Bloomington – Bill Lynch knows a couple of members of his freshman class will play this fall, but the question remains about which ones.
A year ago IU played only two true freshmen – linebacker Tyler Replogle and safety Mitchell Evans. In 2006 Greg Middleton, Will Patterson, Ray Fisher, Matt Mayberry, Rodger Saffold and Pete Saxon were among the first-year players who got on the field immediately.
So who will be out there in 2008? Lynch said it’s question that remains unanswered, and one that will depend on both who’s ready and who’s at a position that will afford an opportunity.
“What happens in the next 10 days from an injury standpoint will dictate (which freshmen could play),” Lynch said. “The grind of camp plays an important role in who plays as a true freshman. One, how do the older guys stay healthy, because the longer they stay healthy, the less opportunities there are for the young guys. And the other thing is how do the new guys handle the grind of camp.”
One player who appears to be well positioned to play immediately is wide receiver Tandon Doss. With Andrew Means listed as day-to-day with a foot injury, Doss worked with the No. 1 unit Wednesday morning at an outside wide receiver position. Doss has been making the most of the opportunity, catching a deep touchdown pass down the sideline from Kellen Lewis during 7-on-7 drills Wednesday.
Wide receiver figured to be a spot where freshmen could challenge for immediate playing time, and fellow freshman Tyler Adetona is another player who could see the field this fall at an inside wide receiver position. The recent move of Mitchell Evans to the slot could present a new obstacle for Adetona, but he does appear to be the second most likely freshman to play immediately.
“I think wide receiver is the first place from a numbers standpoint because of how many we play,” Lynch said.
But after those two, no one appears to be a certainty to play this fall. Darius Willis has impressed at running back, but there are five other running backs on the roster in Marcus Thigpen, Demetrius McCray, Bryan Payton, Zach Davis-Walker and Trea Burgess who are getting work with the No. 1s and No. 2s while Willis works with the 3s. At cornerback, Cortez Smith has been considered a possibility to play as well, but he’s been working with the No. 3s lately as well while Richard Council, Donnell Jones and Chris Adkins compete for the second starting spot.
“We’ll have a few (who will play),” Lynch said. “We’ve been playing two or three (the last couple of years), and I think it will be something similar to that.”
WEDNESDAY PRACTICE NOTES
- the team’s injury list has grown the last couple of days, although none of the injuries appear to be things that will keep anyone out for an extended period of time. Among those sidelined Wednesday were Means (foot), Saffold (back), Kevin Burrus (shoulder), Adrian Burks (groin), Aaron Burks (leg) and Jammie Kirlew (ankle), with all of those injuries considered to be just day-to-day. Also out are Marc Damisch (ankle), Isaac Price (knee) and Brian Zematis (illness).
- during 7-on-7 passing drills, Ben Chappell received the majority of the work, completing 10-of-16 passes, including one ball that was intercepted by Joe Kleinsmith. Kellen Lewis, meanwhile, was 5-of-6 during his reps, highlighted by the touchdown strike to Doss. Teddy Schell worked with the No. 3s and was 3-for-3 on his throws, and Brandon Kiel got a chance to get some work as well and was 5-for-5, capped by a TD strike to Demarlo Belcher who got behind Cortez Smith and scored.
- the morning practice concluded with a team pass session, where the offense was presented with a variety of second down situations. During each five-play set, the offense’s goal was to gain at least half of the yards toward a first down. Both Chappell and Lewis worked a set with both the No. 1 offense and No. 2 offense, and Lewis was successful on three out of five second-down plays with each unit. Chappell, meanwhile, was 2-of-5 with the No. 1 offense and 1-of-5 with the No. 2s.
- in the daily cornerback watch, Chris Phillips and Richard Council worked with the No. 1s, Adkins and Jones were with the No. 2s, and Cortez Smith and Peter St. Fort were with the No. 3s.
- one player who it’s hard to figure out how big of a role he’ll play is redshirt freshman wideout Matt Ernest. Ernest turned in plenty of big plays in camp last fall and showed signs of being a contributor this year. He might be getting a little overshadowed by the incoming freshman class thus far this fall, but he does figure to be a player who’s somewhere in the rotation. One of the things working in his favor is that he’s someone who can play either as an inside or outside wide receiver. He worked at both spots during 7-on-7 passing Wednesday and caught three balls.
- Terrance Turner had a couple of very nice plays during the team pass session. He started it off by hooking up with Chappell for a nice 25-yard plus gain, where he managed to make the catch while falling backwards against tight coverage from Chris Phillips. He later made a huge play to allow the offense to move the chains by delivering a big block. Kellen Lewis threw a quick out to Brandon Walker-Roby, and Turner delivered a nice block on Chris Phillips that allowed Walker-Roby to get into the secondary, move the chains, and give the offense a “win” on the tie-breaking play during the five-play team pass sequence.
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