Wilson talks secondary and other notes from camp #iufb

There continue to be moments when Kevin Wilson wishes his secondary was further along in certain areas. Take, for instance, a sequence during Saturday’s closed scrimmage at Memorial Stadium.

On a third-and-four opportunity, one of IU’s young defensive backs had a chance to make a tackle behind the line of scrimmage and force a punt. Instead, he whiffed. IU’s offense gained nine yards on the mistake, and four plays later, it scored a touchdown. With a week and a half remaining before those plays start counting, there remains work to be done in the Indiana defensive backfield.

But taken as a whole, Wilson isn’t totally down on his secondary.

“The DBs are doing good,” he said this week. “They’re getting a bunch of work, and they need it.”

On the corners, Wilson says redshirt sophomores Rashard Fant and Noel Padmore, along with walk-on Ben Bach, have been at their best since fall camp opened two weeks ago. Free safety Chase Dutra is also living up to his role as the group’s leader, Wilson said. The challenge continues to be IU’s ability to bring along a handful of underclassmen to fill the depth chart and fix its struggling secondary. Over the last week, a couple of those youngsters have been limited.

Wilson said Wednesday that freshman corner Andre Brown missed the last couple days with a bruised shoulder, though he doesn’t believe it’s a serious setback. Classmate Tyler Green also missed time last week with an undisclosed injury, but he’s a full-go now.

“As freshmen, I think once in awhile they get hit and (they have to see if they) can play with it, play through it (and) how hurt it is,” Wilson said.

With Brown and Green recently missing time, that allowed more reps for running back-turned-corner Devonte Williams. Last week Wilson said Williams, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound freshman, has been the team’s most physical corner at times.

“Devonte’s coming along,” Fant said, “especially coming from running back and not playing too much corner in his life. But you can tell sometimes that he just looks like a natural out there.”

Whether in one-on-one work or with the full group, the secondary continues to focus on making tackles in practice. Wilson wants the defensive backs to understand what it feels like to be on an island and need to make a stop. If there’s an opposing player in space, Wilson says, the Hoosiers need to be better at taking him to the ground.

The IU coach says the secondary also stands to receive help from an improved front seven that could take the burden off the back end with a more natural pass rush. On a fourth-and-five situation at the 35-yard line during Wednesday’s practice, defensive end Nick Mangieri had a clear path to the quarterback, flushing him out of the pocket. Mangieri was able to mess up the timing of the offensive play and Wilson deemed it a “win” for the defense.

“To me, it’s a total team deal,” Wilson said. “No one’s looked poorly.”

Hale staying at QB, for now

As the last member of Indiana’s freshman class to report to campus, Donavan Hale is still something of an unknown.

Hale, a quarterback who missed IU’s summer session while waiting to qualify, didn’t receive the same kind of preparation as classmate Austin King, who arrived to Bloomington in June. Nor is he close to getting more reps than Nate Boudreau, Zander Diamont and Danny Cameron.

While Hale remains at the back of the pack in practice, Wilson said he hasn’t considered — nor does he have any reason for — moving the Florida native to another skill position.

“I guess he’s got the skill set to do something else,” Wilson said. “We’ve not done enough with him to eliminate him (as a quarterback) by any means. Sometimes it’s just hard for those guys to get reps. I think we have enough players at other spots.”

Hale, at 6-foot-4, 207 pounds, signed with IU as an athlete after playing quarterback at Largo High School. At least to begin his career, Hale will stick at the position.

“We’re gonna give him a chance to develop,” Wilson said. “Because he missed the summer work, it’s not fair because calling snap count is a little hard. Those other guys had eight weeks of being around and getting used to stuff. So we’re giving him some time. He’s got a chance.”

Adjusting to school

IU will have a week to adjust to the beginning of fall classes before its first full week of game preparations.

After an off-day Thursday, the team will practice during each of the next three days before taking an off day for Monday’s first day of classes. From there the Hoosiers will start easing into game week preparation.

“I kind of like having (the first) week of school a week before game week,” Wilson said. “So we get classes, bus rides (and) where to go (figured out) in a practice week, then really get in the flow. I like (having) that this year. I think it’s great for the season schedule.”

Williams says he’ll visit

Taj Williams may still have IU in his future.

Williams, a former four-star Indiana commit in the 2014 recruiting class, tweeted Thursday that he’ll be on campus this weekend for an official visit. Currently at Iowa Western, Williams is the No. 1 ranked junior college receiver in the 2016 recruiting class. He’s the No. 3 overall JuCo prospect in the nation.

Williams originally committed to Indiana in March 2013, choosing the Hoosiers over offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State and many others, but he never made it to IU after failing to meet academic standards. Instead, he landed at Iowa Western. Teammate Jayme Thompson, a safety, committed to IU last month.

17 comments

  1. from recent articles i have read i get the feeling that Coach Wilson is worried about the physicality of the IU secondary…..Rashand Fant was a track man, maybe a better coverage person than a physical football player…..that is why Devonte Williams is moving up the chart…..get the feeling Coach Wilson has not made a decision about who will be the starting CB’s…looks like the competition is wide open…too bad about the minor injuries to the freshmen CB (Tyler Green and Andre Brown) i get the feeling they where in the mix for a starting position….looks like Ben Bach and Noel Padmore will be the starters, looks like they are the physical CB’s Coach Wilson is looking until the freshman develop…..this football season depends on the development of the cornerbacks and safety.

  2. The difference is for the 1st time in my my memory IU has DB prospects that are nearly all damn athletic. That is a phenomenon for IU. They’ve had 1 or 2 in a bunch of DB’s but never a bunch of athletes like this staff has brought in. I think S is more set with Fields and Dutra as #1’s along with 2-3 able 1A’s.. At the CB it has to be Padmore and Fant with Bach and Brown as able replacements in the rotation. Williams very well will end up being the best of the bunch but not in the 1st 6 weeks. He has loads of talent but is raw in skills, schemes and reading sets. All though the season many are going to get chances to be tested and instructed in game action. By conference time with any kind of consistent pass rush the pass D should be serviceable to keep IU in every contest.

  3. Agree Clarion, and I what you’ll also see is that over the last few years, our DBs have been some of our most highly regarded recruits. Guys like Fant, Padmore, Fields, Walton, Green, Brown, Williams, all had at least an offer or 2 from QUALITY power conference schools (several with 4+ of those offers). That’s just unheard of at IU. So while these guys might be young and inexperienced, we are finally starting from a very solid talent base.

    Also, looking at our schedule, our first 4 games should be winnable even with some hiccups in the secondary. Then we play OSU and @PSU, which are likely losses even if our secondary is performing at a high level. So that gets us to Oct 17 before our DBs might play a deciding factor in games. Plenty of time to get some of these guys acclimated.

  4. I think Penn State: away and Mich in HB’s first year (I know there is talent there and it is Harball, but he could have some bumps in the road) are winnable for IU if everyone (key players) are healthy. So maybe IU can get one of the two….two of two or zero of two. I say one of the two.

  5. The DBs don’t have to be bone-crushing tacklers, but they do need to learn to wrap up and develop proper tackling techniques. If they’re just “serviceable,” IU should win six this year.

  6. I agree with Podunker that the secondary needs to be credible but not necessarily stellar to give us a shot at 6 wins. I find it somewhat interesting that, with the obvious and much needed focus that CKW is devoting to defensive matters, Coach Knorr’s name has been rarely mentioned (possibly just my misperception). Nonethe less, I agree that proper tackling is essential and has been an issue for us for many years. Also, defense more than offense, requires an intangible that some refer to as a killer instinct. However described, this too has been sorely missing and we are going to need it!

  7. This articles brings up several interesting items. When freshmen come into a program they are faced with going against players better than anyone they faced in high school. I went from a very good 4A program that had country kids to coaching inner city players. Even though I coached secondary players in both places the drills I had to use varied greatly because the athletic ability varied greatly. The first time I did a goalline tackling drill I used before the inner city kids couldn’t touch the RBs because of the elusiveness of the athletes. I quickly changed the drill to teach our DBs to just get the RB down instead of form tackling him down. It is incredibly hard to tackle an elusive runner in the open field. It takes a lot of experience to develop the knack of cutting off the angles so you could put the runner in a phone booth. The more athletic the DB the quicker they develop this because a lot of it is a natural instinct.

    I agree that Coach Wilson seems to be talking about the defense more than in the past. I think he is learning as a head coach that what he makes important the team makes important. I just think this year’s team is far better prepared to compete in the B1G as we have enough quality athletes to compete with them. In the past we had a few exceptional athletes but too many average ones to get the job done. I still think the DL needs an athletic upgrade but this year’s group will do a good job. We just need a quality edge rusher and I don’t see that on this team and it will be what keeps us from moving even higher up in the standings.

    Overall, I am excited about this team.

  8. iu79 Fant was never a track guy,RB has been his regular position since the age of 6, i also remember him playing both sides of the ball almost the complete game, what i would like to see is the D line and linebacker’s be more consistent in rapping up and making tackle’s , that’s their main responsibility not the secondary’s, these guy’s should be monster’s on the field but they need to be trained and taught the right way. One of our top player’s from last year BR is trying to make it in the NFL but struggled bench pressing 225lbs, 18 reps is unacceptable for a man of that size

  9. I have no facts to state that Fant was a track man but I do know I read some time back how he had set a HS record with a 4.3 – 40. It was a strong time of 4.3? and I don’t recall how low in the 3’s it was. That is speed even more so than Tracy Porter possessed.

  10. Ok, thanks. You made very specific comments about his talent level and skills so I assumed you’d actually seen him play. I hear he’s good but I’ll wait to see him play.

  11. Julie,

    Yes I did but nothing that took a crystal ball. There are loads of videos of Williams in HS. He in the last week has stated he now prefers CB to RB. That is saying something.coming from a Frosh. That is because he is experiencing some success and is getting confidence he can see his future in the position change. His videos reveal he has the athleticism and foot work to be a cover corner. Wilson has already complimented he is physical. CB’s when back pedaling cannot have their weight on their toes or it becomes tougher to flip/snap your hips quickly in the right direction(many even with the proper technique are not athletic enough to quickly flip their hips). You also can’t be leaning to far back so as to take weight off your toes as a WR will fake you into separation. A CB needs speed, ya, quickness, ya, reflexes, ya, but what the needs most is great foot work. Williams has very good feet. So I see his performance in the HS videos and what Wilson, DC, staff and team mates are saying about his work in practice and it is pretty clear he is honing very good athletic talents into skills of a B1G CB.

  12. BigWW brings up a good point about the strength of our defensive front. I know the OL now has 8 guys benching over 400 pounds so I would hope the defensive front has made the same kind of gains. I do know that the front is shedding blockers better in drills and tackling ball carriers. This isn’t an easy thing to do and I think the change to coach Larry McDaniel has really brought this change on. Coach Wilson has said he thinks the front is a strength this year and expects them to make plays that will help out the young secondary. I like moving players to strengthen the position instead of just accepting a shortcoming and when players say they now prefer D that is a big change. I hope we get to see Covington on the defensive field because he is one the chose to move back to defense and he is athletic enough to be able to help out rushing the passer while on a stunt. There are many good things going on with the football program and I hope they get some luck this year to let them play up to the level I know they can play. On BTN live they were saying they thought PSU could challenge OSU this year; if that is true then where is Indiana when they played PSU 13-7. It will be fun to watch this team this year especially if the young secondary can develop into a solid group.

  13. Williams would be a great pickup for the team and I hope he stays with IU as he originally planned on doing. I think how well this team does this year will help cement him to IU as he knows he would get many more catches here than at other programs. IU is now sending more players to the Pros and recruits see that especially if they go at their position. As IU develops more of a Pro pipeline the easier it will be to get some top recruits. I guess we find out Thursday if Patrick is eligible and the football team needs him to be eligible as getting something to break right for them will have a big impact.

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