Big Ten: Justin Pagan

With a 1-8 record and prospects bleak for getting a Big Ten victory, Indiana can only hope for better things in the future.

In some ways, that future has already begun.

A youth movement is in full effect in Bloomington, for better or worse. On Saturday versus Northwestern, the Hoosiers did three things no other FBS team in 2011 has done, according to the school. They started 12 freshmen. They started eight true freshmen. And they had seven freshmen start on defense.

[+] EnlargeTre Roberson
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesIndiana's Tre Roberson has shown that he can run. Now he aims to be a more efficient QB.
IU first-year head coach Kevin Wilson said he didn't simply throw in the towel on the season and start grooming players for next year.

"They're truly the best guys," he said. "They're practicing the best."

And that tells you a lot about the challenge facing Wilson. It's one thing to play some young guys. Just look at Indiana's opponent this week, Ohio State. The Buckeyes have inserted true freshmen into key roles like quarterback Braxton Miller and receiver Devin Smith, while mixing in plenty of other fresh faces. But they also are surrounded by battle-tested veterans and leaders.

The Hoosiers are perilously short on leadership. When I asked Wilson on Tuesday about his upperclassmen who were leading the way for the youngsters, he didn't need to speak in generalities. He gave a short list of the upperclassmen who are doing so, which included senior tight end Max Dedmond, senior offensive linemen Justin Pagan and Andrew McDonald, senior linebackers Jeff Thomas and Leon Beckum and junior defensive linemen Adam Replogle and Larry Black. And that's where he stopped.

"From there it kind of falls down to the freshmen," Wilson said. "We don't have much in between there."

The lack of senior leadership became even more evident this week when star receiver Damarlo Belcher, expected to be a key player on this season's team, was dismissed from the program after serving a suspension last week. Wilson said he tried to develop some senior leadership in the first few weeks after he took the job last winter.

"We didn't do a good job, in hindsight," he said. "We had some seniors who maybe didn't have things go their way or maybe didn't buy into our system. They were used to doing things a certain way."

So Wilson has gone young. Real young. He has already started 11 true freshmen, six redshirt freshmen and 10 sophomores this season. There have been some nice success stories in there, like promising true freshman quarterback Tre Roberson, sophomore transfer Stephen Houston at running back and freshman safety Mark Murphy. Wilson says it's not a matter of just playing his guys instead of those he inherited; he points out that he didn't actually recruit many of the current freshmen.

But at least he likes the looks of his young players, many of whom were in the first class recruited after Indiana upgraded its football facilities.

"I think it was a more competitive recruiting class," he said. "And the skill set of that freshman class is a little bit better maybe than some of the other classes."

The Hoosiers have some young talent. More upperclassmen leadership to guide them would be very helpful. But they may have to find their own way toward a better future.

Big Ten Labor Day personnel roundup

September, 5, 2011
9/05/11
5:00
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The blog is lighter than normal during the Labor Day holiday, but Big Ten teams remain hard at work.

Here are a few personnel nuggets revealed today around the league:

NEBRASKA

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said linebacker Will Compton is day-to-day with a foot injury but has no structural damage. Compton missed the first five games of last season with a foot ailment. Pelini also said star cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (pulled leg muscle) is improving and getting closer to a return. I'd expect to see Dennard on the field Week 3 against Washington, at the latest.

MICHIGAN

Michigan should be close to full strength for its prime time showdown against Notre Dame. Top cornerback Troy Woolfolk, who suffered a left ankle injury on kickoff coverage against Western Michigan, should be ready for the Irish, coach Brady Hoke said. Woolfolk missed all of last season with a dislocated right ankle. Linebacker Cam Gordon (back) also is expected to return. Freshman Jake Ryan performed well in Gordon's spot against Western. Left guard Ricky Barnum is back this week from a suspension, but he'll compete with Michael Schofield for the starting job in practice.

WISCONSIN

Wisconsin starting left guard Travis Frederick likely will miss this week's game against Oregon State after suffering a slight MCL sprain in the opener. Sophomore Ryan Groy is listed as the starter in place of Frederick. The Badgers should get receiver Manasseh Garner (hernia surgery) back for the Beavers. Backup quarterback Jon Budmayr underwent surgery Friday to relieve a nerve problem in his throwing arm. His return is uncertain. "It could be two weeks, it could be two months," coach Bret Bielema said.

NORTHWESTERN

As I tweeted Sunday, quarterback Kain Colter is fine after undergoing precautionary X-rays following the win against Boston College. Expect Colter to start again in place of Dan Persa this week against Eastern Illinois. The Wildcats will be without starting defensive tackle Jack DiNardo (leg). Sophomore Will Hampton and freshman Chance Carter will compete to fill DiNardo's spot.

INDIANA

Ed Wright-Baker is listed as the No. 1 quarterback for this week's game against Virginia. No surprise there, as Wright-Baker delivered a solid effort in his first career start and wasn't the reason why IU lost to Ball State. Two starters, linebacker Leon Beckum and right tackle Josh Hager, aren't listed on the depth chart following injuries in the opener. Junior Lee Rose is listed as the starting weak-side linebacker, while veteran offensive lineman Justin Pagan shifts from guard to tackle. Receiver Duwyce Wilson and tight end Ted Bolser both aren't listed on the depth chart again as they deal with injuries.

IOWA

Jason White will be the No. 2 running back this week after the season-ending injury to freshman Mika'il McCall. Sophomore defensive tackle Dominic Alvis has leapfrogged Thomas Nardo into a starting spot, while defensive tackle Carl Davis isn't listed on the depth chart because of an injury.
My friends at ESPN Radio 1000 here in Chicago are conducting interviews with Big Ten coaches to preview the season, and they got things started with Indiana's Kevin Wilson.

When "Chicago's GameNight" hosts Jonathan Hood and Nick Friedell told Wilson he was first on their interview lineup, the coach joked, "I'm sure that since we're the first ones, you're going in reverse order of who you're picking [to win the league]."

Wilson has made many statements like this since taking the Indiana job. Every time we've chatted, he gets in a jab -- mostly playful -- about me picking the Hoosiers at or near the bottom of the conference. I'm sure Wilson will have something to say at media days about our recent preseason position rankings, in which Indiana finished 11th or 12th in six of the eight categories.

[+] EnlargeKevin Wilson
AP Photo/Darron CummingsOne of Kevin Wilson's biggest challenges may be changing the mindset of a team used to losing.
Playing the no-respect card is hardly a new tactic for coaches taking over downtrodden programs. Indiana has won only three Big Ten games the past three seasons and produced just one winning season since 1994. Wilson can't change these facts; nor can he change the perception that Indiana will struggle in 2011.

What he can change is the mindset among his players. When you've heard how bad you'll be for so long, you sometimes start to believe it.

"He wants us to believe in ourselves more than we do," Hoosiers offensive lineman Justin Pagan told me this spring.

It takes more than a positive attitude or a chip on your shoulder to consistently win Big Ten games. Indiana must upgrade its talent and depth, particularly on defense.

But the right mental approach can make a difference. Look what Gary Barnett did at Northwestern in 1995.

Indiana has been close a lot in recent years, particularly in 2009. The Hoosiers have to believe they can take the next step.

"We're really working hard with our team on who you're locking into and who you're locking out, what are you listening to?" Wilson told ESPN 1000. "On the preseason ballots, you've got us picked where you do. I don't think anyone had that national championship game pegged last year.

"I've been in places where we shouldn't have won and we have. To me, the deal is, what are our kids listening to? How do we keep them tuned in on positive thoughts?"

Wilson doesn't think the talent level at Indiana is far below what he worked with at Oklahoma.

"The attitude's a lot different," he said. "We're been working more on coaching attitude more than worrying about what we don't have. We've got a team that's going to be very competitive.

"We're not going to surprise ourselves, but I think some of you guys will be surprised."
The preseason position rankings march on with the offensive lines. Team rankings are below, and we'll take a look at the individual rankings for tackles, centers and guards early next week.

Looking at the league landscape, offensive line could be a major strength throughout the Big Ten this season. Although standout players such as Outland Trophy winner Gabe Carimi and All-American Stefen Wisniewski depart, I see improved depth for several teams as well as quite a few multiyear starters.

Honestly, there aren't any bad lines in the league; just some with more question marks than others.

Let's get to the rundown.

1. Wisconsin: Talk about an ability to reload. The Badgers lose All-Americans Carimi and John Moffitt, plus the versatile Bill Nagy, and they still shouldn't take any steps backward. Injuries have allowed Wisconsin to build depth the past few seasons, and four of the five spots look extremely solid. Tackle Ricky Wagner, center Peter Konz and guard Kevin Zeitler lead a group that will block for the league's top running back tandem. Wisconsin's track record up front is impossible to ignore, and this year's line should continue the trend.

[+] EnlargeRiley Reiff
David Purdy/Getty ImagesWill arm length be an issue for former Iowa left tackle Riley Reiff in the NFL?
2. Iowa: The line is undoubtedly Iowa's biggest strength and should be one of the nation's elite units in 2011. Iowa returns starting experience at all five positions and should have decent depth. Left tackle Riley Reiff, projected as a first-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft, will enter the fall as a leading candidate for the Outland Trophy. James Ferentz is one of the league's top centers, and Markus Zusevics is poised for a big year at right tackle.

3. Ohio State: Depth is the only reason the Buckeyes' line isn't higher in the rankings. Ohio State boasts arguably the nation's top center in Mike Brewster, and first-team All-Big Ten tackle Mike Adams will be back after a five-game suspension to begin the season. The Buckeyes need big things from tackle Andrew Norwell during Adams' absence, and tackle J.B. Shugarts must play like a veteran. After struggling to put two sets of capable linemen on the field this spring, Ohio State has to find more depth in preseason camp.

4. Michigan: This is another group that could climb up the rankings by season's end. Center David Molk is a terrific piece to build around, and if gifted players like Taylor Lewan and Patrick Omameh continue to develop, Michigan's line will be a major strength. The concerns are Molk's ability to stay healthy and an adjustment to a new offensive system under Al Borges. The line did an excellent job of protecting Denard Robinson in 2010, allowing a league-low 11 sacks.

5. Illinois: The Illini flat-out punished opponents at the line of scrimmage on several occasions last season, and I really like the potential for the front five in 2011. The biggest reason? Left tackle Jeff Allen, one of the Big Ten's most experienced linemen. Allen and center Graham Pocic will contend for All-Big Ten honors, and if Corey Lewis gets healthy, this should be one of the league's top offensive lines.

6. Purdue: Expectations are high for a line that coach Danny Hope thinks will be Purdue's strength in 2011. Left tackle Dennis Kelly is an All-Big Ten candidate with NFL potential who has started the past 24 games. Center Peters Drey and tackle Nick Mondek help anchor the group. The big question is whether mammoth guard Ken Plue, a multiyear starter, can get out of Hope's doghouse to help lead the way. Plue will be pushed by James Shepherd this summer. The combination of experience up front and the return of running back Ralph Bolden bode well for the Boilers.

7. Northwestern: The Wildcats boast the nation's second most experienced line (137 combined career starts), but experience must start translating to production. This group still must prove it can spark a decent rushing attack after several years of decline. Left tackle Al Netter is an All-Big Ten candidate and center Ben Burkett enters his fourth season as the starter. If Northwestern gets more consistent play from right tackle Patrick Ward and others, it should be a solid group.

8. Penn State: This is a big year for Penn State's O-line, which has heard the criticism and has vowed to erase it in 2011. The tackle spots look solid with Quinn Barham and Chima Okoli, but Penn State needs to shore up the interior after losing Wisniewski, a mainstay for the past four seasons. If veterans like Johnnie Troutman and DeOn'tae Pannell step up and turn in consistent performances, the line should hold up nicely.

9. Nebraska: The Huskers ranked ninth nationally in rushing last season but have quite a few question marks up front. Center Mike Caputo is a building block and sophomore tackle Jeremiah Sirles is a returning starter, but Nebraska has little proven experience. The Huskers will benefit from a healthy Marcel Jones at right tackle, and Yoshi Hardwick adds depth. This could turn out to be a decent group, but the experience issue combined with a scheme change creates some uncertainty.

10. Michigan State: Not to put too much pressure on the line, but arguably no position group will have more influence on Michigan State's season. The Spartans must replace both starting tackles and their starting center, never an easy task. All-Big Ten guard Joel Foreman returns to lead the group, but Michigan State needs immediate contributions from unproven players. The coaches feel they've upgraded the athleticism up front by moving players like Dan France and Blake Treadwell over from the defensive side.

11. Minnesota: The Gophers boast a mix of veterans and youth, and it'll be interesting to see whether the group comes together this fall. Hopes are high for young tackles Eric Olson and Jimmy Gjere, but they'll need help from seniors like Ryan Wynn and Chris Bunders on the interior. Minnesota needs to regain its swagger as an elite rushing offense, and it starts up front this fall. This is a group that certainly has a chance to make strides.

12. Indiana: I like some of Indiana's individual pieces, but as a group, the Hoosiers must show they can create space for the running backs. Indiana switched to the pistol offense in hopes of sparking the ground game but produced barely 100 rushing yards a game in 2010 (112th nationally). The line allowed only 12 sacks and must continue to protect its unproven quarterbacks this fall, but getting the run game going is paramount. Returning starters Will Matte, Justin Pagan and Andrew McDonald give Indiana hope.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Kevin Wilson faces the two-pronged challenge of installing a scheme and installing a mindset this spring at Indiana.

There's no doubt which element matters more to the new Hoosiers' coach.

Wilson made it clear in a recent practice, eschewing his play-calling creativity in an effort to elicit the cornerstone values he wants in his program.

"It was third-and-1 or fourth-and-1, and every time we were going to run straight ahead and see if somebody knocks somebody backwards ... on either side of the ball," Wilson said. "Somebody's going to knock somebody backwards and get a stop or get a first down. A lot of times, we're running the same play over and over and over."

[+] EnlargeKevin Wilson
AP Photo/Darron CummingsKevin Wilson knows that he needs to change his players' attitude and mindset before he can start installing a complex offensive scheme.
Wilson might have landed this gig because of his imaginative play calls as Oklahoma's offensive coordinator. But before Indiana can run Oklahoma's offense, the Hoosiers must practice like the Sooners.

"I don't think our talent is as far off as you or most [reporters] think," Wilson said. "But our mental approach, our physical approach to practice, is not what I'm used to."

Wilson can live with the mistakes as players adjust to new systems on both sides of the ball. But he won't tolerate practicing at anything less than full tilt.

"You've got to push them," he said. "There's no patience in going hard. Patience is learning schemes, and you need time, but going hard is just a mindset. Being physical is a mindset. Every year, you start back at ground zero. You build the physical-ness of your team, the toughness of your team and the attitude of your team."

Indiana's attitude needs to change after the team found creative ways to lose the past several years. There's no excuse for a 3-21 mark in Big Ten play since 2007, but Indiana hasn't been far away from getting over that elusive hump.

Every time the Hoosiers near a breakthrough, something goes wrong. There have been blown leads (28-3 against Northwestern, 24-14 against Iowa in 2009); tough calls (the interception/reception at Michigan in 2009, the touchdown reversal at Iowa in 2009, a 97-yard touchdown called back on a holding penalty that resulted in a safety against Michigan State in 2008) and heartbreaking moments (a dropped touchdown pass in the final minute against Iowa in 2010).

After so many disappointments, players are almost conditioned to expect failure, even in spring ball.

"I was joking with [linebacker] Jeff Thomas in practice," guard Justin Pagan said. "We were doing field goals, and he's like, 'He'll probably miss it,' and I'm like, 'Yeah, he probably will.'

"You've got to break the thinking of, 'We did a good play, but what's going to happen now?' It's like, 'What's next?' Instead of, 'OK, let's keep it going.'"

That's where Wilson comes in.

"He wants us to believe in ourselves more than we do," Pagan said. "He can see we believe in ourselves, but he thinks it can go way farther than where we are."

Although Wilson's background is on the offensive side -- he hasn't ruled out calling plays this season -- he understands that Indiana only will turn a corner when it upgrades the defense. The Hoosiers have finished no higher than 71st nationally in total defense in the past 11 seasons and ranked 88th or worse nine times.

Wilson faced some hurdles in hiring assistants -- four left for other positions shortly after coming to IU -- but his final staff has a defensive flavor. Indiana has assigned assistants to defensive tackles (Mark Hagen), defensive ends (Brett Diersen), safeties (Doug Mallory) and cornerbacks (Brandon Shelby). Co-coordinator Mike Ekeler will oversee the linebackers, as he did at Nebraska.

Wilson, meanwhile, is coaching Indiana's tight ends because of how he organized his assistants.

"I've never been involved in a staff where we've had five full-time [assistants] on defense," said Mallory, who shares coordinator duties with Ekeler. "It's nice to have an extra coach."

Added Wilson: "We're doing that to make the strides defensively."

Mallory says he hasn't watched any tape of Indiana's defense from 2010, wanting to give his new players a clean slate. Instead, players are seeing clips of defenses like Nebraska's and LSU's that Ekeler and Mallory helped to shape.

"They don't talk about the time they had there; they just bring what they did here," defensive end Darius Johnson said. "They're just trying to get us to do the same thing."

The new staff has demanded a lot from the players, from a ramped-up winter conditioning program to up-tempo practices this spring. Scheme installation is part of the challenge, but Wilson doesn't want to get too bogged down in details right now.

He isn't sure if he'll stick with the no-huddle offense that always seemed to keep Oklahoma ahead of its competition. He doesn't have a depth chart and seems in no rush to put one together.

"We're not trying to overwhelm them with being smart coaches in scheme," Wilson. "We're trying to overwhelm them with how to be a physical, tough, hard-nosed player on both sides of the ball."
Welcome to National Depth Chart Day. No day on the college football calendar inspires more curiosity about depth charts than the Monday before the season, when most teams release their Week 1 two-deeps.

(And then there's Purdue, which didn't include a depth chart in its game notes for Notre Dame. Ugh.)

I've had the chance to review depth charts from those programs that released them today -- two-deeps from Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota are coming soon -- and I checked in on several coaches' news conferences.

Here's what stood out:

INDIANA
  • Even though Indiana will shift to a 3-4 defensive alignment this year, the depth chart lists a 4-3 with Darius Johnson and Fred Jones as the starting ends and Chad Sherer and Tyler Replogle flanking junior college transfer Jeff Thomas at linebacker.
  • Interesting to see several veteran offensive linemen like Justin Pagan and Cody Faulkner listed as backups rather than starters. Junior Andrew McDonald steps into some big shoes at left tackle as Rodger Saffold departs to the NFL.
  • The backup quarterback job remains open, as Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker are both listed as No. 2 behind Ben Chappell.
  • Indiana expects big things from redshirt freshman Duwyce Wilson, listed as a starter at wide receiver, kick returner and punt returner.
IOWA
  • Sophomores Micah Hyde and Greg Castillo are listed as the starting cornerbacks. Shaun Prater doesn't appear on the depth chart after dealing with a leg injury in camp. Prater hasn't been officially ruled out for the Eastern Illinois game, but I wouldn't expect to see much of him on Saturday.
  • James Ferentz is listed as the starting center, a spot where Iowa might be a little thin following Josh Koeppel's motorcycle accident Monday morning.
  • Starting defensive end Broderick Binns is suspended for the opener, so Christian Ballard is listed as a possible starter at both end and tackle. Mike Daniels and Lebron Daniel are the next options behind Ballard.
MICHIGAN
  • Sophomores Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier and freshman Devin Gardner are listed as co-starters at quarterback. Head coach Rich Rodriguez reiterated Monday that Gardner won't redshirt this fall.
  • Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw are listed as co-starters at running back, with Michael Cox behind them.
  • True freshman Carvin Johnson is listed as the starter at the spur position (safety/linebacker). Pretty big surprise here, and a testament to Johnson's work in camp.
  • Senior James Rogers steps into Troy Woolfolk's starting cornerback spot opposite J.T. Floyd.
  • Receivers Martavious Odoms and Kelvin Grady clearly showed enough in camp to be listed as starters or possible starters against Connecticut.
NORTHWESTERN
  • Sophomore running back Arby Fields returned to practice Monday and wore a no-contact jersey after being sidelined with a shoulder problem. He's listed as a co-starter at running back with Jacob Schmidt and Stephen Simmons. Northwestern wanted a clear No. 1 running back to emerge in camp, but Fields' injury changed the plan.
  • Junior Bryce McNaul is listed as the third top linebacker alongside returning starters Quentin Davie and Nate Williams. McNaul won the job in camp.
  • Venric Mark is the only true freshman listed on the depth chart, both as a backup wide receiver and a co-starter at punt returner. I'll go out on a huge limb (sarcasm) and predict Mark will be the man on returns for the Wildcats very shortly.
OHIO STATE
  • Junior defensive end Nathan Williams, a projected starter, will miss the Marshall game with a knee injury. He should be back shortly thereafter. Solomon Thomas will start in Williams' spot Thursday night.
  • Starting cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring) is questionable for the Marshall game, but corner Devon Torrence (hamstring) should be fine.
  • Sophomore C.J. Barnett's strong performance in camp lifted him ahead of Orhian Johnson on the Week 1 depth chart. Johnson missed a chunk of camp with an injury.
  • Start salivating, Buckeyes fans, because running backs Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry likely will handle kickoff returns against Marshall.
PENN STATE
  • Sophomores Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin and freshman Robert Bolden are listed as co-starters at quarterback for the Youngstown State game.
  • Sophomore Devon Smith's strong camp landed him a starting spot at both receiver and kick returner, and a backup role on punt returns.
  • Redshirt freshman Garry Gilliam is listed as the starting tight end, as Andrew Szczerba likely will miss the opener with a back injury. Penn State obviously is thin here after losing Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler.
  • Veterans Nate Stupar, Chris Colasanti and Bani Gbadyu are listed as the starting linebackers, with promising younger players like Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges right behind them.
WISCONSIN
  • After a very impressive camp, freshman running back James White appears at No. 3 on the depth chart behind both John Clay and Montee Ball. White also is the No. 2 punt returner behind David Gilreath. His emergence likely will result in veteran Zach Brown redshirting the season.
  • Senior Blake Sorensen likely will start at outside linebacker, as Mike Taylor continues to rehab after undergoing a second procedure on his knee in camp. Culmer St. Jean and Chris Borland are listed as the other starting linebackers.
  • The starting cornerback spots remain open, as Niles Brinkley, Antonio Fenelus and Devin Smith will compete in practice this week.

Indiana spring wrap

May, 5, 2010
5/05/10
10:30
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Indiana

2009 overall record: 4-8

2009 conference record: 1-7 (T-10th)

Returning starters

Offense: 8, defense: 4, kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Ben Chappell, WR Tandon Doss, WR Damarlo Belcher, RT James Brewer, RB Darius Willis, LB Tyler Replogle, DT Larry Black Jr.

Key losses

LT Rodger Saffold, DE Jammie Kirlew, LB Matt Mayberry, DE Greg Middleton, CB Ray Fisher, SS Austin Thomas, FS Nick Polk, LB Will Patterson

2009 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Darius Willis* (607 yards)

Passing: Ben Chappell* (2,941 yards)

Receiving: Tandon Doss* (962 yards)

Tackles: Matt Mayberry (108)

Sacks: Jammie Kirlew (6.5)

Interceptions: Austin Thomas (4)

Spring answers

1. End game: Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton formed one of the Big Ten's most productive defensive end tandems during the last three seasons, and their departures raise a red flag about the defensive end position. So why isn't co-defensive coordinator Joe Palcic concerned? He has tons of faith in Darius Johnson and Kevin Bush, the favorites to start at the two end spots. Bush, a 24-year-old redshirt sophomore, spent three plus seasons in the military before joining the Hoosiers. "I'm telling you, they're both going to end up being better than Jammie Kirlew," Palcic said.

2. Hoosiers switch to 3-4: Despite losing two veteran linebackers, Indiana employed more of the 3-4 alignment on defense this spring in an effort to capitalize on its athleticism. The switch allows the Hoosiers to rotate more players up front. Among the players to be featured in the 3-4 are Johnson, Bush, Damon Sims, Fred Jones and Adam Replogle, a big, athletic defender who moved from tackle to end this spring.

3. Receiving orders: Indiana entered the spring loaded at wide receiver, and the Hoosiers added more depth on the perimeter. First-team All-Big Ten selection Tandon Doss turned in a stellar spring, and redshirt freshman Duwyce Wilson worked his way into a rotation that also includes Damarlo Belcher and Terrance Turner. Junior Dre Muhammad also stepped up, as he and Wilson combined for 10 catches in the spring game.

Fall questions

1. The secondary: There were some bright spots this spring, like the play of redshirt freshman cornerback Lawrence Barnett, but the secondary is far from settled heading into the summer. Indiana loses two multi-year starters at safety as well as Ray Fisher, its top cover corner. Junior college transfer Lenyatta Kiles went through spring ball, and another juco corner, Andre Kates, arrives for preseason camp. It will be interesting to see where those two fit in and whether Jerimy Finch finally blossoms at safety.

2. Run game: The pistol formation was supposed to ignite Indiana's rushing attack, but it hasn't happened yet. And while there's little doubt the Hoosiers can light up defenses through the air, their running game is a major question mark. Darius Willis shows flashes but struggles to stay on the field because of ankle problems. Indiana needs a strong camp from Willis and continued production from other backs like Antonio Banks, who had a nice spring.

3. Offensive line: Indiana must replace arguably the Big Ten's most underrated player in left tackle Rodger Saffold, who nearly worked his way into the first round of April's NFL draft (he was the first pick of the second round). Junior Andrew McDonald is Saffold's projected successor, but other players are in the mix, including starting guard Justin Pagan. The Hoosiers also must replace veteran guard Pete Saxon, so building chemistry will be key in preseason camp.
Here's the second half of my interview with Indiana head coach Bill Lynch, who opens spring practice Tuesday.

For Part I, click here.

It sounds like you have high expectations for Mitchell Evans. He's been moved around to a lot of places, but transitioning back to safety, how do you feel about him there?

Bill Lynch: He's just a good football player, and he can play a lot of places. But we have a need there, and he's certainly a guy who will have an opportunity to play every snap. Where on offense, we've got some depth at wideout and we aren't in three and four wideouts all the time. He had a limited number of snaps as the Wildcat guy, so this will get him an opportunity to be on the field all the time, and that will help our football team.

[+] EnlargeBen Chappell
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesBen Chappell enters spring practice as the Hoosiers' leader on offense.
Are there other guys you're moving over to defense that might be able to play?

BL: Matt Ernest. Matt is an interesting guy. Matt played some wideout for us last year, and we had pretty good wide receivers with some depth. And he played special teams. But we're going to move him over and have him compete at cornerback. We think he's got a lot of skills, he played [cornerback] in high school. But he's playing baseball now. He had been a good high school baseball player but didn't play his first two years here, and he walked on and now he's pitching for them and pitching pretty well. He'll be a little limited as far as what he does in the spring, but he'll be going through drills so we'll have a chance to look at him over at corner.

So will he keep playing baseball while spring ball goes on?

BL: Yeah, we won't get him beat up, because he's becoming pretty important for the baseball team, so we don't want to take that opportunity away from him. It's very similar to Andrew Means a few years ago.

And then on offense, do you look to build off of some of the good performances last year?

BL: I think so. I like what we're doing scheme-wise offensively, and now it's just getting better at it. We've got to replace Rodger Saffold at left tackle, and we've got two juniors who have played and have been in the program a long time in Andrew McDonald and Josh Hager. Those are the first two guys who will get a crack at it, and I know they're anxious to go. And then it'd be nice to get a good spring out of [running back] Darius Willis. He seems to be healthy. He was banged-up a lot last spring, and then he was in and out last fall. He had a little shoulder surgery right after the season, and I know that helped. He seems to be ready to go now. And then we've got a freshman that we redshirted [in 2009], Nick Turner, who I'm anxious to watch compete at tailback this spring as well.

Will anyone be out or limited this spring?

BL: Evans isn't going to practice a whole lot, even though he's going to play safety. He had some surgery after the season. And Justin Pagan, one of our offensive linemen, had some surgery, so he's not going to do too much. Zach Davis-Walker, a backup tailback, is going to be pretty limited. Terrance Turner's not going to practice at all. He's going to have a little surgery. All should be in good shape and ready to go in August.

For Ben [Chappell], having a full offseason as the starter, is he clearly the leader on the offense now?

BL: I think so. He's a great leader, and he played very well in the fall. He's got a whole year of experience as the starter. Now we've got a couple of young guys who are going to compete for the second spot, and you're able to give them some shots [with the first-team offense] in the spring, but certainly going into it, they've got to beat Ben out.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Indiana has issued its official injury report for Saturday's game at Virginia (ESPN360.com, 3:30 p.m. ET).

OUT
  • DE Darius Johnson, shoulder
  • DE Fred Jones, foot
  • LB Leon Beckum, ankle
QUESTIONABLE
  • RB Darius Willis, ankle
PROBABLE
  • OL Justin Pagan, ankle
  • OL James Brewer, ankle

Willis is the big name on the report. He struggled with ankle problems during camp and the early part of the season, but exploded for 152 yards and two touchdowns on Sept. 26 at Michigan. Ohio State held the redshirt freshman in check last week, as Willis rushed for only 23 yards on 11 carries. The ankle appears to be a lingering injury, though Hoosiers head coach Bill Lynch said Tuesday that he expects Willis to play Saturday. Willis leads Indiana with 244 rush yards and three touchdowns on 45 carries this fall. If he can't go, Trea Burgess and Demetrius McCray likely will share the carries load against Virginia.

Indiana injury report

October, 2, 2009
10/02/09
2:43
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


Indiana has released its injury report for Saturday's home showdown against No. 9 Ohio State (Big Ten Network, 7 p.m. ET).

OUT
  • Defensive end Fred Jones, foot
  • Defensive end Darius Johnson, shoulder
  • Linebacker Leon Beckum, ankle
QUESTIONABLE
  • Cornerback Donnell Jones, hamstring

The Hoosiers are definitely getting healthier, as Jones is the only potential starter on the injury report. They definitely benefit from offensive lineman Justin Pagan being off the report.

Indiana injury report

September, 25, 2009
9/25/09
3:42
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


Indiana has released its injury report for Saturday's road game against No. 23 Michigan (ESPN2, noon ET).

OUT
  • Defensive end Fred Jones, foot
  • Defensive end Darius Johnson, shoulder
  • Defensive end Kyle Kozak, shoulder
  • Offensive lineman Alex Perry, knee
QUESTIONABLE
  • Linebacker Chad Sherer, hamstring
PROBABLE
  • Running back Zach Davis-Walker, shoulder
  • Offensive lineman Cody Faulkner, shoulder
  • Offensive lineman Justin Pagan, ankle
  • Cornerback Donnell Jones, hamstring
  • Offensive lineman James Brewer, ankle

The Hoosiers are definitely getting healthier as Big Ten play begins. It would be good to see Pagan off the injury report entirely, but both he and Jones should be fine for Saturday. The big loss here is Johnson, who provides depth at defensive end behind standouts Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton. Johnson has eight tackles, a sack and a pass breakup in Indiana's first three games.

Indiana injury report

September, 18, 2009
9/18/09
9:24
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


Indiana has issued its injury report for Saturday's road game against Akron (ESPNU, 3:30 p.m. ET).

OUT
  • Offensive lineman Alex Perry (ACL)
  • Defensive end Kyle Kozak (shoulder)
  • Defensive end Fred Jones (foot)
  • Running back Zach Davis-Walker (shoulder)
  • Offensive lineman Cody Faulkner (shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE
  • Defensive end Terrance Thomas (shoulder)
  • Linebacker Chad Sherer (hamstring)
  • Cornerback Donnell Jones (hamstring)
PROBABLE
  • Left guard Justin Pagan (ankle)
  • Running back Darius Willis (ankle)

Encouraging news on both Pagan and Willis, who will be needed as Indiana looks for continued production from its running game against the Zips. Pagan started last week's game against Western Michigan, while Willis sat out. The Hoosiers look a bit thin along the defensive line but should be fine as long as ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton continue to shine.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Indiana released its injury report for Saturday's home game against Western Michigan.

OUT
  • Tackle Alex Perry (ACL)
  • Defensive end Kyle Kozak (shoulder)
  • Defensive end Fred Jones (foot)
  • Running back Zach Davis-Walker (shoulder)
  • Running back Darius Willis (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE
  • Cornerback Aaron Burks (ankle)
  • Kicker Nick Ford (hamstring)
  • Cornerback Donnell Jones (hamstring)
PROBABLE
  • Guard Justin Pagan (ankle)

The big news here is Willis' injury, which adds more uncertainty to a Hoosiers' rushing attack that produced only 73 yards against Eastern Kentucky. Willis struggled in his collegiate debut, fumbling on his first carry and gaining just three yards on three rushes. Still, Indiana maintains high hopes for the redshirt freshman but will now turn to starter Demetrius McCray and reserves Bryan Payton and Trea Burgess to carry the rushing attack.

Getting Pagan on the field again certainly helps the offensive line, and freshman kicker Mitch Ewald is also off the injury report after missing much of preseason camp with an oblique injury.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


Indiana's updated depth chart for Thursday's season opener against Eastern Kentucky is out, along with the Hoosiers' injury report for the game.

Here's the health watch for IU:


OUT

  • OL Alex Perry, knee (ACL)
  • DE Fred Jones, foot
  • WR Aaron Burks, ankle
  • RB Zach Davis-Walker, shoulder
  • OL Justin Pagan, ankle
  • CB Donnell Jones, hamstring
QUESTIONABLE
  • OL Andrew McDonald, ankle
  • OL Cody Faulkner, foot
  • K Mitch Ewald, oblique
  • S Jarrell Drane, thumb
PROBABLE
  • CB Chris Adkins, shoulder
  • S Jerimy Finch, ankle
  • DT Mick Mentzler, knee
Both Pagan and Jones were projected starters, so redshirt freshman Marc Damisch will start at guard and Adkins will start at cornerback against Eastern Kentucky. Depth at offensive tackle might be a concern if Faulkner can't play.

Indiana announced Monday that linebacker Will Patterson, defensive end Jammie Kirlew, left tackle Rodger Saffold and quarterback Ben Chappell will serve as captains for the game.

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.

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