DECKER: No One Buys Suggestion of a QB Battle
Kellen Lewis
Kellen Lewis

Posted Jul 24, 2008


Bill Lynch might have delivered the funniest line of Big Ten Media Day. The generally stoic second-year Hoosier coach didn’t draw the same sort of laughs that Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema did when he quipped...

Bill Lynch might have delivered the funniest line of Big Ten Media Day.

The generally stoic second-year Hoosier coach didn’t draw the same sort of laughs that Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema did when he quipped that “it’s good to be at a Michigan press conference” after the Badger boss fielded back-to-back inquiries about the Wolverine program. Lynch also didn’t deliver a gem like Joe Tiller did when the outgoing Purdue coach joked that his staff had “done our part to help America be better” by introducing the spread offense to the Big Ten and our “instant gratification society.”

Actually, Lynch’s comments weren’t meant to draw laughter, but one couldn’t help but chuckle when he suggested that recently reinstated quarterback Kellen Lewis will be battling it out with sophomore Ben Chappell for the starting job this fall.

“The first part with Kellen (Lewis), it’s going to be a competitive camp,” Lynch said with a straight face. “One of the things that happens if you miss spring practice, you miss all those opportunities to get better, but it also gives someone else a chance to prove they can play, and Ben Chappell is a young guy that we think is very, very good.”

I won’t refute the suggestion that Chappell is a quality quarterback who did an admirable job throughout spring practice filling in for Lewis. While the only recollection most IU fans have of him is the interception he threw at Northwestern that likely cost the Hoosiers the game, he has proven himself to be a much better than that bad memory.

But the suggestion Chappell could be under center for the Aug. 30 season opener while Lewis is on the sidelines carting a clipboard and signaling in the play calls is, quite honestly, comical.

This is the same Kellen Lewis who re-wrote the IU record books for both passing and total offense as a sophomore. He completed 265-of-442 passes for a school-record 3,043 yards in 2007 while also leading the team with 736 rushing yards. He accounted for 37 touchdowns – including 28 through the air – both of which were new school marks.

Yes, it is also the same Kellen Lewis that was suspended indefinitely back in March for unspecified team rules violations and appeared very close to being dismissed from the team. His nearly four-month suspension left him out of spring football and unable to work with the team as it installed its new no-huddle attack.

But even Lynch admitted the time away from the field won’t present a problem for Lewis in picking up the new offensive approach.

“I’m not concerned about (picking up) the offense because we’re running the same offense,” Lynch said. “We may be using a little different tempo, but that won’t be hard. The plays are the same, the terminology, plus kids work together all summer now, so that’s not a concern.”

What Lynch probably is concerned about is giving Lewis too grandiose of a salute this early in the season. After all, whatever Lewis’ transgressions were, he clearly put something else in his life ahead of the team, and that’s not the way to do things for a football traditionalist like Lynch.

So Thursday’s suggestion that Lewis will be just one of the 100-plus players reporting to camp in a week and a half competing for a starting job is probably Lynch’s way of shining the spotlight on some of the other members of his football team who didn’t have to be disciplined in the off-season.

Lynch talked about not only Chappell, but also how pleased he’s been with the progress of the offensive line and how much improved the defense is as well.

“I say (those things) in the sense that so you’re not so reliant on one guy like Kellen to make all the plays so you can win football games,” Lynch said.

That’s true, and certainly IU will be a better football team if the offensive line takes another big step forward and the defense does the same.

But a better football team if Kellen Lewis isn’t under center? Really?

Now that’s funny.

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