Who's Ready to Make An Impact?

Bloomington - Indiana's freshmen report in two weeks for the start of fall camp. Which members of the 2008 class have the best chance to help immediately? HoosierNation.com ranks the ten most likely to help this fall...

1. Tandon Doss, WR - The biggest loss for the Hoosiers was a big, athletic wideout who can go up and make plays in traffic, and the 6-3, 190-pound Doss will have a chance to help fill the role vacated by James Hardy. Doss caught only 37 passes for 538 yards as a senior at Indianapolis' Ben Davis H.S., but that's because he handled the team's tailback duties for a majority of the season (174 carries, 1,164 yards, 12 TDs). With Hardy gone to the NFL and Andrew Means possibly lost as well to major league baseball, Indiana will give its freshman wideouts every opportunity to contribute right away. Don't be surprised to see Doss as the first freshman to have his redshirt season lifted.

2. Darius Willis, RB – The 6-0, 205-pound Willis is the most touted tailback to pick IU since Levron Williams arrived from Evansville Bosse in 1997. He combines Big Ten-caliber size with track speed and has a very bright future in front of him in an IU uniform. The challenge he faces – unlike a couple of IU's incoming wideouts – is the experience and depth that returns. Veterans Marcus Thigpen and Bryan Payton return after combining for 228 carries and 949 yards a year ago, and they'll enter fall camp as the No. 1 and No. 2. It's hard to imagine Willis immediately leap-frogging those two, and it's hard to imagine Lynch burning Willis' redshirt season before it's clear he's going to be a primary ball carrier. Expect Willis to play at some point, but it might not be during the season's first couple of weeks.

3. Charles Love, WR
– The 6-3, 190-pound Love is one of the least-known of IU's incoming recruits, but that might not be the case for long. Like Doss, he's a big, athletic wideout that many are surprised wasn't a more coveted recruit out of Memphis' Trezevant H.S. He didn't have a polished quarterback throwing him the ball as a senior, which kept his numbers (28 catches, 475 yards, 5 TDs) in check. But those who have seen him on film have rave about his play-making ability and his potential. With the loss of Hardy and most likely Means, Indiana needs to find some size at wide receiver this fall camp, and Love will have a chance to shine.

4. Tyler Adetona, WR
– If there's one certainty about the freshman class, it's that at least one true freshman wide receiver will get a chance to be a significant contributor. The loss of Hardy, Means and James Bailey leaves only Ray Fisher and Brandon Walker-Roby with a reasonable amount of experience, and Indiana figures to use at least five receivers during the course of the season. Adetona comes in a shade behind Doss and Love because they appear to fulfill a need for size a little better than the 6-0, 190-pound Adetona, but this Gainesville, Ga., product has every opportunity to work his way onto the field as well. His numbers (75 catches, 1,169 yards, 12 TDs) exceed those of any of the incoming wide receivers.

5. Kyle Kozak, DE
– The 6-3, 238-pound Kozak isn't going to supplant All-American Greg Middleton or Jammie Kirlew for a starting role, but defensive line coach Brian George likes to have seven or eight linemen to bring in and out, meaning four defensive ends will have a chance to be a part of that rotation. Middleton, Kirlew and Ryan Maranado figure to be three of the four, but Kozak will compete for the fourth spot. The defensive line isn't necessarily a spot where newcomers contribute early, but the fact Kozak had a semester of postgraduate play (at Hargrave Military Academy) and then enrolled at IU in the spring and participated in spring football gives him a chance.

6. Peter St. Fort, S
– Truth be told, there's a significant drop-off from No. 5 to No. 6 when it comes to the probability of playing time. With St. Fort, the IU staff likes his versatility and play-making skills, but there's also the sort of depth at safety that makes playing time unlikely. Austin Thomas, Nick Polk, Joe Kleinsmith and Mitchell Evans all return, and the staff also likes redshirt freshman Jarrell Drane as well. So playing time won't be easy to come by.

7. Cortez Smith, RB
– Some had recruited the 6-0, 196-pound Detroit product as a cornerback, but Indiana targeted him as a running back and are very much impressed with his skills as a ball carrier. Admittedly playing time might be easier to come by at cornerback, but Smith will be at tailback when camp opens in a couple of weeks and he'll start off well down the depth chart. A position switch is always a possibility depending on how things go early in camp (see Mitchell Evans in 2007), but don't expect to see it too early.

8. Shane Covington, RB –
Covington played quarterback in high school and was recruited by many programs to play wide receiver (he was ranked 83rd at the position by Scout.com), but Indiana has brought him in as a running back. This is another case where a position switch would lead to a better chance to play early, so it will be interesting to see if the staff looks at Covington at a couple of different positions this fall. He's versatile enough to play elsewhere, and IU will likely look for a spot where he is most likely to help.

9. DeMarlo Belcher, WR
– Belcher was the last member of IU's class, signing in mid-March. But the 6-5, 210-pound wideout will have a chance like the rest of the freshman wide receivers to earn playing time based on his play during fall camp. The Ft. Wayne product is the biggest of the bunch, standing 6-5 and weighing 210 pounds. His story is similar to that of Hardy, since he's a Ft. Wayne product who had designs on playing college basketball before realizing his future might be on the football field. Belcher's athleticism is undeniable, evidenced by his 18 points and 12.5 rebounds/game as a senior on North Side's basketball team in 2006. As a 2006 North Side grad he's been away from competitive football for a full season, but he'll have a chance to put his size and skills on display in a matter of weeks.

10. A.J. Thompson, OG
– The odds are very remote that Thompson will play as a true freshman, but he did get a jump on his college career by enrolling in January and participating in spring drills. That experience was particularly beneficial for him since he spent a good portion of time with the No. 1 unit due to the multitude of injuries and off-season surgeries that took place in the spring. He spent time at tackle in March and April, but he'll slide back to guard this fall. IU offensive line coach Bobby Johnson doesn't like to rotate linemen during the course of a game so Thompson's chances of playing are remote.

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