Big Ten: Adam Follett
Here's a snapshot of Indiana's spring game:
Game coverage: Here and here and here and here.
Quotable: "The quarterbacks look good when the guys around them make them look good. They look good when the protection is good, when the guys run the right routes, that kind of thing. But they're all four capable quarterbacks. And they're all in the mix." -- coach Kevin Wilson
- Wilson has made it clear that the starting quarterback job will need to be earned over time, so there isn't an answer there after the spring game. Kiel led a 75-yard drive early in the game and capped it with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Kofi Hughes, who has had an excellent spring. Kiel also completed a 52-yards pass to Duwyce Wilson and a 12-yard touchdown pass to Damarlo Belcher, and led scoring drives of 93 and 68 yards. Edward Wright-Baker tossed a 41-yard touchdown to Dre Muhammad in the first quarter. Kiel completed 14 of 27 passes for 196 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in the game, while Wright-Baker hit on 8 of 10 passes for 82 yards and a score. Follett went 6-for-9 for 74 yards, and Teddy Schell went 2-for-7 with a 13-yard rushing touchdown. I give Kiel a slight edge right now, but there's a long way to go.
- Indiana needs more playmakers on defense, and it might have found some at the cornerback position. Greg Heban, who came on strong at the end of last season, broke up two Kiel passes early on and then made a diving interception. Sophomore Lawrence Barnett had a pick-six off of a deflected pass and also recorded a pass breakup. "He's had a productive spring for us," co-defensive coordinator Doug Mallory told The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
- Very few starting positions are safe right now, and the offensive line is one area that likely will feature several young players in key roles. Redshirt freshman Cody Evers worked as the first-team right guard Saturday and Ralston Evans, an early enrollee, was the first-team left guard. "I don’t think they've been here long enough to know how to play soft yet," Wilson said. "They actually play hard. We're just rewarding those guys for playing hard."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Quarterback health in the Big Ten has been strong through the season's first month, as none of 11 opening-day starters is currently sidelined due to injury. Things haven't been so fortunate at places like Oklahoma, South Florida, USC, Baylor and even Florida, where Heisman frontrunner Tim Tebow sustained a concussion last week against Kentucky. The recent injuries serve as a reminder that every team must be prepared to lose the starter at its most important position on the field.
Here's a snapshot of the backup quarterback landscape in the Big Ten:
READY TO ROLL
Eddie McGee, Illinois -- McGee has replaced starter Juice Williams numerous times during the last three seasons, either because of injury or performance. He helped Illinois to its lone victory Sept. 12 against Illinois State and has appeared in 17 games, completing 52 of 94 pass attempts for 714 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions.
Keith Nichol, Michigan State -- The Spartans are still operating in a two-quarterback system, though Kirk Cousins has started all four games and received most of the work. Nichol brings excellent athleticism to the backfield and improved his pocket presence during the offseason, and while his numbers aren't stellar, he led two late scoring drives against Wisconsin.
Curt Phillips, Wisconsin -- At one point in camp, Phillips looked like the frontrunner for the starting job before giving way to Scott Tolzien. His speed and mobility bring a new element to the Badgers' offense, and he has racked up 128 rush yards on eight carries in two games to go along with four completions on six attempts.
Dan Persa, Northwestern -- Persa's athleticism actually earned him some time on special teams last year as he waited for a shot under center. He has had limited action in three games this year, and while his size is a concern, he boasts a strong arm and good feet.
Joe Bauserman, Ohio State -- The former minor league pitcher in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization has been at Ohio State for two seasons, moving into the backup role this fall. Bauserman doesn't have a ton of game experience (4-for-9 passing this year), but he's not as raw as some of the other quarterbacks in the league.
HAS THE HYPE
Denard Robinson, Michigan -- "Shoelace" was the talk of the preseason and dropped jaws by wrong-footing several defenders for a 43-yard touchdown run on his first collegiate carry. Robinson's speed and moves will get him on the field in some form or another, but he's still unproven as a passer through the first four games.
MarQueis Gray, Minnesota -- A heralded recruit from Indianapolis, Gray can be a versatile weapon for offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. With physical gifts similar to those of Terrelle Pryor, Gray already has a touchdown catch and 50 rush yards on eight carries. But he hasn't attempted a pass, so a few doubts remain there.
Kevin Newsome, Penn State -- Newsome enrolled early and spent spring ball preparing to back up senior Daryll Clark, who has served as his mentor. Despite Penn State's easy opening stretch, the team's offensive struggles limited playing time for Newsome, who has completed 4 of 6 attempts for 32 yards.
James Vandenberg, Iowa -- One of the greatest passers in Iowa high school history, Vandenberg has only one career appearance, completing 2 of 3 attempts for 38 yards. A multi-sport star in high school, he boasts solid credentials but hasn't had a chance to prove himself yet.
Caleb TerBush, Purdue -- Head coach Danny Hope and offensive coordinator Gary Nord have been impressed with TerBush, but the redshirt freshman has yet to attempt a pass in a college game. TerBush has good size (6-5, 222) and a strong arm, but he needs to see action in a game.
Edward Wright-Baker, Indiana -- Wright-Baker did some impressive things in preseason camp, but Hoosiers head coach Bill Lynch is still deciding whether or not to redshirt the talented true freshman. Though Wright-Baker remains listed as Ben Chappell's backup on the depth chart, Indiana used Adam Follett in garbage time Sept. 19 at Akron.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The depth charts continue to roll in, as Indiana unveils its two-deep. One caveat: Head coach Bill Lynch still plans to release another depth chart before Thursday's season opener against Eastern Kentucky, so this is hardly set in stone.
A few notes:
- Fifth-year senior Demetrius McCray is listed as the starter at running back, ahead of talented redshirt freshman Darius Willis. Junior Trea Burgess is third, and senior Bryan Payton surprisingly comes in fourth. Lynch expects all four backs to play against Eastern Kentucky, but he acknowledged that McCray turned in a solid camp. I think Willis will be the starter before long, though McCray can be effective if he stays healthy.
- Lynch is weighing whether or not to redshirt quarterback Edward Wright-Baker, who has performed well in camp. Redshirt freshman Adam Follett is listed as Ben Chappell's backup at quarterback, but Wright-Baker might end up filling that role.
"If Ed is going to jump to being No. 2, which we've run him at two quite a bit the past couple of days, then you've got to decide at which point you're going to play him," Lynch said today. "Over the course of the last two or three practices, we've run Edward at No. 2 more than Adam. We listed Adam at number two now because I know Adam can go in a game. We've got to decide if that is what we're willing to do."
- Sophomore Justin Pagan is listed as the starter at left guard, though he's questionable for the game with an ankle injury. Redshirt freshman Marc Damisch would step in if Pagan can't play. Cornerback Donnell Jones is also questionable with a hamstring injury, opening the door for Adrian Burks or Richard Council.
- Defensive tackle Adam Replogle is one of several true freshmen who should see the field this fall. Lynch also said wideout Duwyce Wilson, linebacker Damon Sims and offensive lineman Aaron Price could play. "We know right now that Adam is going to be running out onto the field early," he said.
- Indiana will select captains for each game this year. The team's official captains for 2009 will be voted on at the end of the season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
It's time to break down the most important position on the field, which should be much improved in the Big Ten this year. The league returns its top six rated passers and its passing yards leader in Illinois' Juice Williams.
Depth also plays a huge role at quarterback and could hurt teams that have a big dropoff in experience between the first and second strings. Keep in mind these rankings assess the entire position, not just the starters.
Here's the rundown:
1. Illinois -- The final step in Juice Williams' evolution takes place this fall. No Big Ten quarterback boasts more in-game experience than Williams, who had an amazing first half last season but struggled mightily down the stretch. He'll have the league's top wide receiving corps at his disposal. Eddie McGee has more experience than most Big Ten backups, and redshirt freshman Jacob Charest will push McGee for the No. 2 spot.
2. Minnesota -- I'm sure I'll take some heat for putting the Gophers this high, but there's a lot to like between Adam Weber and MarQueis Gray. Weber has thrown 39 career touchdown passes and battled through some less than ideal circumstances the last two seasons. He reunites with All-America candidate Eric Decker to form one of the league's top passing combos. Weber will be the starter, but Gray has drawn rave reviews and figures to play an integral role in the offense.
3. Ohio State -- Terrelle Pryor showed unmistakable signs of progress in spring ball, and his teammates saw leadership skills develop during the summer. The Big Ten preseason Offensive Player of the Year still has a lot to prove, as does an offense that ranked 105th nationally in passing last year. Former minor league baseball player Joe Bauserman certainly has the arm strength to step in for Pryor, though Ohio State's overall depth at quarterback looks shaky.
4. Penn State -- Daryll Clark is the league's best quarterback and should have gotten the nod for preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Clark also appears to be the Big Ten's most indispensible player, mainly because of his skill but also because of who's behind him. If Clark goes down, Penn State would turn to a true freshman in Kevin Newsome who enrolled early. Newsome did some nice things in the spring but doesn't look ready for the spotlight just yet.
5. Iowa -- It's no secret that I expect big things from Ricky Stanzi, who showed impressive poise in bouncing back from mistakes last fall and still helped Iowa to a 9-4 mark. Stanzi will have much more pressure on his shoulders without Shonn Greene in the backfield, but he looks up to the task. Much like Penn State, Iowa doesn't have a proven backup and will turn to redshirt freshmen James Vandenberg and John Wienke if necessary.
6. Michigan State -- The race for the starting job is too close to call, and head coach Mark Dantonio might not settle on a guy until Big Ten play. But the Spartans appear to have two very good options in Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol. Cousins performed well as Brian Hoyer's backup last fall, while Nichol, the Oklahoma transfer, has drawn comparisons to Drew Stanton with his athleticism. Heralded recruit Andrew Maxwell also is in the mix.
7. Northwestern -- Mike Kafka isn't a stranger to the spotlight despite not starting since his freshman year in 2006. Kafka turned in a record-setting performance in relief of C.J. Bacher last November at Minnesota, rushing for 217 yards. He needs to complement his mobility with a more consistent passing game. Northwestern is fully prepared to play a second quarterback and will turn to sophomore Dan Persa, who did some nice things this spring.
8. Wisconsin -- Quarterback was the Badgers' Achilles' heel last fall, and there are some lingering questions about the position as camp begins. Senior Dustin Sherer did a decent job in a tough situation in 2008, but he'll need to become more consistent and limit his sacks. Redshirt freshman Curt Phillips came on strong late in spring practice and brings athleticism to the quarterback spot. Phillips could provide the continuity at quarterback that Wisconsin fans desperately seek, but he still has more to prove this month.
9. Michigan -- Things definitely will get better for Michigan at quarterback this fall, but how quickly? True freshman Tate Forcier enters preseason camp as the frontrunner for the starting job after impressing his coaches during spring ball and the Michigan fans in the spring game. He'll be joined by classmate Denard Robinson, who boasts track-star speed. And don't forget about Nick Sheridan, who was showing progress this spring before breaking a bone in his leg. This group could soar up the list, but it has a lot to prove.
10. Indiana -- Head coach Bill Lynch has a ton of confidence in Ben Chappell, which is nice to see. But Chappell needs to become a bigger factor in the offense after completing just 52.3 percent of his passes for 91 yards a game last fall. He'll be working with a better offensive line but a young group of receivers that needs playmakers to emerge. Backups Teddy Schell and Adam Follett have little experience.
11. Purdue -- Miami transfer Robert Marve can't play until next year, and Purdue lost its projected starter Justin Siller to academic issues in the spring. Career backup Joey Elliott finally gets his chance to shin
e this fall, and it'll be interesting to see how he performs. Elliott is a very smart quarterback and a good leader, but his in-game résumé leaves a lot to be desired. The coaches are high on redshirt freshman Caleb TerBush, who could push Elliott for playing time.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
A team is often only as good as its backup quarterback, a fact that held true throughout the Big Ten in 2008.
Pat Devlin scored arguably the biggest touchdown of Penn State's season at Ohio State as the Nittany Lions rallied for a 13-6 win. Mike Kafka's record-setting rushing performance against Minnesota helped Northwestern to a huge win after injuries had hit several important positions. Several Big Ten squads also had backups emerge into starters, such as Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor and Iowa's Ricky Stanzi.
Several Big Ten backups haven't played a down in a college game, so it's tough to pass judgment on them. But here's my stab at ranking the league's backup signal callers coming out of spring ball.
1. Michigan State -- The competition for the starting job between Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol remains too close to call, and that's not a bad thing. Both players performed very well during spring ball and particularly during the spring game. Whoever doesn't win the top job provides head coach Mark Dantonio with a solid No. 2 option. Cousins already held the role last fall and performed well.
2. Minnesota -- Head coach Tim Brewster reiterated throughout the spring that Adam Weber is his starter, but he also acknowledged that talented freshman MarQueis Gray will get on the field a lot this fall. Gray lived up to the hype in spring ball, and the Gophers likely will use a special package of plays to feature him in games. Should Weber go down, Minnesota should be fine with Gray.
3. Illinois -- The Illini boast the Big Ten's most experienced signal caller in Juice Williams, and they also have the league's most seasoned backup in Eddie McGee. McGee appeared in 12 games in 2007 and came up big against Missouri, Wisconsin and Penn State. The coaches have even used McGee on a series or two when Williams gets into trouble. Redshirt freshman Jacob Charest provides another solid option.
4. Ohio State -- Overall depth at quarterback is the only reason the Buckeyes aren't higher on the list. The coaches have confidence that Joe Bauserman can step in if Terrelle Pryor goes down with an injury. Bauserman boasts a strong arm and good knowledge of the scheme. It remains to be seen what Ohio State gets out of third-stringer Kenny Guiton, a late signee in February.
5. Wisconsin -- The starting job is not set in stone, though senior Dustin Sherer remains the frontrunner heading into the summer. Curt Phillips' push toward the end of spring should ease offensive coordinator Paul Chryst's concerns about the position. Phillips brings speed and athleticism to the backfield, and junior Scott Tolzien is a smart player who has been in the system for some time.
6. Michigan -- True freshman Tate Forcier emerged from a solid spring as the frontrunner at quarterback, though he'll still be pushed by Nick Sheridan and Denard Robinson in August. Sheridan has been in the fire and showed some good signs during spring ball before breaking his leg. But he might not be as strong of a fit as Robinson, who boasts track-star speed and, like Forcier, provides the improvisation skills needed to run this offense.
7. Northwestern -- Pat Fitzgerald and his staff are fully prepared to play a second quarterback at times this season. The nature of Northwestern's spread offense elevates the injury risk for quarterbacks, and Dan Persa likely will see the field, much like Kafka did in 2008. Persa's size (6-1, 200) is a bit of a concern, though he brings above-average mobility to the pocket. Incoming freshman Evan Watkins likely will redshirt this fall, but he's considered the team's quarterback of the future.
8. Purdue -- The Boilers would have been much better off with Justin Siller still in the fold, but the coaches liked what they saw from redshirt freshman Caleb TerBush this spring. Career backup Joey Elliott will get the first shot under center this fall, but TerBush is a big kid (6-5, 222) who can step in if things go south. The problem here is depth, as Purdue can't play Robert Marve until 2010.
9. Penn State -- Devlin's decision to transfer really stings Penn State, which can't afford to lose Daryll Clark and keep its Big Ten title hopes afloat. True freshman Kevin Newsome did some nice things this spring, but he's got a long way to go before leading the Spread HD offense in a Big Ten game. Matt McGloin provides the Nittany Lions with another option under center, but Penn State should take every precaution to keep Clark healthy.
10. Indiana -- The coaches' decision to move Kellen Lewis to wide receiver not only reaffirmed their faith in starter Ben Chappell, but also the men behind him. Teddy Schell came to Indiana as a decorated high school quarterback in Illinois and should finally get a chance to showcase himself. But Schell is unproven on the college level, and the same goes for promising redshirt freshman Adam Follett.
11. Iowa -- Nothing against James Vandenberg or John Wienke, but the college canvas is pretty blank on both redshirt freshmen right now. Despite all the Jake Christensen hatred, many level-headed Hawkeyes fans wouldn't mind having him around this season to back up Ricky Stanzi. An injury to Stanzi could derail Iowa's Big Ten title hopes, particularly with four very difficult conference road games (Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State).
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Indiana's spring practice session came to a close Saturday with the annual Cream & Crimson Spring Game at Memorial Stadium. The Crimson squad, made up mainly of the first-team defense and second-team offense, outlasted the Cream team 28-27 after Trea Burgess was stopped short on a 2-point conversion try.
After a spring filled with changes for the Hoosiers' offense, the unit had mixed results in the spring game.
Starting quarterback Ben Chappell reportedly struggled to find a rhythm, particularly on deep passes, and the Cream team offense didn't do much until the fourth quarter. Chappell still finished the day with decent numbers (14-for-22, 205 yards, two touchdowns).
The best news came at the running back spot, as Burgess, Demetrius McCray and Darius Willis combined for 256 rush yards and four touchdowns on only 33 carries in the spring game. Burgess, who had a solid spring, could be closing in on the starting running back spot, while Willis, a stud recruit who battled injuries for much of the spring, rushed for 80 yards on 13 carries and scored on a 17-yard burst.
Another running back, senior Bryan Payton, took a swing pass from Chappell and raced 46 yards for a touchdown with 43 seconds left in the game.
"We're trying to run more power football," Indiana coach Bill Lynch told reporters. "That's what it comes down to. It's going downhill. We've got our offensive linemen in a three-point stance and we're coming off the ball."
The offense's up-and-down day indicates better things are ahead for a Hoosiers defense that ranked last in the Big Ten in most meaningful categories last fall.
Other notes from Indiana's spring game:
- Converted quarterback Kellen Lewis led the Cream team with five receptions (52 yards), while Tandon Doss led the squad in receiving yards with 61. Damarlo Belcher also turned in a decent performance. Expect to see Lewis, Doss and Belcher as the starting wideouts this fall.
- Defensive tackle will be a position to watch going forward, and reserve Larry Black Jr. stepped up in the spring game with six tackles and a game-high two sacks. Converted offensive lineman Jarrod Smith also had a sack for the Crimson team.
- Injuries continue to gnaw at Indiana's offensive line, which had only 10 healthy bodies for the game. The defensive line also was missing several key players, namely end Jammie Kirlew and tackle Deonte Mack.
- The defense finished the spring strong, as linebacker Matt Mayberry and cornerback Chris Adkins led the way with eight tackles each. Safety Kyle Dietrick intercepted third-string quarterback Adam Follett for the game's lone turnover. Seven different defenders recorded sacks.
- Indiana can feel a bit better about its quarterback depth after the spring game, as backup Teddy Schell completed 9 of 11 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown.
- More of an overall comment here, but I definitely noticed a different attitude from Indiana's players this spring after going 3-9 in 2008. Time will tell if this historically poor program can get on track again, but there's definitely a renewed sense of urgency among players like Lewis, Mayberry and defensive end Greg Middleton. The Hoosiers might just surprise some people this fall.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Indiana won't spend spring practice going through the motions, not with what's at stake this fall for head coach Bill Lynch and a program entering a pivotal season. Despite a momentum-killing 3-9 campaign last fall, Lynch is still in Bloomington and so are all of his assistants. But there will be plenty of changes when the Hoosiers open spring drills March 24.
|Sandra Dukes/Icon SMI|
|Indiana coach Bill Lynch is looking forward to a lot of change this spring.|
But Lynch vows that the Hoosiers will be better in 2009. For his sake, they better be.
I caught up with Lynch on Monday to discuss his outlook for spring ball.
What's the mood around there heading into spring ball after a season where things didn't go as planned?
Bill Lynch: We've had a great offseason. When you come off a season where you don't meet the expectations and don't go to a bowl game -- and you miss out on all those extra practice opportunities -- the offseason becomes so critical. I really like the leadership of our senior class. That's really what drives an offseason program, the leadership that you get from within. I just sense an attitude around here of guys that have worked very hard and they're anxious to get out there.
The message all along is we need to get better. We all do things in the offseason where maybe you switch positions and add some wrinkles to your offensive and defensive schemes, maybe change up a little bit how you practice. All those things are great to experiment with in the spring.
Do you sense any dramatic changes? I know you didn't make any staff changes. Will it look very different for the fans when they see you in the summer?
BL: We're going to be a lot better football team. That's the No. 1 thing. We moved some guys around on our staff. We didn't make any changes because we've got a really good staff. Philosophically, I wanted to have two defensive line coaches. We're a four-down-linemen scheme and we function with four coaches on defense, so we moved George Ricumstrict, who was our linebackers coach, to defensive end coach to work with [co-defensive coordinator/defensive tackles coach] Brian George. Mike Yeager, who had the safeties and is moving to linebackers, played linebacker in this defense and has coached in it in the past. Joe Palcic will take over the secondary by himself. So we made some adjustments there.
And then on offense, same thing. Kyle Conner will continue with the tight ends but also be an assistant offensive line coach. So he'll spend most of his time with the offensive line, particularly when we get into passing drills. We did a little restructuring there that I think will make us better.
You mentioned the line play on both sides. Was that a priority for you coming out of last season?
BL: It's a philosophical thing. That's where you win. You win up front. I had kept the structure of the staff the same as [former head coach] Terry Hoeppner had it -- one D-line coach, one O-line coach. I wanted to have two guys up front on both sides. We've got the guys on the staff. It's not a case of, 'Oh, boy, we've got to do this if we're going to win.' It's just a philosophical thing, particularly on defense if you're going to play with four down linemen.
Have you done this before at Ball State and other stops?
BL: Yes. Through my different places, I've done different things. Based on the staff you have and the team you have, you always tweak things. But I feel that's going to give us the best chance to win.