FB Camp: Day Five Practice Report

Bloomington - The Hoosiers concluded the acclimation period Tuesday and go full contact for the first time Tuesday. After Tuesday's practice, Bill Lynch talked about going full contact, what he's seen from Mitch Ewald, the battle for the No. 2 quarterback job, and more...

Bloomington – At least as far as the NCAA is concerned, the Indiana football team is now acclimated to its fall camp.

After practicing on back-to-back humid, 90-plus degree days, Coach Bill Lynch's team got a bit of a reprieve from the weather on the fifth and final day of the NCAA-mandated "acclimation period" of fall camp. Dressed in full pads for the first time, the Hoosiers went through their final tune-up before they start going full contact Wednesday.

"Now we get to tackle and get after it pretty good tomorrow," Lynch said. "And I think we're ready to do that. Things always change when you go live a little bit."

With five practices now under their collective belt, Lynch says he also feels good about how much the team has been able to get installed in the early going, thanks in large part to the return of so many starters from last year's squad.

"It's hard to put it all in perspective, but this team is pretty far ahead with what we've been able to give them and what they've been able to handle," Lynch said.

That's been true on both sides of the ball, and it's produced some relative stalemates with the units have squared off in either 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 situations.

On Tuesday, the offense was particularly sharp during the day's opening 11-on-11 session. The opening play featured a deep sideline route that went for a touchdown from Ben Chappell to Damarlo Belcher. Two plays late, Tandon Doss broke free for a big gain on a reverse that was keyed by a big block from Terrance Turner.

But later during 7-on-7s in the red zone, the defense had its own highlights. Chappell was just 4-of-11 passing during the drill, often being forced to throw the ball away due to good coverage downfield. Dusty Kiel and Adam Follett both had balls picked off during the session, with freshman Lawrence Barnett picking off a Kiel throw and Jerimy Finch coming down with a tipped Follett pass.

"Sometimes you get into preseason camp and one side of the ball is drastically better than the other and the other has to catch up," Lynch said. "It doesn't seem that way."

Other notable items from Tuesday:

- Three more players were sidelined due to minor injuries. Projected No. 1 defensive tackle is day-to-day with a toe injury, while defensive tackle Terrance Thomas and linebacker Chad Sherer are also day-to-day with head injuries. Defensive tackle Mick Mentzer hobbled off the field midway through practice as well, but appeared fine by the close of the day.

- Wide receiver coach Billy Lynch continues to be arguably the person with the most energy on the football practice fields. Turner's block that keyed Doss' big gainer on the reverse had Lynch jumping on Turner's back to celebrate the play.

- Chappell might have been only 4-of-11 passing during the 7-on-7 red zone work, but that wasn't necessarily a bad sign in Lynch's mind. While he'd prefer to see his junior quarterback finding players open for touchdowns, he doesn't want to see him forcing throws into coverage of taking sacks that could take the team out of field goal range. So from that perspective, he was pleased with Chappell's decision making.

"One of the problems we've had in the red zone is we turn the ball over or the quarterback has held it too long and taken sacks," Lynch said. "The whole emphasis is throw it away. We'll line up and play the next play or we'll kick a field goal."

- With five practices under his belt freshman Mitch Ewald is showing signs that he'll be capable of replacing Austin Starr as the team's place kicker. He's battling a couple of players for the job – most notably Nick Freeland – but Ewald is holding his own.

"He's got a great demeanor, and he has confidence, and technique-wise he's really good," Lynch said.

- while Ben Chappell is locked in as the team's No. 1 quarterback, there is clearly a competition for the No. 2 job. During the last couple of days Adam Follett, Teddy Schell, Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker have all had chances to work in during 11-on-11 and particularly 7-on-7 situations, and they'll continue to get looks in the coming days and weeks as camp continues.

"When you know who your No. 1 is, that next guy is awfully important because he's only a play away," Lynch said. "We're going to have to find out who that is. We've got some guys there who are going to compete."

That job won't be won until the coaches get a chance to see the quarterbacks scrimmage, and that will happen for the first time this weekend. Making sure everyone is ready for that scrimmage is a big reason why IU Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Matt Canada has been rotating five quarterbacks onto the field during 7-on-7 drills.

"Coach Canada is doing a good job of rotating and trying to get as many snaps as possible so that they all feel comfortable so when they do scrimmage, they've had enough practice that they have a chance to show what they can do," Lynch said. "If you throw a kid into a scrimmage and they haven't had any reps when it's not live, then they're not ready when it is."

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