Football team back on the practice field

Here’s a story I wrote for tomorrow’s paper on the fact that Indiana’s bucket-winning football team resumed practicing today. The sessions were closed to the media, but Bill Lynch discussed what hopes to get out of the weekend.

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On Friday afternoon, Indiana football team held a full-squad practice for the first time since beating Purdue on a last-second field goal and winning the Old Oaken Bucket two weeks ago.

While the coaches were out recruiting this week, the players worked out with the strength and conditioning staff.
Now that his assistants have returned, head coach Bill Lynch will run three days of practices meant to keep his veteran players sharp and develop the young players. Those sessions are not open to the media.

The weekend will also serve as a recruiting tool. Several high school prospects will take visits to the Indiana campus this weekend.

Indiana is still waiting to hear which bowl it will play in after going 7-5 this season. It likely will not know for sure until Sunday night, after the BCS bowl bids are announced and the rest of the teams can be fit in place.

However, there could be an announcement before Sunday, as two Big Ten teams have already accepted bids. Wisconsin will play in the Outback Bowl and Penn State in the Alamo.

If Ohio State moves into the championship game — a possibility should either No. 1 Missouri or No. 2 West Virginia lose tonight — and the Rose Bowl opts to pick Illinois (which would have to — and has a good shot to — move into the top 14 of the BCS rankings), then Indiana will go to either the Champs, Insight or Motor City Bowl.

If Missouri and West Virginia win, Indiana could go to the Insight, Motor City or another bowl that needs to fill a spot with an at-large team.

Lynch doesn’t know where his team is headed, and isn’t worried about it. The chance to have what essentially amounts to a third training camp (in addition to fall and spring) is one the Indiana program hasn’t had since 1993, and using the time wisely is a key to staving off another bowl drought.

“Kids need to see that working hard this time of year is what winning programs do,” Lynch said Friday. “They are used to getting to Thanksgiving and it’s over. That can’t be the case.”

Lynch said he planned to ease the team back into football shape with the first two sessions. He wants his starters to stay loose, but not over exert themselves.

“We’ll be very conservative with a lot of the guys who have played a lot,” he said. “There are a lot of kids who battled things through more than even they admitted the last few weeks.”

At the same time, Lynch has made it clear to the young players that the next month is vital to their development and where they fit in the program.

“A big emphasis is our young kids,” he said. “I told the young guys Monday when we got back to get your old playbooks out and learn the IU offense and IU defense, because those guys have been Indiana State through Purdue (as the scout team.)”

Lynch has even agreed to allow the scout team an opportunity it has wanted all season: to scrimmage the starters.

“They’ve been clamoring for it since late in the year when they started feeling that they were playing well,” he said. “We’ll give them a chance on Sunday.”