Hoosiers Unveil Unique Spring Game Format

BLOOMINGTON - Indiana will play its annual spring game on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Memorial Stadium, but the set-up will have a very different look from what Hoosier fans have been accustomed to...

BLOOMINGTON – The Memorial Stadium scoreboard figures to get a workout on Saturday.

That's when Coach Bill Lynch's Hoosier football squad will conclude its spring practice season with an unconventional "scrimmage" at 2 p.m. While past seasons have generally included a Cream vs. Crimson four-quarter game, things will look a little different this time around.

The scrimmage will be broken into five periods - the first half will be comprised of three 15-minute periods, and the second half will include two 10-minute periods. All five periods will use a running clock, and the team will intersperse some special teams work in between those five periods.

The scoring will also be unconventional, as both the offense and defense can total points. The offense will be awarded one point for each first down, three points for each touchdown/25-yard gain, and one point if the defense is flagged for pass interference. The defense, meanwhile, earns three points for an interception, one point for a pass broken up, one point for an offensive pass interference, and one point if it forces the offense into a punting situation.

While the coaches probably would have preferred to play a conventional game, the new spring game format was arrived at out of necessity due to a shortage of healthy players, most notably on the offensive line.

"We can't invent offensive linemen, and we didn't want to do something that would be really sloppy just to have a game," Lynch said Tuesday.

Indiana's numbers at offensive line had dipped to seven, but it's now back up to 10 with the return of Rodger Saffold and A.J. Thompson. But that would have left no back-ups for the spring game, which could have presented a big problem if someone needed to come off the field for any reason.

"Everyone wanted to split up and go two different teams," said IU offensive line coach Bobby Johnson. "But if you do that it's five and five and if one guy gets hurt, all of a sudden someone has to go both sides.

"We realized you're only one play away from having to do that. So we'll keep it offense-defense, use the modified scoring system, and that will allow me to rotate guys and get a lot of reps."

The scoring format is actually what the IU staff uses during its summer 7-on-7 tournaments for high school teams when they come for the Hoosiers team camp. Lynch thinks the format offers its own unique benefits.

"In a scrimmage you run so many plays," Lynch said. "With this, if it's three-and-out it's three-and-out, you have to flop the field and someone else gets to come in and play."

- While Kellen Lewis has been suspended and some other expected starters have been out with injuries, it's allowed a handful of others to turn some heads this spring. One of the players to do just that is freshman tight end Max Dedmond.

The Evansville native caught three passes for 44 yards in Friday's scrimmage, including a couple of tough grabs over the middle in traffic. While he figures to be in a battle with Troy Wagner for the starting job, Dedmond clearly has a chance to make a significant contribution to the team in the fall.

"I think he's had a really good spring," Lynch said. "He's a very good athlete, good pass receiver…and I think he's gained confidence as he's gone though he spring because he's made a lot of catches in traffic."

The tight end was a non-factor in the passing game last season, with starter Nick Sexton catching three passes all season. But that could change in a big way with the emergence of Dedmond.

"That's something we've been missing, that big inside receiver that can catch the ball in traffic and take hits and be a first down guy," Lynch said. "He's adjusted well to the offense and he gives us the flexibility because he can play tight or split out.

"Those who have watched every day he has a little of that Dallas Clark in him – can be a big guy inside or work as a wide receiver."

- Don't let a couple of field goals off the uprights Tuesday fool you – Lynch is excited about what he's going to get this fall from Austin Starr.

Starr ended Tuesday's practice with a couple of field goals that bounced off the left upright, a result that very well could have been the result of the fact the IU staff was experimenting with some potential back-ups at long snapper and holder. But this is the same guy who earned All-America honors after making 21-of-23 field goals in the fall and 48-of-48 extra point tries.

So how can he be better? Lynch said he's seen some significant progress in Starr's kickoffs, which are winding up in the end zone more frequently than they did last fall.

"He's getting height, hang time and distance, and he works on it," Lynch said.

That's something that could pay off for Starr, who clearly has visions of continuing to kick at the next level once his IU career comes to a close.

"If an NFL team can have a guy who can kick the extra point, field goal and kickoff, it saves a roster spot, instead of the ones who also have to carry a kickoff guy," Lynch said.

- Indiana has three practices remaining this spring. They will be back in full pads on Thursday before being in shorts on Friday. The Hoosiers will then conclude spring drills with Saturday's scrimmage. The Big Ten Network will be on hand for the scrimmage, and fans are asked to sit in the west side of Memorial Stadium.

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