Bloomington – Ask anyone on the IU coaching staff about the prospects of a specific true freshman playing this season and you're sure to get the same answer.
Too early to tell.
Understandably, Coach Bill Lynch isn't ready to make that sort of call on 18-year-olds who have only been practicing for 10 days. There's also the chance that an injury or two could pave the way for someone to get on the field this year that currently might appear to be destined to redshirt.
But based on what we've seen unfold in practice and who is returning from last year's team, HoosierNation.com is willing to roll the dice and look at each freshman's chances of playing this season.
Going through the '08 class in alphabetical order…
Tyler Adetona, WR – Adetona has been working with both the No. 2s and No. 3s at an inside receiver position and appears likely to play this season. He's behind Ray Fisher and Brandon Walker-Roby on the depth chart, and the addition of Mitchell Evans to the position could make playing time a little less plentiful. But IU plays a slew of wide receivers with its four and five wide receiver sets, and Adetona is physically ready to play. He's the second most likely newcomer to play in our books, and I'd put his odds at 75 percent.
Demarlo Belcher, WR – There's been a lot to like about Belcher this fall. He's big, athletic and has been making a lot of plays during the second week of camp. He looks like a very good last-minute find for the staff, but his chances of playing this season are pretty remote. With Andrew Means, Terrance Turner, Tandon Doss and Matt Ernest among those who would likely get the nod at an outside wide receiver spot before him, he's less than 10 percent to play this year.
Larry Black, Jr., DT – Black is another example of a player who has done some nice things this fall, but he has no chance of playing this year to depth at the position. Black has been getting some reps with the No. 3s, but Greg Brown, Deonte Mack, Keith Burrus, Kevin Burrus and Jeff Boyd are all players who would get on the field first.
Shane Covington, WR – Covington made the switch from running back to inside receiver at the start of camp, and he'll be redshirting this season. He runs good routes and has good hands, but he won't get his first chance for playing time until 2009.
Marc Damisch, OT – Indiana played a couple of true freshmen on the offensive line in 2006 when Saffold and Saxon played, but none of the linemen will play this fall. Damisch is a quality prospect who needs to add weight in the next year.
Tandon Doss, WR – Barring something unforeseen, Doss will play this season. He has shown off great hands since the start of practice, and he has good size and deceptive speed. He appears to be No. 3 among IU's outside receivers behind Terrance Turner and Andrew Means, and that will get him the field early and often this season.
Alex Hunt, RB – The abundance of options at tailback guarantees that this 6-0, 205-pounder will redshirt this year. He has very good size and has been splitting time with Darius Willis on the No. 3 unit, but there are simply too many quality veterans for Hunt to have a legitimate chance at working his way into the tailback rotation.
Adam Follett, QB – Follett has shown plenty of promise this fall, but he's certain to redshirt this season. There appeared to be a chance that he could have wound up being the team's No. 3 quarterback which could have pressed him into duty if Kellen Lewis and Ben Chappell were injured, but Teddy Schell was with the No. 3s Wednesday, and it's a better bet that Follett runs the scout team this year so he can preserve the year of eligibility.
Kyle Kozak, DE – Kozak turned some heads with his play during the spring, arriving at IU in January so he could get a head start on his IU career and give himself a chance to play as a freshman. But barring some injuries, Kozak will redshirt this year. Greg Middleton, Jammie Kirlew, Ryan Marando and Fred Jones are all ahead of him on the depth chart, and a couple of players would have to go down for Kozak to get in the rotation.
Charles Love III, WR – Love is another young wide receiver with a lot of potential, but he'll spend the year as a redshirt polishing his route running so that he's ready to be a factor in 2009. Doss and Adetona appear to be more ready at this point to be contributors.
Will Matte, C – As was the case with Damisch, Matte is certain to redshirt this season. He'll spend the year looking to add to his 6'2", 270-pound frame and then be ready to compete for a spot in the two deep in 2009.
Mick Mentzer, DT – Mentzer is at defensive tackle for now, although there's a possibility down the road that he could switch to offensive line if there's more of a need on that side of the ball. In spite of that versatility, though, Mentzer will redshirt in 2008.
Justin Pagan, OT – Along with A.J. Thompson, Pagan is probably the freshman lineman who is big enough to play at the Big Ten level without a great deal of work in the weight room. But that won't get him on the field this season – he'll be redshirted.
Chad Sherer, OLB – The IU staff likes Sherer's athleticism at linebacker and thinks he can develop into a quality outside linebacker, but at only 6'0" and 205 pounds he's going to need this season to redshirt and put on weight. Linebacker is a position where IU has very good depth, so Sherer has been down on the fourth string this fall.
Nick Sliger, DT – This is another one who has a chance to be a really good player down the road, but Sliger's chances of playing immediately are extremely slim. There's too much depth at the defensive tackle position for any freshman to be able to crack Brian George's rotation.
Cortez Smith, CB – Smith is one of a handful of freshmen who has a chance to play this year, but with where things stand right now he's probably less than 50/50 to play this season. On Wednesday he was on the No. 3 unit, sitting behind Chris Phillips, Richard Council, Donnell Jones and Chris Adkins on the depth chart. If those players struggle cornerbacks coach Joe Palcic could always opt to give Smith a look, because he's said he has the physical tools to play now. But for now, the money is on Smith redshirting this season.
A.J. Thompson, OG – Thompson got some got great reps and experience in the spring as an early enrollee, but that won't get him on the field this year. Like the rest of the offensive linemen, there's too much experience to have a legitimate chance to cracking the two deep this year.
Peter St. Fort, CB – St. Fort was on the No. 3 unit with Smith, but he doesn't have the same sort of chance to get on the field this season. He'll certainly be redshirted this season.
Darius Willis, RB – Many assumed it was a foregone conclusion that Willis would play this season, but at this point it's probably 50/50 at best that he'll see the field. Indiana has used five other running backs ahead of him so far (Thigpen, McCray, Payton, Burgess and Davis-Walker), so he has some work to do if he's going to get in the running back rotation. As badly as many IU fans might want to see Willis play, the staff doesn't want to waste a year of his eligibility if he's going only get a limited number of carries.
Which Freshmen Will Play?
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