FB NOTEBOOK: Stark's Career Might Be Over

Bloomington - With Mike Stark's career possibly over due to a back injury, IU needed an older offensive lineman to fill the void. More on Stark's situation and much more in our spring football notebook...

Bloomington – Mike Stark's days of playing football might be over.

IU Coach Bill Lynch said Tuesday that a back problem that hasn't responded to treatment is likely to end the career of the 6'7", 300-pound junior from Platteville, Wis. Stark, who started 11 games last fall, would receive a medical redshirt so he could complete his academic program at IU.

"I think his career is probably over," Lynch said.

The probable loss of Stark prompted Indiana to sign junior college offensive lineman Jordan Marquette earlier this month. The 6-3, 295-pounder played at Huntington Beach (Cal.) H.S. before spending the last two seasons at Fullerton (Cal.) Community College.

"We really think he's a good prospect and fits what we're looking for right now…we felt we were a man short with an older kid," Lynch said. "So we felt we needed to find an older guy rather than another high school kid.

"This kid really is a good football player. Comes from a good high school program and a good junior college league. We brought him on campus and really liked him."

More News and Notes:

- a couple of players have been added to the injury list. Junior offensive lineman Alex Perry recently injured his knee during conditioning and will undergo knee surgery April 1. Senior defensive end Jammie Kirlew, meanwhile, had surgery over spring break to deal with a lingering groin/hip injury. Both are expected back in time for fall camp.

- Lynch said the four players who underwent ACL surgeries are progressing well. Safeties Austin Thomas and Nick Polk are both expected to do very little during spring ball as a precaution, while wide receiver Charles Love will be running routes during position drills but won't participate in contact drills. Punter Chris Hagerup, meanwhile, might do limited punting on the side but won't be in any live punting drills behind a line.

- there remains a possibility that linebacker Will Patterson will participate in spring drills in a limited capacity. Patterson injured his wrist while working out on his own in the off-season, but Lynch said he might get the green light to practice. "They might decide to cast it up and let him go," Lynch said. "Now, if he's out there running around, we'll be real smart with him."

- One of the areas that needs the most improvement from a year ago is the offensive line. While many of the players who will wind up on the two-deep are familiar names, but Lynch said they've made some noticeable changes since they arrived on campus. Sophomore Justin Pagan has gained 105 pounds on his bench press since last August, while oft-injured reserve tackle James Brewer has improved his bench by around 150 pounds. The most experienced lineman – Rodger Saffold – is also benching more than 100 pounds more than he did as a freshman and Lynch said Saffold's leg press was "higher than any I've ever seen."

Lynch is hoping that the improved strength will translate into an ability to get some of the tough yards on the ground that Indiana was generally unable to get during last season's 3-9 campaign.

"If you're going to try to run the ball, you have to be able to win it up front," Lynch said.

- Indiana is looking for improved leadership this season, and it's formed a leadership council in an effort to get it. Lynch said the staff identified 14 players to make up that council, and it's comprised of nine seniors and five juniors. The council meets weekly – sometimes with the staff, and sometimes with just themselves.

One of the biggest tasks of the council is to hold everyone on the team accountable during the off-season. Indiana's spring practice season ends April 18, and the IU staff won't be able to work with the team again until the start of fall camp.

"Developing leadership is so important," Lynch said. "When it's all said and done, at the end of the season, I don't care what sport it is…someone wins a championship or has a great year, and they always talk about the great leadership and the great chemistry on the team. Generally, the first thing out of their mouth isn't, ‘we're the most talented team you ever saw.' That's not what you hear. And it so true."

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