Bloomington – Could Nick Zachery be next season’s surprise?
Last season, offensive tackle Justin Pagan and wide receiver Demarlo Belcher were surprise contributors as true freshmen, getting the opportunity to play while higher-profile recruits such as Darius Willis wound up redshirting. In 2007 it was Mitchell Evans and Tyler Replogle who wound up playing in their debut season while bigger names like Jeff Boyd and Darius Johnson sat out.
While Indiana’s 2009 recruiting class figures to be one of IU’s best in recent memory, history suggests that a less-heralded player will get a chance to play right away. Zachery would love to be that player.
“I’m going to work hard in the off-season and in the summer, and hopefully I’ll get a chance to play as a true freshman,” Zachery said. “But if not, I’ll work hard throughout the rest of the season and hopefully get better so I can start as a redshirt freshman.”
The 6-1, 195-pounder from Sheridan (Ind.) H.S. won’t be the most heralded recruit in IU’s recruiting class, but he does come with some impressive credentials. He led Sheridan to three consecutive Class A state titles from 2005-07 and a runner-up finish this past season.
As the team’s quarterback this past fall Zachery didn’t throw the ball much (20-of-49 for 396 yards and four touchdowns), but he did put up huge numbers on the ground. Zachery rushed 231 times for 1,967 yards and 31 touchdowns, including a 26-carry, 214-yard effort in the state final loss to Cardinal Ritter.
But Zachery did more than simply play quarterback – he was also a standout safety, punt returner, and punter. This past fall Zachery also scored touchdowns via the interception return (5), punt return (2), fumble return (1) and pass reception (1), giving him 40 touchdowns on the season.
Zachery’s versatility is a huge asset, and he said he found out he’ll start out his IU career at safety two weeks ago when he was on campus for his IU official visit.
“Coach (Bill) Lynch asked where I’d feel most comfortable starting out, and I told him I’d rather start at safety because I haven’t played anywhere else other than quarterback in my life,” Zachery said. “I knew I wouldn’t be playing quarterback, so I thought safety would be best.”
It’s a similar path to the one followed by Evans, who was Zachery’s host during his official visit. After spending the first week of his first fall camp at quarterback Evans switched to safety and wound up being one of only two true freshmen to play in 2007. Evans wound up switching back to offense in the fall of ’08 and saw time as both a wide receiver as well as a quarterback in certain situations.
The Indiana staff continues to come up with different ways to put Evans’ versatility to use, and the thought is that Zachery could wind up being a very similar type of player.
“(The IU staff) has said there are a lot of similarities between me and Mitchell, and that’s why they set me up with him as my host because he did all of that in high school,” Zachery said. “They’re going to do the same thing with me – start me out at safety and go from there.”
Time will tell if there’s an opportunity in the defensive backfield right away next season. Indiana will return Nick Polk, Austin Thomas and Jerimy Finch in the fall, although Polk and Thomas are returning from season-ending knee injuries and Finch underwent surgery as well last week.
The health of those players will likely determine whether or not Zachery gets a chance to play right away. But no matter how that unfolds, Zachery says he’s excited to be headed to Bloomington in the fall.
“I’ve always been 100 percent sure about Indiana,” Zachery said. “The only official visit I’m going to take is to Indiana. That’s the only place I wanted to go.”
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