Darius Willis out for Saturday’s game

Junior tailback Darius Willis will not be available for Saturday’s game against Ball State at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said after practice on Wednesday.

Wilson said Willis, who has started the last two seasons, hasn’t had much action all preseason. He played in just four games last season before sitting out the rest of the season with several injuries, the critical one being a torn patella tendon in his knee that required surgery. Willis sat out all of spring practice, and has apparently had his action limited in August.

“He just hasn’t been practicing much,” Wilson said. “He’s just always been nicked and dinged, not able to go full go all the time. It’s kinda hard to go when you don’t practice.”

When asked for the nature of his injuries, Wilson said there were a number.

“Name it,” Wilson said. “It’s been hands, ankles, backs. He’s just been hurt. He got hurt in stretches, he got hurt in walkthroughs, he’s just hurt. … It’s nothing personal against Darius at all, he just has missed a boatload of work. Hadn’t had a lot of reps with the ball in his hands, so where is he. How fast is he? Is he up to speed? There’s not really not much to it other than that.”

Wilson initially suggested that missing this game would count as Willis’s one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. The suspension stemmed from an alleged domestic assault incident in December. Willis was not charged with a crime, but he was hit with a six-month protective order.

Wilson didn’t sound certain that he would stick to that.

“Because he hasn’t earned it, maybe he shouldn’t be,” Wilson said. “I guess I need to figure that one out, because I don’t know if he’d be playing anyway.”

Willis rushed for 278 yards and four touchdowns last season and 607 yards and six touchdowns in 2009 as a redshirt freshman.

Wilson said sophomore tailback Nick Turner has also missed significant time in recent weeks. He was the only scholarship tailback who was healthy throughout the spring.

“He got a little concussion,” Wilson said. “He’s been OK, but he’s kinda loose with the ball…. He missed a hand full of days.”

Willis and Turner have the most Indiana experience of anyone in the backfield, but Wilson said injury isn’t the only reason they’re not currently on the depth chart. The performance of redshirt freshman Matt Perez, junior college transfer Stephen Houston and true freshman D’Angelo Roberts has been just as big of a reason.

“The other guys kinda separated,” Wilson said. “I don’t know if anyone’s separated to be the one. Especially considering two of them haven’t been here very long and they’re still learning, they look as good or better than the other guys. You look at a guy that you wouldn’t think should do as well and he’s doing as well as a guy that’s been here, the thought process is ‘He’s got some upside,’ and you want to push that one a little bit.”

Wilson said he still hasn’t decided what quarterback will take the first snaps on Saturday.

“We’ll just kinda sit back and collectively look at it,” Wilson said. “Bottom line, just a guy we think starting out with is gonna play the smartest, play within himself, try to make sure we’re managing the team, putting the ball in our hands, not forcing the issue and all that. We’ll talk about it tonight and tomorrow and go from there.”

AUDIO: Kevin Wilson


  1. “He’s just been hurt. He got hurt in stretches, he got hurt in walkthroughs, he’s just hurt. … It’s nothing personal against Darius at all, he just has missed a boatload of work.”

    “Because he hasn’t earned it, maybe he shouldn’t be,” Wilson said. “I guess I need to figure that one out, because I don’t know if he’d be playing anyway.”

    Those series of comments are somewhat contradictory, but they do not sound like ringing endorsements. He sounds a bit frustrated. Has Willis gotten sideways with his new head coach? Are the coaches questioning his toughness? Or has Willis simply suffered new injuries that prevent him from playing?

    Wilson’s comments don’t make it real clear where Willis stands with him, and they open the door to speculation. I winced a little reading his comments. He sounded like a new head coach. This may be an example where Wilson learns that the less said, the better. He may need Willis sooner than he imagines.

  2. I dont see them at all contradictory. I see it as him saying D Willis is not going to play because he hasnt practiced much. He hasnt practiced much because he gets hurt getting out of bed in the morning. I’d say that tells Willis all he needs to know…….get tough and get healthy or you obviously cant go. Pretty straight forward. Nothing personal outside of that he wants his most talented guys on the field and he’s frustrated about it. Join the crowd man!

    I think Houston and Perez should be fine with a little DeAngelo mixed in. Plenty of depth there.

  3. Podunker, sounds more to me like Wilson is saying “Willis, you need to want to play before the question is put in my hands…” We’ve all been wishing hope on top of hope that he (Willis) decide, which I think is what Wilson is saying in an elegant way. No, I don’t think Coach Wilson needs to do or say anything differently…he’s knows correctly that he has to focus on what he has, not what he does not have. Evidently, so far, Willis does not exist.

    It’s called becoming a man.

  4. Hope Darius gets better and starts to get some good practice in. He made some big time plays for us last year.

  5. Its a shame Willis has suffered so many injuries, I remember watching him from about 8th grade on and he has a supreme skill set with the ball in his hands and showed flashes of brilliance as a RS Freshman. Also a shame to see Nick Turner is banged up as well, he is another Conference Indiana (like Willis) player. His senior season he was the most dominate player in the conference, take his Southport team from being the doormat that most choked up as a victory to Conference Champions with a perfect record in the conference.

    From what I’ve seen of Perez on video, he could be a potentially explosive back for the Hoosiers! Roberts has the skill set and from what I’ve been told by others, he has put on the extra bulk he needed to be a solid back in the Big Ten.

    Now, how refreshing is it to hear Coach Wilson talk about his team and players aster the last 4 seasons of everything being a bed of roses and praise from the coaching staff? I have high hopes for the future of this program under Wilson, he doesn’t just won’t to be better, he is demanding it and saying so to everyone, players, coaches and fans! Awesome!

  6. I think Coach Wilson spoke clearly how he feels about his players. He has to see them preform well at practice so he has proof they can play well in games. Really not much of a head scratcher.

  7. I doubt that we will see much if anything of Darius any longer. It is a shame, but some guys can stand up to the rigors of D1 competition and some cannot. My guess is that Darius will be off the team relatively soon.

  8. Mike P. back in the fold. Coach Wilson sounds more like a Stoops, Meyer, Saban, Miles kind of guy. I feel like I have an idea what to expect out of the team based on what he says. Coach Lynch was such a Pollyanna that everything was in isolation, by that I mean he might say he’s happy with the improvement he has seen in practice but we still might be getting our brains beat out when they face another team. I think Coach Wilson is giving us an idea what to expect on Saturday.
    I’m afraid you guys are probably right about Darius. A gifted, but fragile thoroughbred. Best case scenario might be that he can become healthy enough that he can be a role player. Not to compare the two guys but it took some creativity to find a way to keep Reggie Bush in the NFL and stay in one piece.

  9. I am sure as a coach, KW is frustrated that Willis isn’t out there, as are we. TTG is right, MikeP is right, Wilson is not gonna baby Willis. Bad for morale, does not set a good example. IU(the team) is bigger than one guy. To many other things to worry about. Anyway, it’s not like KW was bashing Willis. In all fairness, all of our running backs got the hell beat out of them last year. I hope Willis has just had bad luck, as some do, and he comes back strong and helps the team win.
    Mmmmmmmmm, I can smell those tailgating grills already. Somebody please let out a big Hoosier yell for me this weekend! I will be watching on ESPN3.

  10. Thanks for the welcome back guys. I have been around, just limited posting. 🙂

    Willis was a work horse all through high school, his senior year he had, I believe a quad injury that forced him to miss the majority of his senior track season. If I remember right, that injury carried over through his redshirt season. I remember at the time being very concerned about that injury, but knowing he had the IU medical staff and a redshirt year to heal, he would be okay. Seems as though that injury was just a precursor to what we are seeing now. Damn Shame.

    As for Coach Wilson, his attitude and style is refreshing to me. I’ve seen what feel good coaching does to programs with great tradition on a personal level. Nice to have a coach that has a brass pair he isn’t afraid to swing around. I will almost guarantee this, his post game press conference won’t start with “Well, we played a really good team out there today” or any variation thereof.

  11. I think everyone on this site knows I’m a huge fan of Wilson and especially his direct communication style and his high expectations regarding toughness and preparation. I certainly do not challenge his decision to sit Willis. But part of the statement Wilson made in explaining the decision seemed undisciplined and unfortunate, especially since he said it to the press. It’s probably not the best idea to say tell members of the press that his player “got hurt in stretches, he got hurt in walkthroughs, he’s just hurt.” I think he realized that his comment started to cross the line, so he tried to walk it back with the “It’s nothing personal against Darius at all, he just has missed a boatload of work.” Why make the second part of that statement if there was nothing wrong with the first part.

    An old and very good principle of management can be summarized as “Praise publicly, criticize privately.” Another one is, “never deprive a subordinate of his dignity. Criticize the behavior, protect the person’s dignity.”

    As for Willis, his injury last year was certainly legitimate and serious, requiring surgery. Perhaps his pulls and strains this year have resulted from his inability to properly and thoroughly work through the off-season conditioning program. Perhaps he has a medical condition. Who knows? But his above-average talent and experience are worth additional patience, at least for now. As for Willis leaving IU, he’s a Junior with a history of injuries. That’s not real conducive to transferring voluntarily.

  12. Podunker, like all of your posts, there is always good reasons and the arguments behind them are solid. Like you, I like Wilson’s approach and judgment. I hope Willis heals properly, and the football Gods dress in Red for him (and us).

    Enjoy your sleep and dreams of us old coots celebrating on top of the goal posts after we keep the Bucket and clinch the Big Ten title just like in ’67.

  13. Sure, it was a verbal misstep. He is a football coach from North Carolina, not an orator. I hope he never embarrasses us but if we expect him to always say the right thing we are going to be very disappointed. Language is my profession and I still manage to muck it up from time to time. I really enjoy his glib nature. As someone mentioned earlier, we’re unlikely to hear that, ‘We faced a real good football team out there.’ I really liked that ESPN article. It gave me more of an insight into what the guy is like.

    One more day. I can hardly wait. I haven’t been to a game in years but I think I may gather up my wife or one of my kids and make a road trip.

  14. Coach Wilson made correct statements in an acceptable context. For certain the monkey is on DW’s back to perform when(?)healed and there is no doubt he now knows it. Maybe this will turn out as one of those good-ending stories. I personally hope he earns enough stickers to entirely cover his helmet.

  15. Tsao; I was there, in Memorial Stadium, the day IU beat Purdue to secure the trip to the rose bowl. I believe it was Terry Cole’s long TD run that put IU over the top. I guess I became a Hoosier FB fan that year. Have not stopped dreaming since.

  16. It was more than fun…late in the game, Purdue needed short yardage to keep their drive going and Keyes goes into the line. Our linebackers were Ken Kaczmarek and Kevin Duffy. Duffy sees he can’t get to keyes but sees Duffy in front of him, takes about a seven yard run at Kaczmarek and literally throws him at Keyes, knocking him down. Kaczmarek gets up (he’s p.o., reaches out and throws a forearm shiver at Duffy….they both start laughing. Terry Cole (RIP good friend) did have the offensive play that turned the game around with the play Podunker describes.

    The Big Ten still had to select its choice for the Rose Bowl. That night, AD Bill Orwig had a party atr his house. Around 7p we got the phone call that IU had been selected to play USC (and OJ) in the Rose Bowl. All in all, we played them pretty even. A pass here, a run there….after the Bowl IU was ranked eitehr 4th or 5th in the country.

  17. My brother-in-law made it to the Rose Bowl, which I never understood as he was a Kaintuck fan. I believe the Big Ten rule at the time was, in the event of a tie the team that had less recently been to the Rose Bowl would represent.

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