Bloomington – As far as Justin Pagan is concerned, it's put up or shut up time starting this…
FB CAMP: Pagan's Availability In Doubt
The 6'5", 311-pound sophomore left guard was wearing a protective boot on his lower right leg at practice Wednesday. IU Coach Bill Lynch said Pagan was rolled up from behind in practice Tuesday and he's hopeful that he'll be back in time for the opener.
"We made the decision to pull him off and put the boot on and try to let him rest up," Lynch said. "You know how ankles are – sometimes guys bounce back quickly, sometimes it takes a while. We'd love to get him back in there."
With Pagan on the sidelines, Marc Damisch worked in with the No. 1s next to Rodger Saffold. The 6'6", 304-pound redshirt freshman has impressed the staff through camp and Lynch said they're developing the confidence to play him if Pagan isn't ready to go.
"Damisch has really come on. He's really played well," Lynch said.
The Hoosier coach also said the staff is gaining confidence in 6'9", 296-pound sophomore Josh Hager as well as a back-up tackle. Hager has had his share of time with the No. 1s due to James Brewer missing some practice time earlier in camp.
"If you ask me who up front is ready to play it's Hager and Damisch and it's because of the injuries they've gotten a lot of reps," Lynch said.
In addition to Pagan's absence, the Hoosiers are also dealing with some ailments at safety. Likely nickel back Chris Adkins has been sidelined this week and Lynch said he's hopeful he'll be ready to go by next week. Junior Jerimy Finch, meanwhile, was sidelined today with what appeared to be a minor ankle injury.
While there have been position battles to talk this fall at running back, kicker and defensive tackle, there's no question about who will be under center against Eastern Kentucky.
After losing out to Kellen Lewis in the quarterback battle last fall and then splitting time with him throughout the season, Ben Chappell will be at the helm of the offense this fall. While it will be his first year as a full-time starter, Lynch said he's confident in the Bloomington native's abilities to lead the attack.
"He's played well – that's the No. 1 thing," Lynch said. "He's very accurate and he has total command of the offense."
Chappell clearly doesn't have the mobility that Lewis possessed, but his accuracy and decision making are a couple of traits that separate him according to Lynch.
"He sees all 11 out there on defense. When the play is over you can say ‘what did you see,' and what he tells you, we go in and watch practice tape and what he told us is exactly what happened," Lynch said.
"Most quarterbacks, if they can see half the field it's good, and with some if they see one guy it's good. But he gets the whole picture. That goes a long way toward earning the respect of his teammates, but it also puts him in the position to make plays."
There's still no final word on who the Hoosiers' back-up quarterback will be this fall, but Edward Wright-Baker continues to get the most reps with the No. 2 unit. Redshirt freshman Adam Follett also worked with the No. 2s on Wednesday, while most of freshman Dusty Kiel's time was with the scout team.
The placekicking job is another spot that remains up in the air, and Lynch knows what he'll be looking for when making that decision.
"Kickers? We want the guys that will put it through the uprights," joked Lynch.
For the time being, that makes Nick Freeland the likely choice to handle the job against Eastern Kentucky. He's been more consistent than Charlie Klingensmith, and the odds-on favorite to win the job at the start of camp -scholarship freshman Mitch Ewald - remains sidelined with an oblique injury.
The decision, though, hasn't been made just yet.
"At some point we'll make it very competitive where we'll make a decision what we're going to do going into the opener," Lynch said.
Next year Indiana will play five of its eight Big Ten games away from Memorial Stadium thanks to the decision to move the Penn State game to Washington D.C.'s FedEx Field. According to Lynch, the IU program will get from that game than just a $3 million paycheck.
"I think it's a great opportunity for our program. The financial end of it is great, but I think also going to FedEx Field and Washington in what will be a national spotlight type of game. I don't know what the TV will end up but it's Penn State, and that speak for itself," Lynch said.
Lynch said that once the idea was proposed, IU Athletics Director Fred Glass involved him in the process and he's all in favor of the move.
"I think it's a win-win for us from both a financial standpoint and an exposure standpoint," Lynch said.
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