IU FB CAMP: Five Position Battles To Watch

Bloomington - Indiana's veteran football players report to camp today in preparation for Monday's first practice. There are a handful of important position battles that will be waged, and HoosierNation.com looks at each of those and analyzes who is most likely to emerge....

1. Cornerback – Donnell Jones, Richard Council, Chris Adkins and Adrian Burks - No position was hit harder by graduation than cornerback, where IU lost multi-year starters Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors. Senior Chris Phillips figures to replace Porter as the team's No. 1 corner, but a handful of youngsters will compete for the other starting spot. This quartet of players all had opportunities to compete with the No. 1 unit in the spring, and no one separated himself from the others. So now they head into fall camp with a starting job on the line.

While this picture will become much clearer after a week of fall camp, the early favorites are probably Jones and Council. Jones was named co-Defensive MVP for the scout team last year along with defensive end Fred Jones, so the staff was obviously pleased with what they saw from the 5-10, 205-pound redshirt freshman. Council, meanwhile, emerged as a contender as well with a very solid spring. The Carrollton, Texas, product had been lost in the shuffle after suffering a knee injury as a true freshman, but he's since recovered and the best size (along with Adkins) in the group at 6'1" and 188 pounds.

2. Tight End – Troy Wagner vs. Max DedmondThis will be one of the more interesting competitions. Wagner brings great size to the position at 6'5" and 255 pounds, and he's basically waited on the sidelines for three years to get his chance to play. Dedmond, meanwhile, is a redshirt freshman who has shown signs that he could be IU's best pass catching tight end in recent memory. Indiana has completed only five passes to its tight ends in the last two years combined, but Dedmond looks like the type of tight end who is capable of catching 40-plus balls over the course of a season if given the opportunity.

One thing that could play a part in sorting this battle out is the progress of the offensive line. Wagner's size and experience probably makes him a better option if IU needs to utilize a tight end extensively to help out with pass blocking. But if that isn't the case, expect to see Dedmond be a huge part of the Hoosiers' aerial attack.

3. Punter – Chris Hagerup vs. Charlie Klingensmith & Kyle Lambeck – Make no mistake about it – the IU staff wants Chris Hagerup to be the team's punter when the Aug. 30 season opener arrives. He's a scholarship punter with a big leg, and the thought has been all along that he'd be a four-year starter at the position.

With that said, the original thought was that he'd be a four-year starter beginning last season. But Hagerup struggled to develop any sort of consistency throughout fall camp and senior Michael Hines emerged as the team's starter while Hagerup redshirted. Hines is now gone, which means it's once again Hagerup's job to keep or lose. If he can show consistency as well as some progress in the ability to get punts off more quickly, he'll handle the team's punting duties. But if he struggles early in camp, it's anyone's guess who will be the choice this season.

4. Quarterback – Kellen Lewis vs. Ben Chappell Since Lewis and Chappell are currently sharing the No. 1 spot on the team's depth chart, I suppose it's only fair to look at this as a position battle to watch as well. The biggest question, though, is probably at what point during fall camp does Lewis re-establish himself as the starting quarterback so that he can get the majority of the reps with the No. 1 unit.

Considering he missed spring practice, that's an important point to ponder. While the offensive playbook and terminology is the same as it was last fall, IU is utilizing a new no-huddle approach that Lewis will need to get comfortable with, and he's also going to have some new wideouts he'll be throwing to this fall. James Hardy and James Bailey are both gone, so players such as Terrance Turner, Matt Ernest and Max Dedmond will now be on the field with the No. 1s.

5. Running Back – Marcus Thigpen, Bryan Payton, Demetrius McCray and Darius Willis – If Coach Bill Lynch planned to use one primary running back, this position battle would be all but settled. Fifth-year senior Marcus Thigpen will be starter when camp opens, and barring injury, when it closes. The staff likes his big-play capabilities too much to go in another direction at least early in the season.

But IU will utilize more than one tailback, and most likely more than two. So that opens things up for players like Payton, McCray and Willis to challenge for a spot in the running back rotation. Payton is best known commodity of the three, since he carried 90 times last season. There are plenty who would argue that Payton's hard-charging style was even more effective than Thigpen a year ago.

The intrigue comes with McCray and Willis. Willis the much celebrated true freshman who has the tools to challenge for playing time as a true freshman. He's bigger than any running back on the roster at 6'0" and 220 pounds and he is likely the second-fastest tailback behind Thigpen. McCray, meanwhile, is back after missing most of last season with an ankle injury that turned out to be a lot more serious than IU officials ever let on. Before the injury he was getting as many carries as any tailback on the roster and averaged nearly 70 yards/game in wins over Western Michigan and Akron last fall. So ruling him out of this competition would be a mistake.

Peegs.com Top Stories