BLOOMINGTON-With a handful of bumps and bruises keeping a couple of key players on the sidelines during Wednesday morning's practice, there were opportunities for some new players to show what they could do with the first unit…
Most notable was the absence of Blake Powers during both 7-on-7 and 11-and-11 work due to a tender elbow. Powers was held out of the drills only as a precaution, and was expected to return to the practice field for Wednesday afternoon's session. His absence gave Graeme McFarland a chance to work exclusively with the No. 1 unit, and for No. 3 Kellen Lewis to get all of the reps with the No. 2 offense.
During 7-on-7, McFarland went 8-of-15, including a nice touchdown throw deep down the sidelines to Jahkeen Gilmore. He shook off an interception on his first pass attempt of 7-on-7s by Buster Larkins to make good reads and work the ball around the field. Lewis, meanwhile, completed his first six throws of 7-on-7 and wound up 8-of-15 as well, including a touchdown throw to tight end Brian Faires deep down the middle. Like McFarland Lewis also threw an interception, as second string safety Brandon Mosley picked off a throw when freshman wide receiver Nick Polk broke inside and Lewis threw the ball outside. Lewis' next throw ricocheted off the hands of freshman Chris Banks and was nearly picked off by Mosley as well.
Ultimately, though, the defense carried the day, particularly during 11-on-11 work. Indiana's front four was getting a good push against IU's No. 1 offensive line, and linebackers John Pannozzo and Kyle Killion made a handful of stops in the offensive backfield. The Hoosier defense, which appears to be a step ahead of the offense at this point during fall camp, has been throwing a lot of different looks at the IU offense and has been bringing blitzers as well, which has led to a couple of the miscues this fall from Indiana's unproven quarterbacks.
The running game, though, continues to look solid. Both Chris Taylor and Yamar Washington have been working with the No. 1 unit, while Josiah Sears looks like a player that will contribute as well. Running backs coach Gerald Brown likes the different styles that each brings to the offense.
"When we first hand our meeting, we talked about having a good mixture of backs," said Brown. "We have two good leaders in our seniors with Yamar and Chris Taylor. Josiah and Kenni Burns are kind of in the middle as far as depth and experience, and I think we have a talented group of young guys."
The younger running backs – freshmen Demetrius McCray, Justin Carrington and Bryan Payton – all look like likely redshirt candidates due to the talent and depth in front of them. Brown said that all three knew before they arrived on the Bloomington campus that there was plenty of veterans returning, and that it wouldn't be easy to crack the running back rotation in their debut seasons.
While Washington and Sears will see action at the position, it appears that Taylor will get the bulk of the work. One of four co-captains on the team along with safety Will Lumpkin, offensive lineman Adam Hines and linebacker John Pannozzo, Taylor is excited about finally getting a chance to be the No. 1 option.
"This is what I've been working toward my whole life – to get to the point where I am now, being the starting tailback," said Taylor. "It's exciting. I've been working hard for the last three years, and I'm ready for this opportunity and I'm going to try to produce."
Taylor has rushed for 1,022 yards in his IU career, including a career-high 464 as a sophomore. But he's been a backup in each of the past three seasons, including the last two behind the since-departed BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
"It's been frustrating – I'm not going to lie about that," said Taylor. "But I had to be patient. I waited my time, and now I want to take advantage of it."
The 5-11, 220-pound Taylor is good blend of speed and power, someone who has been impressive during both spring and fall camp. Brown has been impressed with the intangibles that Taylor brings to the Hoosiers as well.
"Chris has been here for four years and he's good for the team all the way around," said Brown. "He's a good competitor, he works hard, and he has a lot of chemistry in the locker room. He brings a lot to this team in a lot of different ways."
NEWS AND NOTES:
- Emile Bass has been cleared to practice and is expected on the practice field on Thursday afternoon. The 6-3, 275-pounder from Detroit will still have to go through the five-day acclimation period, meaning he won't be able to go twice during the days that IU has two-a-day practices. By the time IU breaks camp next week, though, he'll be ready to go in full pads.
- In addition to Powers, other players who were absent on Wednesday included wide receiver/kick returner Lance Bennett (knee), safety Aaron Mitchell (sprained neck), wide receiver James Hardy (foot), wide receiver Andrew Means (shoulder) and cornerback Rayshun Calhoun (ankle). All of the injuries are considered day-to-day, and Powers, Bennett and Hardy were all expected to participate in Wednesday afternoon's practice.
- There's little question that a handful of freshmen will make the travel team when IU heads to Mt. Pleasant, Mich., for its Sept. 2 opener against Central Michigan. At this point in camp, likely candidates include defensive end Jammie Kirlew; quarterback Kellen Lewis; linebacker Geno Johnson; defensive end Neal Jones; and wide receivers Andrew Means, Brandon Walker-Roby and Nick Polk.
- the placekicking and kickoff job appears to still be very much up in the air. It remains a possibility that the Hoosiers could redshirt kicker Joe Kleinsmith. If they do that, Austin Starr would likely handle the kickoff duties. Starr has an excellent league and can consistently get the ball to the goal line.
- Brandon Hatcher continues to work with the No. 1 offensive line. The No. 2 offensive line currently consists of Scott Anderson and Sean Edmundson at tackle; Brandon Joyce and Jonathan Sandberg at guard; and Ben Wyss at center. The second-string defensive line features true freshman Jammie Kirlew at one defensive end spot, Joe Kremer and Charlie Emerson at defensive tackle and Kenny Kendal at the other end spot. While Kendal has been playing with the No. 2s, in passing situations he's expected to be on the field this fall, with Victor Adeyanju moving inside to tackle in place of Greg Brown.