At today’s Indiana football practice — the first since Saturday’s public scrimmage — a few things had changed.
The team was more clearly divided into depth chart players and scout team players.
And when the second team offense jogged onto the field, true freshman Edward Wright-Baker was the guy in the orange jersey. The lefty from Jeffersonville hasn’t secured the backup spot, but it might be his to lose. Indiana coach Bill Lynch said that Wright-Baker was the clear No. 2 Monday. But the staff will continue to watch tape and could tweak the depth-chart on a practice-to-practice basis.
Lynch said the staff hasn’t decided whether it would burn Wright-Baker’s redshirt year just to use him in spot situations or during mop-up time. His theory, when it comes to playing true freshmen in general, is that it needs to be worth it to both the team and the player. That is, the player should help the team and get enough playing time to continue developing.
While most schools originally recruited Wright-Baker as an “athlete” (a synonym for non-quarterback), Lynch said Indiana always thought he would be a QB in college. He pointed out that you can never tell how a freshman will respond. Obviously Wright-Baker has done well. He seems comfortable in the offense and has the liveliest arm on the team. He throws over the middle as well as any QB on the roster but has trouble with routes requiring more touch. His escapability far exceeds that of any other snap-taker, which could lead to him seeing time should IU’s offensive line struggle due to injuries.
Wright-Baker is currently battling Adam Follett, the tall redshirt freshman from Michigan, for the No. 2 spot. Dusty Kiel, another true freshman QB, was primarily with the scout team Monday.
Other thoughts from today.
- Four established starters who sat out Saturday’s scrimmage returned to practice. Offensive linemen Rodger Saffold and Justin Pagan were back on the left side of the line, while mike linebacker Matt Mayberry and defensive end Greg Middleton returned to the defense.
- About the only depth-chart spots that haven’t been set are running back and defensive tackle, and it doesn’t appear they will be. Or need to be. It seems clear that Indiana will use at least three (and possibly four or five) backs this season. Demetrius McCray, Bryan Payton and Darius Willis continue to get most of the carries, but the staff clearly like how steady Trea Burgess is. Zach Davis-Walker would probably be in the mix, too, if he weren’t limited by a shoulder injury. At DT, Mick Mentzer returned Monday and word came down that Jarrod Smith should be cleared soon. True freshman Adam Replogle — who may be good enough to start — recently weighed in a 282 pounds, meaning he’s 12 pounds heavier than he was coming out of high school.
- Lynch said the team is walking a fine line between trying to get players healthy and trying to improve as a football team. Practices need to be physical, and they have been. “That’s why we’ve gotten better,” Lynch said, adding that you “can’t run scared from injuries.”
- Two freshmen — wide receiver Jamonne Chester and defensive back Lawrence Barnett — sat out because of an eligibility snag. Tandon Doss had the same thing happen last year. He was cleared in a few days.