Bloomington – Kellen Lewis closed fall camp not knowing what to expect.
While the Hoosiers' record-setting quarterback had rejoined his teammates in July, he hadn't reclaimed his starting job after three weeks of fall practice. He shared reps with Ben Chappell on the No. 1 offense all month, and Chappell played well enough to create serious doubt who would be under center when the Hoosiers' opened the season Aug. 30 against Western Kentucky.
Lewis admitted he didn't know whether he'd won the quarterback job or not.
"I saw enough and heard enough in the spring to know (Chappell) wasn't going to come in and lay down and say, ‘well, Kellen is back, so he's obviously the starter,'" Lewis said. "We both went out and competed. Coming out of camp I had absolutely no idea who was going to be the starter."
Lewis' uncertainty came to an end Tuesday morning when he and Chappell met with Coach Bill Lynch. Lynch informed the duo that Lewis would be the starter for the opener and Chappell would be the back-up.
While Lewis picked up his play significantly as the camp went along, IU Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada said the decision wasn't based so much on Lewis out-performing Chappell in camp as it was about Lewis' productivity last year. Lewis set a new IU single season record with 3,777 yards of total offense and 37 touchdowns while leading the Hoosiers to their first bowl game since 1993.
"People were looking for someone to jump out, it wasn't because someone didn't play well, it was because they both played so good," Canada said. "We didn't turn it over, we threw it to the open guys, we did a great job moving the offense. We have two very, very good quarterbacks, and Kellen Lewis is going to be the starter based on the experience and the job he's done, the production he's had as a quarterback at Indiana University in the fall."
Lewis said he's relieved to have the job back, but he's also well aware that there's a very capable back-up waiting in the wings if he struggles. While that scenario probably didn't seem realistic a year ago, Chappell performed well enough in the spring and the fall to give the IU staff confidence he can be a winning quarterback if given the opportunity to lead the team.
"There's a sense of relief and sense of urgency knowing I won it by the skin of my teeth," Lewis said. "If I go into the first game and throw three interceptions and fumble, there's no reason not to bring in Ben Chappell and let him give it a spin. He's shown he can lead the offense and score points."
Tuesday's announcement that Lewis would once again be the team's starter caps a challenging off-season for the junior quarterback, who appeared on the brink of not being back with the team after being suspended in March.
"I expected Kellen to be back, I thought he'd be back, he wanted to be at Indiana, he wanted to be the quarterback here," Canada said. "Did I think it would be a tough decision (on who the starter would be)? I sure did. Because we have two real good quarterbacks and we showed that through the spring and through the fall."
Lewis Talks About Winning QB Competition
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