Quarterback job wide open, running backs healthy, and more from IU Media Day

Kevin Wilson stuck to his talking points when it came to the quarterback job on Tuesday at Indiana Football Media Day, continuing to say that it is not a two-man competition between redshirt sophomore Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker but a five-man race that also includes junior Adam Follett, senior Teddy Schell and true freshman Tre Roberson.

Wilson made a point specifically to say that Roberson will get a chance, and that he’s been impressed with what the reigning Mr. Football at Indiana has done so far.

“He’s got a nice little presence,” Wilson said. “He communicates well, and he can do some things, so there’s five guys.”

Wilson has said in the past that the way the Hoosiers run practice allows all of the quarterbacks to get a lot of reps. In any sort of scrimmage situation, he said there are always at least two huddles going on at once, so all five are getting a good bit of work.

However, Wilson said that within about a week, the Hoosiers will probably pare down the competition.

“We’ll probably go through the first week before we as a staff discuss, ‘Where do you think they are?'” Wilson said. “…. Maybe after this weekend, we’ll talk as a staff, because there is a time where we probably as coaches need to pare it down for reps. … As we head into two-a-days which start this Saturday, we’ll probably have to have more of a direction of where we’re going.”

Wilson continued to hold that there wasn’t a time that a starter needed to be named. He also backed off a statement he made at Big Ten Media Day when he said that he would not play two quarterbacks. He left open for that possibility on Tuesday.

“If you can, but maybe you can’t,” Wilson said when asked if he felt he had to settle on one quarterback. “There’s the saying that, ‘If you have two quarterbacks, that means you don’t have one.’ I’ve heard people say that. I don’t know if that means anything, but I’ve heard people say that. But sometimes you have two good ones. Sometimes guys bring different strengths to the table. The ability to do different things with their ability to run and throw in different styles.”

Wilson did reiterate his concern, though, with what the two quarterback system does to both mentally.

“I’m not averse to playing two,” Wilson said. “I just don’t want a guy looking over his shoulder every time he messes up, like he’s playing on eggshells.”

— There are finally enough running backs in camp to hold a competition. After sophomore Nick Turner and South graduate David Blackwell split most of the carries at camp, the Hoosiers finally got the cavalry back as the rest of the running backs return from injuries. Wilson said junior incumbent starter Darius Willis, sophomore Antonio Banks and true freshman Xavier Whitaker are all back after season-ending knee injuries that also kept them out of spring practice. Redshirt freshman Matt Perez is also healthy after missing all of the fall and most of the spring with a knee injury, and junior college transfer Stephen Houston has been added to the mix along with true freshman D’Angelo Roberts, a Bloomington North graduate.

“That group looks a lot better,” Wilson said. “… We’ll have three or four. Unlike quarterback, I think you do need more than one running back because they wear out and lose some gas. I don’t know that we have seven guys that we can jog out there and be starters, but I think we’ll have two or three.”

— Wilson said sophomore Dimitrius (D.J.) Carr-Watson has moved from linebacker to fullback to get into the mix with redshirt freshman Leneil Himes and others at that position. Wilson said he isn’t totally certain yet how much the Hoosiers will use a fullback in the offense.

— As Andy reported, true freshman guard Ralston Evans suffered an ACL tear in summer workouts and will miss the season. Evans apparently had a very strong spring after graduating early from Arlington High School and was starting at right guard for the spring game. Wilson said he isn’t certain if Evans would have started, but that he would’ve at least been part of the two-deep.

“That’s unfortunate, because he did great during camp,” Wilson said. “… He graduated early and he really had good spring, had really good workouts. Then he had the injuries, so it’s just one of those deals.”

— Also as Andy reported, Wilson announced that seven players who were with the team in the spring will not return. South graduate Aaron Price, who had a back injury, and fellow offensive lineman Collin Rodkey were both granted medical hardship waivers, which allow them to maintain their scholarships but formally end their careers. Wide receiver Nick Zachary, defensive end Harrison Scott, punter Chris Hagerup and offensive lineman Pat McShane all left the program as did cornerback Andre Kates, who announced last week that he was transferring. Wilson said the departures were the results of mutual decisions in some cases but also violations of some team rules.

— Wilson was asked at the beginning of his press conference about his thoughts on NCAA reform. He said one thing he was definitively in support of was an early signing period for football similar to the one that basketball has.

He also addressed the idea of paying players, or at least making sure their scholarship is “equivalent to the cost of attendance.” Wilson said he isn’t necessarily opposed to the idea of pay for play, but said there were a lot of considerations to be made to consider the effect of such an idea on the rest of athletic departments.

“Are you doing it just for football and basketball?” Wilson said. “Are you doing it for male, female sports? Soccer has 9 1/2 to 10 scholarships. What’s that percentage? How does that work? Golf? Track? There’s some dynamics there that not being an administrator or president, I don’t get that. Sometimes I think we stand up here as football coaches and we have full grants for 85 kids. That’s a different animal.”

Wilson said a bigger issue was making sure the Pell Grant system is maintained.

“I’m really concerned with the federal government if they eliminate the Pell Grant,” he said. “That has to be really addressed if that happens.”

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