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Friday, March 25, 2011
Heat turned up for Indiana QBs this spring

By Adam Rittenberg

Indiana's new coaches aren't handling their quarterbacks with kid gloves.

There has been no hand-holding in spring practice as Dusty Kiel, Edward Wright-Baker and the other Hoosiers' triggermen learn a new offensive scheme.

"They’re telling us every mistake we make," Wright-Baker told me this week. "You’re really not looking for a pat on the back from one of these guys because they're not going to give it to us."

Kevin Wilson
Kevin Wilson's offenses typically rely on a quick tempo that defenses have difficulty keeping up with.
Co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Rod Smith has delivered a loud-and-clear message to the quarterbacks this spring.

"They’re going to coach us hard," Kiel recalled, "so have thick skin."

The primary challenge for Indiana's quarterbacks is learning a new system that emphasizes tempo and eschews huddling. Coach Kevin Wilson's offenses at Oklahoma were not only productive and potent, but extremely fast.

Under Wilson the Sooners regularly marched downfield and scored before opposing defenses could get set. After OU routed Florida State 47-17 last year, Wilson told The Oklahoman: "Some of the best things we did was when we were doing some of our simple stuff where we just go fast and they're not lined up. Our tempo helped us a lot because I don't think they were ready sometimes."

The philosophy is sinking in at Indiana. If mistakes are to be made -- and there are plenty -- the coaches would rather have them made at top speed than by being hesitant.

"Fast. That’s how I can describe it," Wright-Baker said. "We're going to try and wear you down, not let you wear us down. We're going to be in [better] shape than the competition we're playing. That's his [Wilson's] motto.

"We want to be perfect for him. We want to run it the way he ran it. He perfected it at Oklahoma; we’re trying to do the same thing here."

The staff ramped up Indiana's winter conditioning, and Wright-Baker already sees a difference in how players look. Still, growing pains are inevitable, especially in the first practice after a significant scheme installation.

Wright-Baker and Kiel, the top candidates in a wide-open quarterback competition, must not only keep a positive attitude among their teammates, but among themselves.

"It’s what we need," Wright-Baker said. "It’s going to change this program around and make everybody better. You want to get better. You want somebody to coach you up. You don’t want to get pats on the back every day."

Kiel doesn't mind the approach.

"It’s good," he said. "I feel like I can handle a ripping.”