Big Ten: A.J. Thompson
August, 20, 2008
By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Before trading the Assembly Hall media room for my hotel room, I had a few thoughts after attending Indiana's afternoon practice in toasty temperatures.
- The quarterbacks are splitting snaps almost evenly, and both Chappell and Lewis rotated with the first-team offense. Both quarterbacks fired touchdown passes in 7-on-7's soon after I arrived, with Chappell finding Terrance Turner and Lewis passing to Damarlo Belcher.
- Lewis definitely doesn't appear rusty. He looked crisp on slant passes and put good air under the ball on sideline fade routes. On the flip side, Chappell is better than most people think. The highlight of the day came when he rolled to his left and fired downfield to a wide-open Mitchell Evans, the former quarterback and safety. Evans made a one-handed grab and raced to the end zone.
- The most exciting part of practice came toward the end, as Lynch sent the first-team units to one sideline and everyone else to the other for an overtime simulation. Just like in a game, each side had a possession from the 25-yard line. Both Lewis and Chappell stayed with the first-teamers, but for what it's worth, Lewis had the first shot with the 1's. None of the quarterbacks on either side moved the ball much. Lewis had a third-down pass dropped by Turner, and Chappell didn't even get a chance to throw it as Indiana mysteriously ran on third-and-3. It came down to a battle of kickers. After both made field goals in the first overtime, backup Nick Ford had a 51-yarder clank off the left upright. Austin Starr had a chance to win from 37 yards out, and the All-Big Ten selection came through.
Lynch said he has put the team through simulations -- goal-line, two-minute -- throughout the week to get them ready for games.
"Any time you can make it somewhat competitive, kids like that," Lynch said. "You have to do the grind, you have to do the reps. ... To change it up and have them drill like that, they're ready for that."
- Belcher, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound freshman, was one of the most impressive players in the workout. Projected starter Ray Fisher sat out practice, giving Belcher extra reps with the first-team offense. He came through with several nice catches, out-jumping cornerback Donnell Jones on a sideline route. He's moving up the depth chart and should be a weapon for a team that loses top wideout James Hardy.
"He's a good talent," Lynch said. "He wants to learn. He wants to know the offense and he wants to do things right, but he does have that ability, when the ball is in the air, to go make a play. And he made several today, so he's coming."
- Lynch expects an NCAA decision will come soon regarding safety Jerimy Finch, a transfer from Florida who hopes to play this season. Finch practiced Thursday. Indiana also is awaiting word on promising freshman wide receiver Tandon Doss, who cannot practice with the team because of an academics/eligibility issue.
- Safety Brandon Mosely and cornerback Chris Adkins recorded pass breakups during team drills, and linebacker Matt Mayberry looked good on blitz opportunities. Chris Phillips has won one cornerback spot and co-defensive coordinator Joe Palcic has an idea of who he wants for the other spot but isn't quite ready to say.
- It was tough to get a read on the running backs because they couldn't be tackled to the ground, but freshman Darius Willis definitely has the size to help out in the backfield.
- Lynch announced after practice that freshman offensive lineman A.J. Thompson has opted to transfer.
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
12:00 PM ET Illinois Northwestern 12:00 PM ET Purdue Indiana 12:00 PM ET Michigan 6 Ohio State 3:30 PM ET 10 Michigan State Penn State 3:30 PM ET 18 Minnesota 14 Wisconsin 3:30 PM ET Rutgers Maryland