More notes and observations from a full practice

The previous post is my story for tomorrow’s paper. Just wasn’t writing all of that stuff twice. Anyway, some info that didn’t fit.

— The format of practice made it difficult to come up with any empirical observations, mostly because it wasn’t quite full contact even though players were wearing full pads. There was some integrity to drives, but on several occasions, down, distance and field position was changed and teams were forced to punt despite gaining first downs because Wilson wanted to get a better opportunity to watch the kicking game.

— Since we’re discussing the kicking game, the kickers themselves looked good. Both Mitch Ewald and Nick Freeland hit field goals from deep. Can’t remember the exact yardage — media was actually asked not to keep stats or to discuss formations as a condition of the open practice — but I think they were both from 40 plus. Kickoff and punt coverages had ups and downs. The Hoosiers do have several return options. Slot receivers Dre Muhammad and Shane Wynn both seem to fit in pretty well back there.

— It’s my guess that Edward Wright-Baker is ahead of Dusty Kiel in the quarterback competition, but that’s mostly because Wright-Baker has in most cases come out with the first team first. Kiel was rotating drives with the first team with Wright-Baker and made a few nice plays. That being said, one thing that’s stood out to me is Wright-Baker’s improved accuracy, particularly on deep balls. He hooked up with freshman wide receiver Jay McCants on a deep fly route that I think he would’ve over thrown by 10 yards a year ago. Let me rephrase that actually. He would’ve thrown the ball to the same place, but missed the receiver by 10 yards because of lack of timing and touch. He finally seems to have figured that out.

— Tre Roberson was somewhat limited because of a minor knee tweak, quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said, so he didn’t play as much as Wright-Baker or Kiel. When he did, he was working mostly with the second and third team. However, even with a bit of a tweaked knee, he looked extremely impressive on a few occasions when he got out in the open field.

— D’Angelo Roberts, Matt Perez and Stephen Houston continue to get the bulk of the first team reps at running back. With the style the Hoosiers are trying to play, it does not appear that they will need to narrow it down to one running back. Darius Willis got some action, as did Antonio Banks and Nick Turner, but those three were mostly relegated to work with the second and third team.

— The Hoosiers could have a hard time deciding just how many true freshman wide receivers they are going to play, because they could end up using all of them. I’d still bet on Damarlo Belcher, Kofi Hughes and Duwyce Wilson as the starters, but Jay McCants, Cody Latimer and Shane Wynn could be the next three guys. Or Dre Muhammad — who I think this coaching staff is a huge fan of — can be next. And there’s still Logan Young and Jammone Chester to speak of. There’s been a lot of rotation with this group, and it will be interesting to see what happens to figure out that rotation.

Other than that, a lot of the first team and the top rotations seem to be close to figured out. Synopses on each

  • Offensive line: The Hoosiers have continued to use Andrew McDonald at left tackle, Marc Damisch at left guard, Will Matte at center, Justin Pagan at right guard and Josh Hager at right tackle every time we’ve seen scrimmaging, so that group seems set or close to it. Collin Rahrig appears to the the second team center. Charlie Chapman and Greg Lewis have been the next two options at left tackle. Bernard Taylor, Cody Evers and David Kaminski have been the next guards, Peyton Eckert has had most if not all of the time as second team right tackle.
  • Ted Bolser and Max Dedmond have seen most of the time at tight end, but true freshman Jake Reed saw some first team action on Thursday. When true fullbacks have been used, Matt Zakrzewski and Leneil Himes have had the work there.
  • The defensive tackle rotation has been the same as it has been the last two years with Larry Black Jr. and Adam Replogle switching in and out with Nicholas Sliger and Mick Mentzer. Redshirt freshman Marlandez Harris has been the next option.
  • Darius Johnson, Javon Cornley, Ryan Phillis, Fred Jones and Kevin Bush all saw some action with the first team defense.
  • When the Hoosiers go with three true linebackers, Jeff Thomas and Leon Beckum have teamed with Brandon McGhee. Defensive back Donnell Jones takes McGhee’s place when they go to nickel, which has been often. Griffen Dahlstrom, Chase Hoobler and Zack Shaw appear to be the next three options, but there is some depth and a lot of switching there. Ishmael Thomas, Kyle Kennedy, Mike Replogle, and Jake Michalek were among those who saw time Thursday.
  • The secondary seems set with Jarrell Drane and Chris Adkins at safety, Lawrence Barnett and Greg Heban at corner. Lenyatta Kiles, Michael Hunter and Kenny Mullens appear to be the next three corners. Drew Hardin, Forisse Hardin, Shaquille Jefferson and Mark Murphy all saw time as second team safeties.

 

10 comments

  1. Why is Darius Willis way down to 4th or 5th on the RB list? He was 1st for a while last year before he got hurt. Is he still injured or not 100% or have the others just passed him up?
    Maybe I just missed reading something about him. Please someone update me. Thanks

  2. southport65, from what I understand, Willis is still recovering somewhat from his season ending injury last year. However, I think the real reason is that Darius is just not physically able to stand up to D1 competition and certainly not B10 competition. I think he’s fast and talented, but just not able to withstand the hits. I think KW and staff have come to recognize this and are acting accordingly.

  3. Just saw in the TV listings that Gunner’s game, Columbus North vs. Columbus East, will be on ESPNU tonight.

  4. Nice scope of news there man appreciate that.

    Interested to see if Heban maybe took a step forward from last year and how Barnett looks at CB spots. We need some playmaking back there. Also going to be interested in seeing if our Dline, specifically Adam, put on a little more weight and muscle and are ready to force double teams in the middle. I like our LBs and think they can be a position of strength for the team if the D line can keep the Guards and Tackles off of them and let them use their speed to the ball.

    I dont know. Still kind of think we are a little behind with the QB situation and all the new starters, so not really sure I’m ready to say we can win more than 4-5 games this year, but I would not be shocked if I was selling them short in the end.

  5. Indy; your doubts about IU winning more than five games this year if IU’s QB does not develop are valid. But I anticipate both Kiel and Wright-Baker will advance through the learning curve quickly between the first and fourth games. By Big Ten season, one of those two should be playing at a high level. Both Kiel and Wright-Baker have good skills and I believe they’re both going to play in the first three games. By game 4, IU should have found its starter and he should be good to go.

    The key in the first three games is that IU’s QBs not lose games as a result of bad decisions, fumbles and stupid INTs. Given that the skills and experience for Kiel and Wright-Baker are almost identicle, Wilson will play the guy most likely to protect the ball and minimize turnovers. Early on, Wilson is looking for his QB’s to not lose any games. It’ll take at least six games before either QB will be able to “win” games.

    In the mean time, expect IU to rely on running the ball with multiple backs rotating in, aggressive defense trying to force turnovers, and improved special teams play that gives IU good field position. Pass-plays will be relatively few in number, simple and “safe.”

    In the first three games, if opposing defenses drop back to defend the pass, IU must pound the D-line with multiple backs that get positive yards on first down. If opposing teams bring 8 men in the box to stop the run, Roberson may get his chance to play. His ability to operate outside the pocket and run could be effective against defenses that dare IU to run.

    In order for IU to win more than five games this year, the defense must step up and make significant improvement over last year’s performance.

  6. I know many believe UVA will be the bellwether game as it will be our first contest against a team of equal standing, but I believe how we play against BSU, SC State, and North Texas will determine how we do when conference play starts.

    If our QB’s struggle with reads against these smaller schools it will be disastrous. BSU, SC St., and NT don’t have the personnel that many of the conference teams have, especially the defensive and offensive lines. IF our OL or DL get pushed around it won’t matter how good our skill position players are. You win games in the trenches.

    We got to win those battles up front. Do that and we will go bowling this year.

  7. Being able to call the right plays, and make the right adjustments to keep the opposing team honest will be key also. Off balance, as they say. I think the hiring of Wilson adressed that problem. Hopefully we have a solid running game to get through those trenches.

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