Bloomington – The topic of conversation Thursday at the IU practice fields was a player who might not play a snap during the 2008 season. Or, if things work out in IU's favor, it was about a player who could be one of the best players on either side of the ball this fall.
That player is Jerimy Finch.
The 6'1", 215-pound safety transferred from Florida in the spring and has been practicing with the team for the last three days. After missing Monday's practice while the university waited for the last of his paperwork to come through, Finch was in shoulder pads for the first time Thursday.
He went through individual workouts with the safeties, returned punts during special teams drills, and even got into a brief exchange with senior defensive end Ryan Marando following a hit on a punt return. He said he's still not fully recovered from the broken right ankle that ended his freshman season after only three games, but he's clearly close and glad to be in an IU uniform.
"I'm proud to be a Hoosier right now and continue to get better along with the rest of the team," Finch said.
While Finch has been cleared to practice, his hopes of playing this fall rely on an IU appeal to the NCAA to waive its rule that all Division I-A transfers sit out one season before playing at another I-A institution. There's no timetable for when the NCAA while rule on Finch's appeal, and IU Coach Bill Lynch said he's not preoccupied with the ruling.
"We're just practicing," Lynch said. "I even say it in the staff meeting. As I'm out here the first four or five days, I'm just watching players."
One of the players to watch, though, has been Finch. Lynch compared him to junior safety Nick Polk as far as his size and athleticism, and it's quickly apparent that he has a chance to be a difference maker in the IU secondary whenever he does get back on the field.
"Obviously, he's a very good athlete," Lynch said. "He gives you some size as well as speed and athleticism. He has really good ball skills. Just watching him catch punts, he's very natural at what he does. It's good to see him out here in our uniform."
Many thought they were going to be able to see Finch in the Hoosier uniform last fall, but he decommitted from IU and instead signed with Florida after the Gators' last-minute courtship. He played in three games as a freshman before suffering the ankle injury, and was expected to play outside linebacker if he'd remained in Gainesville this fall.
Finch said he's open to playing wherever the Hoosier coaching staff needs him, and Lynch said safety is the spot they thought he was best suited all along.
"We said all along we'd play him at safety going back to when we recruited him at safety," Lynch said. "But we had to get him out here first. I think he's a natural safety particularly with what we do defensively. He really fits. He's a good enough player he could play a lot of places, but we see him as a safety."
Finch wouldn't go into the reasons behind his decision to transfer to IU, and he also didn't want to go into details on his appeal other than to confirm that an appeal has been filed to allow him to play.
But he did say that returning closer to home was the right move to make.
"Florida was a good thing, I want to thank Urban Meyer and Charlie Strong and the team also," Finch said. "But I had to do what was good for me, and come back home and help out the Hoosiers."
Finch Talks About Being Back Home in Indiana
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