As much as Kevin Wilson’s first spring practice was about establishing the basics of his philosophies, terminology and schemes, it was just as much about establishing the high tempo he used in his offense at Oklahoma and that he hopes to use at Indiana.
The goal, Wilson said, is to get as much out of the 20 hours the players per week the players are allowed to be on the field as possible.
“We’re trying to just get more snaps,” Wilson said. “We’ve got a couple of huddles going. Everyone’s getting in there. You learn more. Not just standing around osmosis but physically doing it, mentally doing it instead of watching. It’s tough in practice, you need to be fair to the defense. We know where the ball is going to be spotted because we script it. It’s all written out, so it’s actually a little faster than a game. Sometimes that’s not fair. You gotta make it fair for the defense. But at the same time, you got this thing called the 20-hour rule. What that means for the players is we’re gonna do as much as we can in a little time. That’s the worst rule they made for players because they get no rest now. We just practice. There’s more water breaks than the old days.”
One way in particular that the IU staff sped up the pace was by holding dueling scrimmages. Under the Bill Lynch regime, the Hoosiers’ would often scrimmage the first team offense against the first team defense while the second-team watched, then flipped the situation. Sometimes the ones played the twos and so forth, but when it came to scrimmaging, one group was always watching the other.
Tuesday’s practice was the opposite.
“It was real fast-paced,” senior linebacker Jeff Thomas said. “A lot of plays, less standing around. There were two groups going, that was good, because a lot of people got in a lot of work. … It was pretty intense out there. I think we’re more excited, more anxious to get out there right now.”
Tuesday was obviously the first chance for Wilson to begin installing his playbook, but he said Tuesday was just about getting in the basics. What else the Hoosiers use will be based on personnel.
“When you say system, our system is playing to what they can do,” Wilson said. “So right now, we’re just figuring out what they can do. But I would say if there’s a true notebook, there’s probably one-eighth of it in right now. You don’t go to Chapter 2 until you get through Chapter 1. We might come back Thursday and just do the same kind of practice. It will take time. We might not have it all in until the end of next year. But hopefully we’ll have enough in to max out what these kids can do.”
The first day of spring practice also brought the return of the Dusty Kiel-Edward Wright-Baker quarterback battle with the stakes higher than ever but the slate mostly clean. Quarterbacks coach/co-offensive coordinator said it is very open and that his days in Michigan show that there doesn’t have to be an established starter by the end of spring or even early in the preseason.
“I don’t think you do,” Smith said. “I really don’t. We never named a guy. We named Denard Robinson the day before the game. You know what I mean? To me, I mean, is it nice? Yeah. Does it take some pressure off the kid? Sometimes. Sometimes it keeps them on edge too. I want our guys hungry. I want them battling. I don’t want them backing off and saying, ‘OK, that guy’s going first. I’m going second.’ I don’t want that. I want you competing every day and every snap, because everything’s getting evaluated.”
Sophomore tailback Darius Willis participated in some drills, but was still wearing a walking boot, so he wasn’t available for most drills. Of course, Willis’s injuries aren’t the only issues he faces. He’s under a protective order issued by a Monroe County Circuit judge because of an alleged domestic assault that occurred in December. Wilson said that before changing Willis’s status, he would wait to see how the case continues to progress. Willis has not been charged with a crime, however. Unless the complainant decides to press charges — that statute of limitations on domestic assault is two years — there will be no trial or further legal proceedings.
“Until anything has been charged,” Wilson said. “Technically, I don’t know what’s going through the court deal, so or now, we’re just trying to see what the legal folks do. Then we’ll wait and see if we have any school or athletic department or football sanctions. So we’re just waiting to make sure we got all the facts and legally, everybody’s story, we’ll see how it plays out.”