Indiana’s offensive line depth chart looks pretty shallow these days, and it isn’t expected to get any deeper this week.
Indiana coach Bill Lynch said at his weekly press conference Monday that senior right tackle James Brewer will probably out again this week with an ankle injury. Junior Josh Hager, who started Saturday’s game but suffered an injury on the game’s first possession, will also be out, and Lynch said he’s not entirely certain how long he could be out.
“I don’t have the report on Hager yet, as we speak,” Lynch said. “I would venture to say he’s probably not going to play this week, but I don’t have an updated injury report on him. We don’t expect Brewer to play this week, so as we stand here right now, (sophomore Marc) Damisch will be at tackle.”
Lynch said he still does expect to get Brewer back relatively soon, but he hinted that Hager could be a more long-term injury.
That means the Hoosiers will use an offensive line similar to the one they used last week with Junior Andrew McDonald at left tackle, redshirt freshman Aaron Price at left guard, sophomore Will Matte at center, junior Justin Pagan at right guard and Damisch at right tackle.
The second team looks as thin as ever, though. Redshirt freshman Colin Rodkey has not been listed on the two-deep much at all this year, but he’s now the backup at both left and right tackle. The same goes for redshirt freshman Pat McShane at both guard positions.
Lynch said he’s still confident in his depth, though.
“We addressed that in the spring and in the preseason,” Lynch said. “We really did. We practiced everybody. … They’re coached up that if they get called on, everybody in this room is counting on them. There aren’t any excuses about, well I’m young, or didn’t have experience. They have to be ready to play.”
Lynch said that his tailbacks will be back in action, however, with the exception of sophomore Darius Willis, who is out for the year. Senior Trea Burgess was hurt late in Saturday’s game after rushing for 102 yards. Redshirt freshman Nick Turner suffered an unknown injury during the game, and true freshman Antonio Banks did not play Saturday because he was ill.
“All four of them are returning for duty today,” Lynch said. “We got a good report on Trea. That’s the first one, because he got banged up in the game. Nick, we’ll kind of test him out a little bit today to see where he’s at. Antonio, hopefully he’s feeling better. He was sick a lot last week.”
- Lynch said safety Chris Adkins is coming along in his rehab from a preseason ankle injury, but he isn’t sure when he’ll return. “I was told today that he’s going to get to do some ‘dry-land running,'” Lynch said with a wry smile. “Never heard that one before but I’m very impressed. Dry-land running. That’s about as much as I can tell you. But I say that, he’s been running in the water tank and the treadmill and all that stuff. He’s obviously getting better. He’s coming along about like we expected. We were thinking he could play the last four games. That may be optimistic if he’s just running on land.”
- Lynch also said Richard Council could return from his knee injury at some point during the season, but reiterated that Brewer will be the first player to return.
- Lynch said he was impressed with the defensive performance on Saturday. The Hoosiers gave up 34 points, but a lot of that was because of short fields because of special teams failures and a late turnover. They held Arkansas State to just 61 yards on the ground on 21 carries. Though he said the Hoosiers made it a point of emphasis to avoid big plays, they didn’t change much of what they were doing schematically or philosophically. “We rallied to the ball,” Lynch said. “We kept the ball in front. We had good pursuit. We had fewer missed tackles… I thought the secondary got us in the right coverage. Overall, we were really pleased with how it went.”
- Lynch said the kickoff coverage would be addressed at length this week. It hasn’t been a major problem on Saturday, but the Hoosiers gave up returns of 71, 62 and 50 yards on Saturday. “We just didn’t get off blocks,” Lynch said. “And that was a lot of it. We were running, but we got blocked. You have to get off blocks on that team. One of them, we missed several tackles and the guy squirted out the other end. So there’s a combination of a lot of things. We’ll look at all of it. We met on it this morning and we will work. Some of it will be scheme, some of it will be personnel, some of it’s just execution and playing better.”
- Comical junior guard Justin Pagan was made available to the media after Lynch. As per usual, he came through with a few classic quips. First, he said he’s happy to be back at guard after a brief stint at tackle. “It’s good to be home. You like a vacation every once in a while, but it’s good to be back home.” Later, he was asked about how much pride the offensive line takes in keeping quarterback Ben Chappell from being sacked. “You gotta take a lot of pride because he’s not one of those fast quarterbacks, as they call them. So, he’s going to be right behind you all the time. You’ve gotta take a lot of pride in it. As coach Mo (Moriarity) said, he calls him our little sister. You can’t let your little sister get hit.” Chappell was available after Pagan and walked in the room after that comment. Pagan was asked if it was any harder to talk about “his red-haired little sister” now that he was in the room. “Nah, not really,” Pagan said. “He’s not really intimidating.” That drew laughs from everyone in the room, including Chappell.