Lots of Questions Facing Hoosiers This Spring

Bloomington - With the start of spring football now just one day away, IU Coach Bill Lynch has questions about his quarterback, his running back, and his offensive scheme to address. HoosierNation.com looks at some of the hot button topics for the Hoosiers during the next four weeks...

Bloomington - Indiana Football's chance to atone for last year's disappointing 3-9 campaign begins Tuesday.

That's when Coach Bill Lynch's team will hold the first of 15 spring practice sessions. The Hoosiers will generally practice on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays during the next four weeks, culminating in Cream and Crimson Spring Game at 2 p.m. on April 18.

There are plenty of questions that need to be sorted out before the Hoosiers open the season Sept. 3, and the staff would like to get as many of those answered this spring as possible. What are some of the biggest questions facing the team during the next four weeks?

- Quarterback Battle - When Kellen Lewis and Ben Chappell were dueling for the starting quarterback job last fall, few observers thought it was truly a position that was up in the air. Lewis' 2007 accomplishments made him the obvious choice as the starter heading into the '08 season, and that was the direction the staff opted to go. The situation is different this time around. Lewis (110-of-193, 1,131 yards, 6 TDs, 8 INTs) was only moderately better statistically than Chappell (80-of-153, 1,001 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs) last season, and a case could be made that the offense was more effective overall when Chappell was on the field. This doesn't appear to be a position battle that's tipped in anyone's favor to start the season, which should make it worth watching closely this spring.

- "Pistol" Offense - Indiana's offensive coaches traveled to the University of Nevada earlier this year to study Coach Chris Ault's "Pistol" offense, which features a modified shotgun set-up to the spread attack. It's unclear whether Indiana plans to utilize a "Pistol" package, or if it's going to go to the new formation full-time. The formation – which has the quarterback lined up three yards behind center instead of the traditional seven for the shotgun – is supposed to free up more options with the running game. That would be good news for the Hoosiers, who averaged a respectable 166.9 yards/game on the ground, but relied a great deal on the big-play and struggled to move the chains in short yardage situations.

- What will Indiana do at Running Back - Ever since he announced his decision to play at Indiana, Hoosier fans have been anxiously awaiting the day that Darius Willis would get a chance to show off his skills. He'll get his chance to do just that this spring, when he's expected to compete with the likes of Bryan Payton and Demetrius McCray for the starting job. Indiana figures to once again rotate tailbacks in the fall, but Willis is some new blood to a stable of running backs that has basically included the same names for the last three seasons. He's probably the biggest "name" recruit Indiana has had in some time, and this spring we'll start to see whether or not he'll have a commensurate type of impact on the program.

- Ray Fisher at Cornerback – A familiar face is in a new place, as The 5'9" Fisher has moved from slot receiver to cornerback. Coming out of high school there were a lot of talent evaluators who thought Fisher was better suited to play in the defensive backfield, but Indiana's coaches always liked his big-play abilities with the ball in his hands. But with the emergence of Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher at wide receiver and the realization that more quality covermen are needed on the roster, Fisher will make the move to defense for his senior season. How he adjusts – and where he fits in on the two-deep – will be interesting to watch. Full-time '09 starter Chris Adkins (54 tackles, 4 PBUs) returns and figures to be in the starting lineup again this season. That would presumably leave Fisher battling with Richard Council and Donnell Jones for the other starting spot.

- Are the big names on defense going to make a big impact – While 2008 team MVP Jammie Kirlew (74 tackles, 10 ½ sacks, 19 ½ tackles for loss) had a monster season last fall, his huge performance was offset by the disappointing efforts by fellow defense end Greg Middleton and safety Jerimy Finch. The NCAA's sack leader in 2007 with 16, Middleton had only four in 2008 to go along with 18 tackles. Finch, meanwhile, was a near non-factor at safety. The Florida transfer played in only five games as a back-up while battling injuries and totaled just six tackles. He was unable to not only uproot either Austin Thomas or Nick Polk for a starting spot, but to beat out Joe Kleinsmith for the No. 3 safety role. Both Middleton and Finch are gifted athletes who could have a huge impact on the IU defense in the fall. If that's going to happen, it needs to start taking place this spring.


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