Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Indiana's Lynch, Chappell share Bloomington bond
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
When you hear Indiana head coach Bill Lynch talk about Ben Chappell, his faith in the junior quarterback comes through loud and clear.
Even when record-setting quarterback Kellen Lewis was still with the Hoosiers and Chappell seemed like a long shot for the starting job, Lynch always made sure to mention Chappell and his progress. Lynch often says he's a "big Ben Chappell fan."
Eric Bronson/Icon SMI
Indiana coach Bill Lynch has a lot of faith in Hoosiers quarterback Ben Chappell.
Doesn't every head coach have to like his starting quarterback? To a certain extent, yes.
But Lynch and Chappell have a truly unique connection, one that stretches back more than a decade in the town they both now call home -- Bloomington, Ind.
When Chappell was five and six years old, he played basketball with Lynch's youngest son, Kevin. At the time, Bill Lynch served as Indiana's quarterbacks coach.
"I’ve known coach Lynch for a long time," Chappell said. "I knew who he was back then and I’ve always respected him as a person as well as a coach."
Lynch would attend as many of his son's games as he could, though the boys' schedule was demanding.
"In southern Indiana, they take 5- and 6-year-old basketball as seriously as some people take it in high school," Chappell said. "We were always traveling around."
The Lynch family moved away in 1995 when Bill became head coach at Ball State. They returned a decade later as Lynch rejoined the Indiana staff as offensive coordinator and assistant head coach.
By that time, Chappell was an All-State quarterback at Bloomington South High School. He committed to Indiana in June 2005, six months after Lynch and the new coaching staff arrived.
"Any time you recruit a local guy out of your own community, you better have a pretty good feel for him," Lynch said, "because there’s going to be a lot of pressure on him and a lot of pressure on your program to give him an opportunity, especially when he’s a quarterback. We felt very, very confident in Ben and our evaluation as we watched him grow up through high school, and thought he’d be an excellent quarterback for us."
Chappell has confirmed his coach's confidence this season, helping Indiana to a surprising 3-1 start. He ranks fourth in the Big Ten in both passing and total offense, and has improved his completion percentage from 52.3 percent in 2008 to 64.6 percent, which ranks third among starters in the conference.
The 6-3, 235-pound junior leads Indiana into its most anticipated home game in recent memory Saturday as No. 9 Ohio State visits Memorial Stadium (Big Ten Network, 7 p.m. ET).
"It’s going to be a pretty neat atmosphere," Chappell said. "We're really excited about Saturday."
Chappell and Lewis split snaps at quarterback in 2008, but after the season Lynch moved Lewis to a full-time wide receiver role. Indiana incorporated the pistol formation into its offense, and Chappell was labeled the team's clear-cut trigger man.
Even after dismissing Lewis in April for team rule violations, Lynch maintained a strong belief in Chappell and the offense.
"You just have to know Ben and be around him as long as we have that you develop great faith in him," Lynch said. "He’s such a consistent guy on a daily basis. You know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get great effort. He cares, his leadership skills have grown as he’s gone through his time here, and you can sense that the offensive guys in particular really believe in him. And he makes such good decisions.
"He has all those intangibles you're looking for in a quarterback."
Those intangibles help Chappell in his unique role of Big Ten starting quarterback and townie. Regardless of what happens on Saturdays, Chappell knows his mom will have a home-cooked meal waiting for him every Sunday night.
And while the situation brings some unique pressure, Chappell benefits from having a familiar face on the sideline.
"He has the most knowledge of any guy about the game of football that I’ve ever been around," he said of Lynch. "The different levels that he’s coached and all the players that he’s coached, his knowledge of the game, offensively and defensively, is second to none."