Big Ten: Bill Lynch interview

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Indiana head coach Bill Lynch breaks down the team's personnel in the second half of my interview with him (for Part I, click here).

Does Kellen [Lewis] still have the respect of his teammates? I'm sure some were disappointed after his suspension. 

Bill Lynch: Yeah, I'm sure. But ever since he's been back, he's certainly earned it. And the players wanted him back. That was a part of the whole thing while he was gone, and I had told him that, 'I'm going to check with a lot of people and one of them is your teammates.' And they wanted him back. And he's done everything we've asked and he's practiced well, he's practiced hard, he hasn't missed a rep. So I'm not worried about that.

Did you feel like you were losing him at any point?

BL: The best word to use is I was hopeful through the whole thing. 

As far as the defense, you had some great individual performers last year, but does the unit need to take another step?

BL: I think so. We're in the same defensive scheme for the fourth year, and that's really important. The position coaches are the same. And this is a game of repetitions, it really is. The more you do it, the better you get and the consistency is so important. We've been able to develop that. But we've also developed depth and overall team speed on defense. Our linebacker play is the starting point. We really feel like we're two-deep with guys who fit the mold physically in terms of size and strength and speed, but experience now, as well. We have much more depth at d-line. We've got a name guy in [Greg] Middleton, but [Jammie] Kirlew and [Ryan] Marando and Greg Brown and Deonte Mack and the Burrus brothers [Keith and Kevin], we've got some depth. We've got solid safeties in Austin Thomas and Nick Polk. Chris Phillips is a very solid player. He played some good football for us. And then the other kids are coming along at the other corner. We haven't made a decision on that yet. 

As far as the quarterback decision, do you have a timetable?

BL: I'm going to sit down with [offensive coordinator] Matt Canada, our quarterback coach and coordinator, because we haven't done that. At some point, you make that decision based on not only what's best for the two kids involved, but also what's best for the football team. We're getting to the point where we need to sit down and have that conversation. We've really been through the grind of camp. Starting out, we talked about we would get through the camp and there was going to be 1 and 1A, but we really have rotated them a lot. The reps have been almost even. 

Is playing both of them in the discussion?

BL: We haven't talked about that. I'm not, at this point, thinking that's what we're going to do. They're both capable. We can win with both of them. 

Offensive line, any concerns there with depth?

BL: We've kind of missed our left guard and left tackle [Pete Saxon and Rodger Saffold] since before last weekend, but both of them, we feel like by game week, will be out there going. We're being smart this week. Those are our two most experienced guys, but what it's done is some young kids have gotten a ton of reps. So as a result of some injuries, we've been able to develop some depth. But [the offensive line] doesn't have the same depth as the d-line has.

Who have stood out among the freshmen?

BL: We've got a couple wideouts. [Damarlo Belcher] had a really good day today and he's been coming on. I still think Darius Willis, our running back, has got a chance. We haven't decided what we're going to do there, either, because we've got some older guys ahead of him. But he's everything we thought he was going to be, and he's going to be a complete back. It would probably take some injuries at the other places for somebody else to play.

Willis is a bigger guy. Is that a novelty a bit in this offense?

BL: Not necessarily. It's nice to have, but [Marcus] Thigpen has something to offer because of his speed and experience and ability to play to play wide receiver when we go into different formations. [Bryan] Payton's a tough, hard-nosed guy that has played.  [Trea] Burgess is a solid guy who has gained yards as a special teams guy. And [Demetrius McCray's] a little bit of a guy that we're anxious to see keep going because he's missed a lot of time with injuries, and he's been able to stay healthy through the whole camp. And then you've got Darius. It's really a matter of giving everybody work before we kind of decide which way we're going to go. 

You mentioned gaining national respect is a goal. Do you think you've gained some respect in the Big Ten?

BL: A little bit. If you look at the preseason picks, we haven't gained a whole lot. But it takes time. We're gonna earn it. That's our job to do that, not worry about it at this point. You've got to do it more than one year. I firmly believe that. We took a step last year and it was a start. We've got a lot more to do. 

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Bill Lynch might not have a catalog of catchphrases or the unique charisma that made the late Terry Hoeppner such a rare breed, but Lynch shares one important thing with the man he succeeded as Indiana's head coach. This is his dream job.

Ohio is the national breeding ground for college coaches, but both Lynch and Hoeppner grew up next door in Indiana. Lynch has spent almost his entire career coaching in his home state, bouncing from Butler to Ball State to Indiana to Ball State to DePauw and finally back to Indiana. Lynch became the Hoosiers' head coach under tragic circumstances following Hoeppner's death in June 2007, but he helped to honor his friend by guiding Indiana to its first bowl appearance since 1993. For pulling off one of the most impressive and underrated coaching jobs in the country, Lynch was rewarded with the title of permanent head coach and given a contract through June 2012. 

After Wednesday's practice, I talked with Lynch over a couple of Gatorades (orange flavor). Here's what he had to say about Hoeppner, the quarterback competition and the need to take the program one step further.

Last year was somewhat stable, but do you have a greater sense of ownership now, conducting this camp?

Bill Lynch: It's kind of a continuation of last year. I'm very appreciative of [athletic director] Rick Greenspan and the president to make a quick decision as soon as the season was over. That was very important in terms of continuity and recruiting and with our players. It's a unique group. This staff, all except for one, came at the same time. They've been here, so the philosophy and the approach and the expectations have stayed the same, which I think is really important in a program like ours. When you build a program, you want your older guys to pass down to the younger guys, 'This is what we do here.' When you have constant turnover, the expectations are always up in the air. So that's really important. What we do is so similar. My personality is different than Hep's. Hep was such a unique and charismatic guy, and I hope I'm smart enough not to try to take on his personality because he was Hep. That's what made him such a beloved guy. There's probably little changes or variations based on my background or experiences that are probably pretty subtle.

Hep made no secret about the fact that this was his dream job. Obviously, you didn't want it under these circumstances, but is it the same for you?

BL: Oh, yeah. I would never want it under these circumstances. When I worked here in the early 90s for coach [Bill] Mallory -- I grew up in Indianapolis and coached all around the state and have always been a big fan -- '93 and '94, up until last year, those were the last two winning seasons and bowl appearances, all of that. But I really took on a great appreciation for the university and the belief that we can win in football here. That's the important thing. Coach Mallory was the guy that never listened to anybody saying, 'You can't win in football at Indiana.' He didn't listen to it, and when I worked for him, he had a great feel for that. Hep and I have been friends and I always had such great respect for him. He really had the same approach and attitude that coach Mallory had. To be able to come and work here, it is a dream job.

Did you envision being a head coach again in your career after Ball State [37-53 overall record]?

BL: [Shakes head] You never know what's around the corner. That's why you would never want it under these circumstances. But I'm grateful to be here and really enjoy working with the kids in the program. 

You've talked about win 13 as a goal for this year. For so many guys, having that connection to Hep, does that help?

BL: Yeah, and really going back, the Play 13 [motto] was certainly Hep's and it took on a life of its own because of the tragedy a year ago. But our kids know that the goal is to keep moving up. We want to become a team that's competing for the Big Ten championship. We want to be a team that's respected on a national level. We went to a bowl game. That was the first step, and that was always the first step to Hep. Now we know that the next step is we've got to go to a bowl and we've got to win a bowl game. Perhaps we put limitations on ourselves last year. It was an emotional year and there were a lot of things, but there was such a rallying cry to play 13 that even though we talked and talked, when we looked back at it after the bowl game, we probably realized getting there was the goal. The game itself [a 49-33 loss] taught us that if you want to become a team that's thought of on a national level and play with people all across the country, you've got to compete every day. Maybe we reached the goal to soon last year. That's where the 'Win the 13th' comes about. It's not good enough to get to a bowl game. 

Has anything about the quarterback competition surprised you?

BL: It hasn't to us. As visitors have come, it has. The biggest thing is visitors come and they say [Ben] Chappell's really pretty good. And it's like they thought that we didn't feel that way. He was a solid 2 [backup] last year and then, in the spring, when he got the chance to run the show the whole time, he had a great spring. Even though we're not working with him in the summer, we knew he was running the show until Kellen [Lewis] came back. We know Kellen's an outstanding player and a great playmaker and has proven it on the field, on Saturdays, for a year and a half. But Ben is a really competitive quarterback. I think the quarterback position is different. I don't think the quarterback has to prove it to the coach. I don't think he has to prove it to the fans or the media. He's got to prove it to his teammates. They've got to believe in him. The players have to believe in that guy. And obviously, they believe in Kellen. He's proven it. He's earned that. But Ben now has that, and that's what is such a great situation for us. We've got two guys. Whoever runs on the field, the players are going to run out there feeling, 'We're going to be successful.'

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