Bloomington – While most of his teammates were in full pads Wednesday, left tackle Rodger Saffold found himself in shorts and on the sidelines Wednesday.
His absence from practice, though, isn't a result of any injury that's cropped up as of late. Instead, IU Coach Bill Lynch said the staff has planned to limit Saffold's time on the practice field during the week. Saffold missed more than a week of fall camp due to his back, and Lynch knows how important his availability is on game days.
This week, Saffold practiced on both Monday and Tuesday before sitting out Wednesday. Lynch said Saffold will be back at practice Thursday as the team continues its preparation for Saturday's 7 p.m. match-up with Murray State.
It's an approach that Lynch said they'll probably take with left guard Pete Saxon as well. Saxon practiced most of the afternoon Wednesday, but Lynch said they've also talked about limiting his practice reps as well until he's fully recovered from an ankle injury suffered in camp.
While Saffold and Saxon figure to be ready to go against the Racers, wide receiver Ray Fisher's availability is in doubt. The junior wide receiver injured his shoulder late in the second quarter against Western Kentucky and didn't return to the game.
"With Ray, we'll have to see where," Lynch said. "By sometime end of the day (Thursday) we'll have a better idea."
Damarlo Belcher was the first freshman to see the field in the opener, and there's a very good chance that a second newcomer will get on the field this weekend. Fellow freshman wideout Tandon Doss is back at practice after suffering a shoulder injury in the final week of camp, and he's back working in with the No. 1 and No. 2 offense.
"If he can get through (Thursday) like he has the last two days, I think there's a good chance he'll play Saturday," Lynch said.
Doss appeared to be a sure-fire contributor from day one, but an academic issue with the NCAA's Eligibility Center sidelined him for a couple of days during fall camp. Upon his return, he suffered the shoulder injury on his first day back and was sidelined for a week.
While Doss was sidelined, Belcher used the opportunity to catapult himself from a likely redshirt into an immediate contributor. The 6'5", 204-pounder from Ft. Wayne's Northside H.S. saw action Saturday and caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Kellen Lewis in the third quarter.
Belcher has surprised many on-lookers with his meteoric rise up the depth chart, but not himself.
"I'm not surprised," Belcher said Wednesday. "I worked hard every day to get the No. 1 and No. 2 reps. Coach told me to work on my technique so that's what I did and I've gotten onto the field."
Belcher is already drawing comparisons to fellow Ft. Wayne product James Hardy, who re-wrote the IU record book during his career before being a second-round NFL draft pick in the spring. Belcher knew the comparisons would come since both are from Ft. Wayne and both were accomplished basketball players, but it's not necessarily something he wants heaped on his shoulders.
"People were saying it even before I came to IU, so I knew they were going to compare me to James," Belcher said. "But I don't want to be compared to James."
Belcher was the final member of IU's '08 recruiting class, signing in the spring after the February signing date. A 2007 graduate of Ft. Wayne North Side H.S., Belcher spent the 2007-08 season at Ware Prep in Atlanta before coming to IU this fall.
Indiana's roster has expanded to 111 players with the recent addition of DeAundre "Dre" Muhammed. A wide receiver from Ft. Wayne Harding H.S., Muhammed has transferred to IU after starting out as a walk-on at Purdue. He'll have to sit out the 2008-09 season.
The play of the day at practice had to belong to freshman wide receiver Shane Covington, who was working with the scout team against the No. 1 offense. Covington pulled in a Teddy Schell throw near the sideline, and his momentum took him crashing into the padded scissors lift truck where IU's managers film each practice. Covington was quickly aided by medical staff members, and after about five minutes re-emerged from the pads and didn't appear to have any significant injuries.
Wednesday Football Practice Report
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