Bloomington – Indiana will be lacking more than just a record-setting performer at the quarterback position this fall.
It will also be lacking a lot of the drama that engulfed the program at times during the last 15 months.
While Indiana will certainly miss the dual-threat capabilities of the dismissed Kellen Lewis this fall, it won’t regret the absence of the controversy and questions that came along with him ever since he was first suspended from the team in the spring of 2008.
Lewis’ off-season exit has paved the way for Ben Chappell to be the unquestioned No.1 quarterback for Coach Bill Lynch’s team and a leader on the field and in the locker room. He’ll now be entrusted with helping the Hoosiers put last year’s 3-9 season behind them and bouncing back with a much more successful 2009 campaign.
Chappell will be the same sort of run-pass threat that Lewis was – nothing even remotely close. He probably won’t be able to produce the quantity of big plays in the passing game that Lewis did, either, unless IU’s ground game is proficient enough to force opponents to inch their safeties into the box to defend the run. Instead, he’ll have to rely on his ability to make good decisions, move the chains, and put together long, sustained drives that take time off the clock.
While splitting time with Lewis a year ago, Chappell showed he’s capable of doing that. He was under center for the duration in IU’s lone win in its final 10 games (a 21-19 victory over Northwestern), and statistically he was an equal footing with Lewis by season’s end.
With Chappell a lock to start this fall, the question will be how things shake out as far as the No. 2 and No. 3 signal callers. Mitchell Evans was pressed into duty a year ago due to injury but has returned to wide receiver and figures to remain there. That will leave two returnees and two true freshmen left to battle for spots on the depth chart and travel team.
As Indiana prepares for the start of camp, the odds-on favorite to land the No. 2 job is redshirt freshman Adam Follett. The Michigan product has great size (6’5”, 230 pounds) and a big arm and was the team’s No. 3 a year ago. In an effort to save his redshirt season, the staff opted to not burn his redshirt when Lewis and Chappell were saddled with injuries.
Also back is sophomore Teddy Schell, who saw action against Wisconsin last season and completed 1-of-4 passes for six yards. Schell doesn’t have the same sort of arm strength as Follett, but he did impress on-lookers with his play during spring ball. He capped a solid spring with a 9-of-11, 130-yard effort in the spring game, including a game-winning 48-yard touchdown pass to Chris Banks. Most on-lookers would agree that Schell out-performed Follett in that contest (Follett was 6-of-9 for 64 yards, one TD, one INT and was sacked three times), so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a solid fall camp could have the coaches considering Schell for back-up duties.
Depending on how those two returnees perform could go a long way in determining if true freshmen Dusty Kiel or Edward Wright-Baker have any shot at a spot on the travel team. Both Indiana natives come to IU with lofty credentials following big high school careers, and they are two of the more highly-regarded signal callers the program has landed in years.
The odds are high that both will redshirt, but there are those who think Kiel has the make-up to contend for the No. 2 job this fall. He put up monstrous numbers as a senior, completing 160-of-252 passes for 3,130 yards and 35 touchdowns while throwing just seven interceptions. He added another 1,165 yards rushing and 15 more scores, giving him a hand in 50 touchdowns last fall while helping Columbus East to a 13-1 record.
While the numbers are impressive, it’s Kiel’s make-up that has many thinking he’d be capable of handling the back-up role as a true freshman. He’s been around the game all of his life, and his family has a track record of producing college quarterbacks. Those who know him best say he lives and breaths football, and he was at each of IU’s 15 spring practices in an effort to get up-to-speed with IU’s system as quickly as possible.
“We can’t wait to see what we have in our young quarterbacks,” Lynch said.
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