Bloomington - It might be a good idea to bring a roster and even a calculator to Memorial Stadium Saturday, because fans will see some unfamiliar faces and an unconventional approach to the Cream and Crimson Spring game.
For the first time in recent memory, the Hoosiers won't conclude spring drills with a conventional spring game. That's been replaced with a five-period scrimmage, which will include a little more than a hour's worth of work between the offensive and defensive units.
The scoring system will reward the offense for big plays and first downs, while the defense can counter by putting points on the board with defensive stops, takeaways and passes broken up.
"With the point system, we'll make it competitive and fun, and fans can see a winner and a loser," IU Coach Bill Lynch said Thursday. "Everyone wants to see points. We have a scoreboard, you got to use it."
The decision to abandon a conventional spring game was made out of necessity rather than choice, due to a well-publicized shortage of offensive linemen.
"We just don't have enough guys to split it up and have a game," IU Coach Bill Lynch said Thursday. "We're going to tax the offensive linemen as it is."
While the scoring system will be out of the ordinary, so will many of the faces who will be on the field. Quarterback Kellen Lewis, offensive linemen Pete Saxon and Mike Stark, and defensive tackles Greg Brown and Deonte Mack are just a handful of the players who have been out all spring for varying reasons. Now, tailback Marcus Thigpen and wide receiver Ray Fisher will miss Saturday's scrimmage as well.
Thigpen – who has only practiced on Tuesdays due to obligations with the track team – will be competing in track Saturday and will miss the game. Fisher, meanwhile, missed Thursday's practice with a hip flexor injury and has been ruled out as well.
Fisher's injury appears minor and he was dressed in shorts Thursday cheering on his teammates. But Lynch said there was no reason to risk aggravating the ailment, so Fisher will miss the final two practices of the spring.
"There's no reason to tax that (hip)," Lynch said. "He's fast, we know he's fast, and we don't like missing with guys leg muscles."
With all of these absences, numerous other players have had an opportunity to show off their skills while working with the No. 1 and No. 2 units. Among the players who have impressed this spring are offensive linemen Dennis Zeigler and A.J. Thompson, tight end Max Dedmond, linebacker Darius Johnson and wide receiver Terrance Turner.
The additional repetitions that those players and many others have earned this spring should pay off in the fall once the likely starters return to the mix.
"Because of the situation on the offensive line and the guys who didn't practice all spring, guys like A.J. Thompson and Dennis Zeigler and Andrew McDonald and Milt Owens and Mike Reiter – guys that aren't household names – have gotten tons of reps," Lynch said. "As a result, they've gotten better and that's going to provide us with depth in the fall."
One player who has gotten a boatload of reps is sophomore quarterback Ben Chappell, who has replaced the suspended Kellen Lewis on the No. 1 unit this spring. He's been efficient and effective running IU's new no-huddle offense despite working behind a makeshift offensive line and rarely having a full complement of top wideouts at his disposal.
"Ben has had a great spring. He's proven he can be the quarterback," Lynch said.
Fisher, Thigpen to Miss Spring Game
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