Lack of Linemen Presents Issues for Scrimmage

BLOOMINGTON – Indiana football fans will get their first glimpse of the team this spring Saturday when they scrimmage Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium. Well, sort of...

BLOOMINGTON – Indiana football fans will get their first glimpse of the team this spring Saturday when they scrimmage Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

Well, sort of.

Coach Bill Lynch's team will be scrimmaging, but a shortage of offensive linemen will force the staff to be creative with how they conduct Saturday's open scrimmage. Indiana had only eight healthy offensive linemen when practice started Thursday, and that number dipped to seven when freshman Andrew McDonald was dinged in the head during practice.

Lynch said the team is hopeful McDonald will return to practice Friday, but regardless of his availability the team will be short-handed up front Saturday.

"You like to have those scrimmages where you just line up and scrimmage for a couple of hours," Lynch said. "We won't be able to do that."

Lynch said one possibility will be to break up the live 11-on-11 work by mixing in some special teams and 7-on-7 passing drills. That will allow the depleted crop of offensive linemen to get a break Saturday, because the Hoosiers don't have enough linemen to even fill out a two-deep.

"We have to sit down with (offensive line coach) Bobby (Johnson) and see what's realistic," Lynch said.

Among the offensive linemen who will be out are three projected starters – tackles Rodger Saffold and Mike Stark and guard Pete Saxon. Also out are tackles Josh Hager and James Brewer, guard Kenny Love and center Dan Rutigliano.

For the time being, that leaves Indiana with only five scholarship offensive linemen available (Cody Faulkner, Alex Perry, Dennis Zeigler, Jarrod Smith, and A.J. Thompson) plus walk-ons Mike Reiter and Milton Owens.

Those absences will have a significant impact on what the team can do Saturday, but there are still things that Lynch will be looking for on both sides of the ball. Offensively it will boil down to some individual performance, most notably at the skill positions. Redshirt freshman quarterback Ben Chappell will be one of the most closely watched, as he continues to run the No. 1 offense in Kellen Lewis' absence.

"I feel good about Ben," Lynch said. "I think he's done really well."

On the other side of the ball, tackling will be a point of emphasis. There are only a handful of times during the spring that the team will tackle, so it will be something the staff will be watching closely.

"Defensively whenever you scrimmage for the first time, you're looking to see who can make plays," Lynch said. "When you're not tackling, some guys look all-world. They can execute assignments and run, but when you have to make the play and the tackle, that's where scrimmaging you find some things out."

OTHER NOTES:
- there were a couple of talented in-state high school wide receivers visiting Thursday's practice. Tandon Doss, who signed with the Hoosiers in February, was in attendance, as was Class of '09 recruiting target Duwyce Wilson from Columbus East H.S.

- No. 1 left tackle Rodger Saffold should return to the field shortly. Saffold has been limited during the spring due to a leg strain, but Lynch said he expects him back next week. "We're being real smart with Saffold. He's itching to go right now, but with what he's got, it's silly 4-5 days with a leg strain, he'll be better off."

- Lynch said he's been impressed with both of the freshmen who enrolled in January. Offensive tackle A.J. Thompson and defensive end Kyle Kozak both arrived early and have been getting a chance to work with the No. 2s this spring. "I've really been impressed with A.J. Thompson," Lynch said. "He's playing right side and left side, a brand new offense and we're going no huddle, and signals and he's really hung in there. And Kyle Kozak, he's a football player. He's one of those defensive guys that shows up and you notice him a lot."

- one of the benefits of going no huddle this spring has been the fact the team is getting in more work in the same amount of time, according to Lynch.

"You get a lot more plays in practice," Lynch said. "It looks like we go very little team (11-on-11) versus a traditional practice, but we're getting 10 plays in during those five minutes and sometimes more than that."

A difference, though, is that there isn't nearly as much one-on-one coaching during the 11-on-11 sessions. Instead, the staff is working with players after each can sit down and watch practice on tape.

"There isn't a lot of coaches going in and coaching, it's just running plays, and they line up and you keep going," Lynch said. "That's what everyone told us when we went to it. If you're going to do it, you've got to do it. You can't stop and then coach. You can't have 21 guys waiting on one because someone is coaching one position."

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