Bloomington – After practicing for eight days in relative obscurity, the IU football team had some extra sets of eyes on them Tuesday afternoon at the IU practice fields.
The Big Ten Network studio crew brought their set to Bloomington Tuesday, as Gerry DiNardo, Dave Revsine and Howard Griffith took in Tuesday afternoon's 2 ½ hour practice in preparation for their preseason look at the Hoosiers. While their opinions on the Hoosiers' prospects won't be known until the show airs tonight at 9 p.m. ET, IU Coach Bill Lynch believes on-lookers are seeing an Indiana team that continues to add talent and build the sort of depth that IU fans haven't witnessed in recent years.
"We are developing more quality Big Ten football players," Lynch said.
The Big Ten Network crew weren't the only additional on-lookers Tuesday. An unusually large turnout of fans watched from the sidelines, and IU brought in a crew of Big Ten officials as well to work an extended 11-on-11 session. Lynch gave both Kellen Lewis and Ben Chappell opportunities to work with the No. 1 and No. 2 offenses to see what sort of success they'd have moving the chains, all the while utilizing the new 40-second play clock as well as IU's new no-huddle attack.
Among the interest developments Tuesday
- Statistically, Chappell and Lewis put up virtually identical numbers during 11-on-11. Chappell completed 8-of-11 throws for 65 yards, while Lewis was 8-of-14 for 62. Both relied primarily on underneath routes to move the chains, only occasionally looking to stretch the defense downfield.
Both of their big throws during 11-on-11 went to the same player – true freshman Demarlo Belcher. The late addition to the Hoosiers' 2008 class hooked up with Lewis for a 20-yard gain against the second-string defense when a tipped ball found its way into Belcher's midsection while he was laying flat out on the ground.
While that play had a bit of luck as well as skill, Belcher turned in a great play in a 30-yard pass from Chappell. Belcher took a quick sideline pass from Chappell, then spun to break a tackle by Chris Adkins and raced up field and inside the 30-yard line.
- The Hoosiers' running backs continue to be tightly bunched, but based on the units they've been playing with Marcus Thigpen appears to still be the No. 1, Demetrius McCray is the No. 2 and Bryan Payton is the No. 3. Many are expecting Darius Willis to eventually work his way into the rotations of running backs, but for the time being Willis continues to work on the third unit along with fellow freshman Alex Hunt.
One player who has gotten very little mention in media reports is Zack Davis-Walker, and he's been getting a much longer look from the IU staff as of late. The 5-8, 185-pound redshirt freshman has been getting reps with the No. 2s and also worked in on occasion with the No. 1s and brings some elusiveness to the backfield. It's still anyone's guess exactly how the IU staff will distribute the carries, but Davis-Walker appears to inserting his name into the conversation as well.
- the Hoosiers haven't had any major injuries to any of its key contributors, but they have had a few players miss some time with minor ailments. The latest additions to that list are wide receiver Andrew Means (foot) and offensive tackle Rodger Saffold (back), both of whom are listed as day-to-day. Defensive end Jammie Kirlew has also been nursing an ankle, but he's been able to go each day thus far.
- we've touched on this earlier, but for the time being freshman Adam Follett appears to be ahead of redshirt freshman Teddy Schell in the battle for the team's No. 3 quarterback job. Follett has been the first of the two on the field as of late to work with the No. 3s, although Schell is getting his share of reps as well. Schell did bounce back from an interception on 7-on-7s to hoist a nice throw to Belcher for a big gain down the sidelines.
- Bill Lynch said at his Tuesday press conference that he expects a typical amount of true freshmen to play this season, and that number has been 2-3 in the last several years. The only player I'd say it's safe to say will definitely play right away is Tandon Doss. The freshman wideout even worked in with the No. 1s a couple of times Tuesday afternoon, and it looks like he's behind only Andrew Means and Terrance Turner on IU's depth chart at the outside wide receiver position.
- one big name who is still trying to work his way into the playing rotation is redshirt freshman Jeff Boyd. One of the biggest names in the Hoosiers' 2007 class, Boyd was working with the No. 3s Tuesday afternoon alongside true freshman Larry Black. Boyd was mentioned by Lynch earlier in the day as a player in the group of defensive tackles who are physically ready to help this year. His issue, though, is that Greg Brown, Deonte Mack, Kevin Burrus and Keith Burrus all appear to be ahead of him on the depth chart.
Some of the afternoon's top plays:
- Belcher's move on Adkins was one of the day's best, turning a seemingly harmless five-yard gain into the day's biggest gainer during 11-on-11 work;
- in a match-up of the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense, the defense came out on top on a 4th-and-1 situation as defensive tackles Deonte Mack and Greg Brown got penetration into the backfield and Nick Polk came from his safety position to stop McCray for no gain. The chance for the 4th down stop had been set up the play before when Donnell Jones made a nice open field tackle of tight end Max Dedmond to force the offense into a 4th-and-1 situation;
- even when Jerimy Finch is lining up with No. 3 defense as he was Tuesday, he's still someone that makes you take notice of his abilities. Brandon Kiel completed a pass to Kyle Dietrick, but Finch came up and delivered a big hit that forced a fumble that was then recovered by Leon Beckum.
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