Quarterback – Ben Chappell filled in admirably for the suspended Kellen Lewis as the team's No. 1 quarterback all spring. Not only was Chappell getting first extended opportunity to work with the No. 1 offense, but he also directed the team's new no-huddle attack as well and had little problem getting people lined up with the new offensive approach. Chappell didn't produce very many big plays this spring, but that's due in large part to the absence of most of the team's top weapons. None of the team's top three wideouts played in the final scrimmage (Andrew Means, Ray Fisher and Terrance Turner), and No. 1 tailback Marcus Thigpen was with the track team for the majority of the spring. All in all, it was a valuable three weeks of practice for Chappell that will give him added confidence heading into the fall.
Chappell's back-up this spring, Mitchell Evans, also got some much needed work as well. Evans was moved to safety during the first week of fall camp, so he had very limited experience under center for the Hoosiers. He got all of the reps with the No. 2 unit this fall, and showed off a good arm and excellent mobility. He threw a few too many interceptions during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work, but that figures to improve if he remains at quarterback.
Running Back – With Marcus Thigpen practicing only on Tuesdays, Demetrius McCray still limited by a foot injury and coveted recruit Darius Willis not arriving until the fall, there wasn't a great deal that was sorted out with IU's running backs. The spring did give those in attendance an opportunity to work with running backs coach Dennis Springer, and Willis came by for one of the early spring sessions to meet Springer for the first time.
Bryan Payton got most of the work with the No. 1s, and showed off the same hard-running style that earned him 90 carries last season. One player who turned a few heads was freshman Zach Walker, who got some extended work with the No. 2s and showed good speed and some explosiveness. He'll find carries hard to come by this fall once everyone returns to the mix, but he did enough to suggest that he's a capable option.
Wide Receiver – This is another position that will look much different in the fall than it does in the spring. The primary targets this spring were Collin Taylor, Ray Fisher, Matt Ernest and Chris Banks, and only Fisher figures to be one of the team's top receivers by the time the fall arrives. By then, IU will presumably have Andrew Means back on the field following his stint with the IU baseball team, and Terrance Turner should be 100 percent after he had knee surgery last fall. Indiana will also welcome a quintet of freshman wideouts to the mix (Tandon Doss, Marquelo Suel, Charles Love, Tyler Adetona and Demarco Belcher) and a couple of them could emerge as candidates to play.
One player who's done enough this spring to suggest he might get an opportunity in the fall is Taylor. The 6-0, 198-pound junior from Carmel has proven to be a very good possession receiver who was the top target of Chappell in each of the spring's scrimmages. He's not going to be someone who stretches the field, but he can work underneath and come down with tough catches and move the chains.
Offensive Line - Things went from bad to worse for the offensive line this spring. Projected starting right tackle Mike Stark and left guard Pete Saxon were both out all spring following off-season surgeries, and left tackle Rodger Saffold was in and out of the lineup with a hamstring. James Brewer and Dan Rutigliano were also on the sidelines, leaving IU offensive line coach Bobby Johnson short-handed for the duration of the spring.
But a handful of players did get some valuable experience this spring. First and foremost were guard Cody Faulkner and center Alex Perry, a pair of likely starters this fall. Both got some valuable work with the No. 1s and some much-needed reps. It was also a solid spring for Dennis Zeigler, A.J. Thompson and Jarrod Smith. Zeigler and Smith made temporary switches this spring, with Zeigler moving from guard to tackle and Smith from center to guard. While Zeigler figures to benefit when he moves back inside in the fall and doesn't have to contend with fleet-footed defensive ends in space, Smith has made himself more valuable as well by showing he's capable of playing a couple of different positions. Thompson, meanwhile, got a jumpstart on his freshman classmates by enrolling at IU early. He played both tackle and guard this spring but will likely wind up at guard in the fall.
Tight End – Max Dedmond might not be listed as the starter, but he was one of the most pleasant surprises of the spring. He's clearly going to be a valuable part of the IU aerial attack this fall, no matter who is under center for Coach Bill Lynch's squad. The 6-5, 240-pound redshirt freshman showed he's capable of making tough catches over the middle, and he can take a hit and still hang onto the ball. He's also displayed the sort of athleticism that makes him capable to out-dueling a safety for a contested ball as well.
The tight end has been a non-factor for some time at IU, but Dedmond figures to change that beginning in the fall. He'll still have to compete with Troy Wagner for the starting job, but in passing situations it's hard to imagine the Hoosiers turning to anyone other than Dedmond at this point. He's made plenty of tough catches and is someone who can move the chains.
Defensive Line – The biggest name on the defensive side of the ball to miss spring practice was defensive tackle Greg Brown, who had off-season shoulder surgery. But he'll be back in the fall, and he'll be joined by All-American Greg Middleton and Jammie Kirlew in the starting lineup. Middleton had a relatively quiet spring, but Kirlew showed he might be ready to make a significant jump from last year's 57-tackle, 12 ½ tackle-for-loss, 4 ½-sack season. He had a couple of sacks in the final spring scrimmage and should team with Middleton to give IU one of the Big Ten's best tandems of defensive ends. Ryan Marando will also rotate in and gives the Hoosiers plenty speed off the edge.
The other defensive tackle spot is a bit up in the air, as potential starter Deonte Mack was out this spring as well following off-season surgery. Kevin Burrus also figures to be in the mix at defensive tackle, and he missed the second-half of spring ball with a knee injury. There are also a handful of youngsters who have shown signs of being able to contribute this fall. Among those are defensive ends Fred Jones and Kyle Kozak along with defensive tackle Eric Thomas. Kozak in an early enrollee
Linebacker – The Hoosiers went into the spring pretty well set on the No. 1 unit, with Geno Johnson, Matt Mayberry and Will Patterson slated to start. Nothing has changed there, as Johnson continues to look solid, Patterson looks like a blossoming star, and Mayberry brings tons of athleticism to the middle linebacker position.
But the Hoosiers appear to be developing some solid depth as well, and that showed this spring. Justin Carrington saw plenty of action a year ago while totaling 37 tackles and remains on the second unit. At the other outside linebacker spot is Darius Johnson, who was one of the breakout performers this spring on the defensive side of the ball. He'll have a chance to contribute this fall. In the middle will likely be Tyler Replogle, who was very limited this spring after having knee surgery in the fall. Another player to keep an eye on is Ian Reeves, another one of the redshirt freshmen linebackers who looked very good at times this spring.
Cornerbacks – This was one of the most hotly contested positions this spring, and it figures to remain that way heading into the fall. With Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors gone, the Hoosiers have a half dozen corners battling for the starting spots.
One starting spot figures to go to Chris Phillips, who was the No. 3 corner last season and had three interceptions and four passes broken up. He is aggressive going after the ball and is a much more physical corner than either Porter or Majors. He can also gamble at times and might be susceptible to the big play, but he's a playmaker at the position.
The other position is anyone's guess. Chris Adkins, Donnell Jones, Richard Council and Adrian Burks all appear to be in the running. Adkins is probably the biggest of the bunch at 6-1 and 185 pounds and isn't shy about delivering a big hit. Jones and Council, meanwhile, both made a slew of big plays in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills during the second half of spring practice, and each had an interception in Saturday's scrimmage. Council has better size at 6-1, while the 5-10 Jones has excellent speed and is physical at 205 pounds.
All of those corners have gotten reps with the No. 1 unit this fall so that cornerbacks coach Joe Palcic can get a even look at all of them. I'm going to say that Jones and Council are probably the two that might be slightly in the lead heading into the fall, but it's a very slim margin that doesn't guarantee a spot this fall. Expect this second cornerback spot to be settled in August.
Safeties – Austin Thomas and Nick Polk headed into the spring as the clearcut No. 1s, and nothing has changed there. Polk, who missed some practice time with a sore hamstring, continues to get better as he becomes more familiar with the position. Thomas, meanwhile, is a hitter at the strong safety position. The battle is on the second unit, where Joe Kleinsmith will likely be joined by either Brandon Mosley or Jarrell Drane. Mosley has the most experience, but Drane has great size and athleticism.
Kicking Game – The punting game remained an issue as the Hoosiers closed spring drills. Bill Lynch said after the final scrimmage that the team is right where it was a year ago, which is undecided about the position. In each of the last two springs, Chris Hagerup has been the odds-on favorite to win the job, but he's struggled each spring. He has a big leg and clearly has the abilities to be a solid Big Ten kicker, but consistency has eluded him. That was again apparent Saturday during the scrimmage, when punting drills were held in between the live periods.
If Hagerup can't win the job, IU may have to turn to Kyle Lambeck, Charlie Klingelsmith, or incoming walk-on Nick Freeland in the fall. Hagerup has the summer to get things straightened out, so he'll still have every chance to win the job. But he clearly hasn't done it yet.
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