Opportunities Abound for IU Football

BLOOMINGTON – If there's one thing that's in abundance around IU football these days, it's opportunity. Indiana went through the second spring practice session of the week Thursday...

BLOOMINGTON – If there's one thing that's in abundance around IU football these days, it's opportunity.

For the program, there's the opportunity to build on last season's success. Indiana ended the Big Ten's longest bowl drought with its trip to the Insight Bowl last New Year's Eve. As the Hoosiers went through their second practice of the spring on Thursday, Coach Bill Lynch saw a real benefit from only being away from the practice field for 2 ½ months compared to the customary four when IU hasn't been in a bowl game.

"We started Tuesday, and we hit it running," Lynch said. "We were in here, blow the whistle, they lined up and away they went…when you get done Thanksgiving weekend and don't start again until late March, there's a little ‘okay fellas, here's where you go. Remember?'"

But there's also an opportunity for individuals. In many cases that's due to injury. A slew of projected starters are out for all or part of spring following off-season surgery, giving some second and third stringers an opportunity to work with the No. 1 unit. In other cases, graduation has created a chance for some new stars to emerge.

That's the case at cornerback, where IU has to replace Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors this fall. Last year's No. 3 corner Chris Phillips is expected to be one of the starters, but the other spot is up for grabs.

Freshman Donnell Jones is one of those hoping to seize an opportunity to be on the field as well.

Jones is a 5'10", 205-pound St. Petersurg, Fla., product who was a late addition to IU's 2007 recruiting class. But he made plenty take notice with his play on the scout team a year ago and is expected to be in the hunt for a starting spot this fall.

"I'm very excited," Jones said. "There's a lot of competition out here, and that brings the best out of everyone."

Jones brings a lot to the table. A sprinter on the Lakewood (Fla.) H.S. track team, Jones has 4.45 speed in the 40. But he combines that with a 200-plus pound frame and a willingness to stick his nose in their and make a tackle.

"I was always a little guy, someone who had speed," Jones said. "But I wanted to bring more than that, so I've added the weight. I like tackling. Really, all of our corners like to tackle."

One thing the group will have to tackle is the assignment of replacing a couple of seniors who were integral parts of the defense for the last four years. It's a big challenge, but one that Jones is excited about.

"I'm thinking about playing," Jones said. "Everyone wants to play, but it's a competition. We'll all go out there and help each other so the team can be successful. I'll continue to try to play my best and do my best."

THURSDAY NOTES:

Lynch reiterated that the staff is hopeful Kellen Lewis will return to the team after spring practice concludes. Lewis is suspended for the duration of spring ball, but the door is open for him to return afterwards assuming he has his issues sorted out. "I'm confident (he'll get things taken care of)," Lynch said. "Certainly hoping, because I think we're good for him and he's good for us. We're looking forward to that happening."…For the second straight spring practice, weather forced the Hoosiers to practice indoors at the Mellencamp Pavilion…Indianapolis product Darius Willis was at practice on Tuesday to watch his future teammates and his new position coach, Dennis Springer. On Thursday it was quarterback Adam Follett who was in town to watch drills…also in attendance for a portion of practice was former IU President Dr. Adam Herbert…there are still plenty of important members of the team sidelined due to injury, but safety Nick Polk was back on the practice field Thursday.

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