Bloomington – Some new names popped onto the radar during Saturday's football scrimmage.
While Ben Chappell is clearly the Hoosiers' No. 1 quarterback, redshirt freshman Dusty Kiel made a statement with his 14-of-16, 129-yard effort. Redshirt freshmen tight end Ted Bolser (5 catches, 46 yards, 1 TD) and quarterback Edward Wright-Baker (5-of-7, 26 yards, 1 TD) also did some good things for Coach Bill Lynch's offense.
Those are more offensive weapons for an Indiana attack that is already expected to be as potent as its been in years.
What isn't talked about, though, is the group up front that is going to key the success for the Indiana offense. Whether it's Chappell or Tandon Doss, Darius Willis or Damarlo Belcher, the offensive line will go a long way in determining how much better Indiana is offensively this fall.
"Up front with the offensive line, that's going to be the most vital point to our offense this year and we're going to need those guys, count on those guys," Willis said.
One of the players Willis knows he can count on is 6'8", 331-pound fifth-year senior right tackle James Brewer. While Brewer has long been the biggest of the bunch along the Hoosiers' offensive line, he's also now one of the most experienced. Guard Justin Pagan has a slight edge in career starts over Brewer (16-12), but Brewer is now getting ready to conclude his fifth fall football camp. That experience makes him a natural for the younger players to turn to with questions.
"I'm not a big verbal guy, but I feel the young guys have kind of a source to talk to if they have questions," Brewer said. "I've been in their shoes, and I can kind of guide them."
The Indianapolis Arlington H.S. product believes it's a pretty good group of players that he can help guide. While Indiana does have to replace second-round NFL Draft pick Rodger Saffold at left tackle and Pete Saxon at right guard, Brewer, Pagan and center Will Matte all return as starters, and there is plenty of competition for spots on the Hoosiers' two-deep.
"I think there's not that big of a gap of talent between the starters and the back-up," Brewer said. "If I got hurt, I'd have just as much confidence in who was going in for me. That's true at most of the positions on the line."
A big reason for that is because of the development of some of the younger players. While many of those youngsters haven't been pressed into duty yet during their collegiate careers, Brewer says he's seen enough from several of them that convinces him they'll be ready if called upon.
"Two guys that have stood out to me are (Aaron) Price and Colin Rodkey," Brewer said of a pair of redshirt freshmen battling for spots on the two-deep. "Price showed signs he'd be ready to play really soon last year, and he's really stepped up. Rodkey has made some big jumps from his freshman year, especially in pass protection."
All of that adds up to a group that Brewer believes can open the holes that the running game needs while also providing Chappell with enough time to find his targets down field. Equally important is the fact that unlike in years in the recent past, the Hoosier offensive line might be better equipped to handle an injury or two in the starting five without suffering a major drop-off in production.
"We can be as good as we want to be," Brewer said. "It's about the guys buying into what we're doing, getting on the same page and getting our chemistry together."
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