my control."
While it was only the first of 15 spring practice sessions, Canada was pleased with what he saw from Chappell, No. 2 Mitchell Evans and the offense as a whole. The consensus was that there would be some growing pains with the no huddle approach considering Chappell had limited reps with the No. 1s last fall and Owens was moved from quarterback to safety after one week of fall camp, but Canada was wowed by the work of both.
"I'm excited," Canada said. "Quarterback-wise I was tremendously pleased and offensively I was really pleased with what we did and the tempo with which we moved and the way we worked. It was a great day."
Chappell is excited as well. The no huddle approach gives the IU offense a chance to keep opposing defenses on their heels, and Lewis' absence gives him an opportunity to show off the skills that originally convinced the IU coaches to recruit him from nearby Bloomington South H.S.
"He's very, very smart and he's a really accurate passer," Lynch said. "There are a lot of different ways to be a really good quarterback. The guy up the road in Indianapolis (Peyton Manning) is pretty good, and he's really smart and he's really accurate.
"I don't think there's any magic to how you do it but that's what (Chappell's) strength is."
Chappell Gets His Chance
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