Quarterback competition trimmed, and other news from a mostly open practice

After speaking to alumni and fans at the IU Tailgate Tour event Monday in Bloomington, Indiana football coach Kevin Wilson allowed everyone at the event to watch the second half of Monday night’s practice, which gave what was by far the most revealing look at the team to date. It was obviously the public’s first look at the team, but it was the first time media has been able to watch anything close to live scrimmaging, as the first 30 minutes of practice are typically all that is open. Players were wearing just shoulder pads and helmets, no leg pads, but there was still hitting and some tackling and significant 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work. Lots of notes follow.

— Wilson said that he was looking to shrink the quarterback competition by the end of this past weekend, and he apparently did. Sophomores Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker and true freshman Tre Roberson took all of the snaps in 11-on-11 work with junior Adam Follett and senior Teddy Schell appearing to be out of the competition.

“A little bit,” Wilson said. “We’ll see with reps and what’s going on. … The morning was a run-oriented practice. A lot of short yardage. Bigger sets. The afternoon with the half-pads were a lot of third-and-long, two-minute, more pass-oriented stuff.”

The three quarterbacks all got opportunities with the first-team offense, but Wright-Baker was the one who started the 11-on-11 scrimmaging with the first team, and he arguably appeared the sharpest of the three. He connected with freshman wide receiver on a brilliant fade route in the 7-on-7 drills, completing a route that always seemed to be a a problem for him in the past. He continues to show his quickness and speed, breaking out of the pocket for an impressive run during the practice, but he more importantly seems significantly more accurate.

Roberson continues to hold his own. His speed helped him get out of the pocket against heavy pass-rushes. He was mostly accurate on intermediate routes and shows that he at least has the arm for the deep ball if he’s not completely accurate with it. He’s outlasted the upperclassmen competition, and appears ready to battle with Kiel and Wright-Baker.

Kiel had his moments, but also threw an ugly interception into the hands of redshirt freshman Kenny Mullens. Though the split in playing time in the Spring Game appeared to pit him as the front runner for the starting position, it doesn’t appear that he has a firm grip on the position now, as he spent as much time Monday working with the second team as he did with the first team.

— Running back Darius Willis, tight end Ted Bolser and defensive tackle Mick Mentzer were among the the players held out of the practice. Wilson wouldn’t go into detail about their injuries, but confirmed that they were “nicked up a little.” He said later that Bolser “doesn’t have a major deal,” and said the same about Mentzer.

Wilson was asked about Willis and when he would be back. Willis was named the starter the last two seasons, but has missed significant time with knee and ankle injuries. He had season-ending knee surgery to repair a torn patella tendon and missed all of the spring.

“He hasn’t been here much,” Wilson said. “I haven’t seen him yet. He’s a bigger story for you guys. I haven’t seen him do much. I don’t know. He’s hurt.”

The bulk of the running back reps went to junior college transfer Stephen Houston, sophomore Nick Turner, redshirt freshman Matt Perez and true freshman D’Angelo Roberts, a Bloomington North graduate. Wilson said that those were the four front-runners for the position right now, which puts them a head of sophomore Antonio Banks and redshirt freshman Xavier Whitaker, who did not see time in 11-on-11 drills.

Wilson said he has been impressed with Roberts, who rushed for 6,002 yards and 75 touchdowns at North.

“He’s got a little spunk about him,” Wilson said. “He’s like those other freshmen, doesn’t know what he’s doing all the time, but he’s got great effort and does have some natural skill. I think he’s gotten a little bigger and stronger from his high school days. He’s playing a little behind his pads. I think he and the junior college guy are nice little adds back there and he and Nick and Perez are the guys that are playing the most back there.”

— The first team offenses and defenses used the following lineups out of the gate. Obviously, they aren’t definitive and nothing is set in stone, but they are interesting.

Offense

WR — Damarlo Belcher

WR — Kofi Hughes

WR– Jay McCants

LT– Andrew McDonald

LG– Marc Damisch

C– Will Matte

RG– Justin Pagan

RT — Josh Hager

QB — Edward Wright-Baker

RB– D’Angelo Roberts

RB — Stephen Houston

Defense

DE — Darius Johnson

DT– Larry Black, Jr.

DT– Adam Replogle

DE — Fred Jones

LB — Jeff Thomas

LB — Leon Beckum

Nickel Back — Donnell Jones

CB — Lawrence Barnett

CB — Greg Heban

S — Jarrell Drane

S — Chris Adkins

Wilson said that putting Pagan at right guard might be the best way to get the best five linemen up front. He hasn’t necessarily performed badly at right tackle, but he fits slightly better at guard and Josh Hager has been strong outside. Jones seemed to be playing a linebacker role, but Wilson said that was because it was a passing practice and the Hoosiers were going with three defensive backs. He said fifth-year senior Brandon McGhee and redshirt freshman Chase Hoobler are battling for the third linebacker spot.

— There were some substitutions on the first team, and there was even more movement on the second team. But the following included most of the second-team rotations.

Offense

WR- Duwyce Wilson, Logan Young, Connor Creevey

WR-Cody Latimer, Tim O’Conner

WR– Dre Muhammad, Shane Wynn

LT- Charlie Chapman/Gregory Lewis

LG- Bernard Taylor/Cody Evers

C-Colin Rahrig

RG – David Kaminski

RT-Peyton Eckert

QB – Dusty Kiel/ Tre Roberson

RB-Matt Perez

RB – Nick Turner

TE-Max Dedmond

Defense

DE – Javon Cornley/Kevin Bush

DT-Marlandez Harris

DT-Nicholas Sliger

DE- Ryan Phillis

LB-Griffen Dahlstrom

LB-Brandon McGhee

Nickel-Kenny Mullens

CB– Michael Hunter

CB-Lenyatta Kiles

S-Drew Hardin, Mark Murphy, Jake Zupancic

S- Forisse Hardin, Shaquille Jefferson.

Wilson said that Taylor has moved over from defensive tackle, where he was recruited, to guard and will likely play this year. He said Jake Reed has moved over from defensive end to tight end, with Bolser hurt for the moment. He said the defensive end rotation is currently made up of Johnson, Jones, Phillis, Cornley and Bush.

The wide receiver contingent saw the most rotation, and obviously, the most interjection of freshmen with McCants, Latimer and Wynn all getting time with the second team as well as some with the first team. The Hoosiers were already getting a boost of depth there with Young and O’Conner coming off redshirt years, so the rotation will the a difficult one to crack.

— Monday’s practice gave us the greatest opportunity yet to critique the music selection at practice. (Just in case you haven’t heard yet, they’re bringing in speakers and playing tunes throughout practice.). Eclectic doesn’t even begin. There was some pretty obvious Hip-Hop stuff, including a Black-Eyed Peas track and something from Kanye West. But there was also the following.

— Michael Jackson’s “Man In the Mirror.” Absolutely blew me away to hear that one at a football practice.

— Huey Lewis and the News, “The Power of Love. ” Yes, really.

— Jimi Hendrix “Voodoo Child.”

— Tom Petty “American Girl.”

— Eddie Money “Take Me Home Tonight.”

And if you’re wondering, yes, this would definitely be a daily feature if we got to watch practice every day.

26 comments

  1. I think the larger / largest surprise is Jake Reed moving to TE, with a wonder of whether that’s a temporary thing since Ted Bolser is injured at the moment.

  2. TuShay,
    Wilson mentioned him as a linebacker who is in the mix. I think the reason we didn’t see him is they were playing all nickel in the part of practice we watched. Only two LB’s on the field at a time.
    IUfan23, It doesn’t necessarily mean that. Would say it’s more Wilson trying to get us off the trail so we’re not asking about him all the time.

  3. DD, In somewhat tepid jest, I could not care less about the music selection for practice. I could be more interested in the contrast of a Coach Lynch vs. Coach Wilson managed practice. I know you have only gotten a peek at one session but there has to be a handful of differences apparent to your scrutiny.

  4. With Follett out of the QB competition this early in camp I wouldn’t be surprised if he decides to transfer. That would free up another scholarship.

    Schell being a senior cannot salvage his career at this point so the best thing for him to do is complete his degree and enjoy the ride of his final year.

    So Wilson has decided to make the bold move and live or die this year with having three inexperienced gunslingers under center. Not that Follett and Schell are all that experienced game wise, but that doesn’t leave much wiggle room if the starter were to go down with an injury. All we’re going to be doing is swaping one inexperienced quarterback for another. I’m struggling with wanting to revise the number of wins this year downward.

  5. Nothing on the chess board has changed. If Dusty is the starter Baker is the back-up and the same scenario if reversed. Schell and Follett were going to occupy 2 of 3 spots regardless, 3rd and 4th, 3rd and 5th or 4th and 5th. If DK or EWB get hurt everyone moves up a position. The W/L speculation has much more to do with the #1 QB being hurt and unavailable not if AF or TS take over.

  6. HC,
    Fair point, but in response, I’d say this. The differences between one coach’s style of practice and another’s can usually be told in things we do not see or hear. Wilson and Lynch’s overall practice structure are about the same from what we’ve been shown. Starts with warm-ups. Break up into position groups for fundamental drill work, get together for 7-on-7 and then 11-on-11. Both change up down and distance and time to work on situations. Didn’t see a lot of reinvention of the wheel when it came to practice structure, but that’s not surprising even though Wilson and Lynch are totally different people. Even in basketball, I’ve noticed that coaches tend to structure practice using the same general framework. The difference is in details that aren’t necessarily minute, but aren’t easy to put together if you aren’t in the huddle.

  7. Did they run a two-back set with Houston and Roberts? On another note…Gunner Kiel needs to be calling Jake Meador daily to have him re-think Ole Miss…it looks like our 0-line could be in a tough situation for years to come.

  8. TuShay,
    IU has already locked up 5 commits from offensive lineman, including a DE and TE that project to tackle at the next level. While those two would be considered projects, a few of the others should be able to help right away. With the way the staff has gone after lineman, it appears Wilson knows this a problem area for us. Help is on the way.

  9. Any signs of life in the pass-rush area? Fred Jones didn’t bring much. Who has the edge speed? Phillis? Cornley? Apparently Reed doesn’t have it yet.

  10. Very good question. Wish I had some tape to assess that a little bit better. I’d say Jones must be doing something because he is playing with the first team. And apparently they like Phillis and Cornley. Kevin Bush is still in the discussion as well. It looked to me like the defensive line was beating the offensive line, but keep in mind that’s a reporter’s eye, not a coach’s eye telling you that.
    But yeah, I think pass rush could be a big issue.

  11. Like Hoosier Clarion and Chet, me too. Also a sense of how practice is run, how are groups divided and rotated, the organization of the practice, the types of drills and the timing of the drills. Some idea of how the assistant coaches work and their organization, the role of graduate assistants, numbers…etc.

    Also, most important Coach Wilson’s role and activity during the practices.

    Finally, any observations as to the emerging leadership among the players, any that are particularly active. Any reading of body language. Thanks for your report today. Very informative and interesting. Just trying to mine down deeper into Wilson’s new Hoosiers.

  12. TuShay; I’m confident Gunner Kiel committed to IU with his eyes wide open. He comes from a football family, with an uncle that played for ND, an older brother at IU, etc. At first news of his verbal, I was cautious about him signing in February. But based on his comments that have been published since then, I think there is little risk of him signing with another school. He knows it’s going to take some time for Wilson to turn the program into a winner, but he wants to be a part of that transformation. I don’t get the sense that Gunner is willy-nilly on his committments.

    If IU’s 0-line gets just moderately better in the next two years,especially in the running game, IU should be able to produce a winning season. The recruiting news is encouraging. Wilson is getting big guys with lots of upside.

  13. Podunker, I think you mis-understood my statement. I said I hope Kiel would call Jake Meador at Whiteland to see if he’d re-consider committing to Ole Miss, not Kiel’s commitment to Indiana. It’s always great to have some ‘project’ O-line recruits come in, but on shear averages, less than half work out. Someone like Meador who has the size and already has good feet is someone who can come and start from Day 1. Indiana needs O-line and Defensive End recruits like that in the worst way!

  14. Dustin,

    Very good and informative report. Much appreciated. And TuShay, if you’re looking for a pass-rush guy, let’s go with Kevin Bush. I’m hoping he can be our third down, obvious passing situation, rush end.

  15. I hope Bush can produce. I love his attitude and his effort! Excited for season kick-off, 2 weeks from Saturday!

  16. D. Wilson not a starter at WR? Kofi, Darmelo, and Duwyce will be one of the best receiving groups in the Big Ten.

    Add Wynn, Latimer, and O’Conner and we look good at that position for the next few years.

  17. 6th,
    Wouldn’t take too much from Duwyce not being on first team there. Wide receiver included more constant rotation than any other position. I don’t think this provides any certainty that Wilson won’t start, and I’d guess at the end of the day it will be Belcher, Wilson and Hughes.
    Don’t sleep on Jay McCants and Logan Young.

  18. TuShay; you’re correct, I did mis-understand your previous post. My apologies.

    And you raise a coule of interesting issues. Will IU’s coaching staff be aggressive in trying to recruit (or poach) players that have verbally committed to other schools until signing day? Or will they take the “high road” and respect the decision of the players? How much influence can a top rated recruit like Gunner have on other high school players?

    My guess to question #1 is, no, IU won’t be aggressive in trying to poach verbally committed players. Not sure if i agree with that tactic or not, but I know some of the best fB schools are ruthless in continuing to recrit players after they’ve made verbal committments. And #2, High School football players don’t have the same direct influence on other highly ranked football recruits, primarily because they don’t do as many camps and other AAU type games that BB players participate in.

  19. My Man PO-DUN-KER!! I knew that maybe 4-5 posters here would understand the meaning of ‘poaching’ a kid who already gave his verbal into breaking his word to someone else. Podunker would understand, Chet would…several others as well. We may have to work harder, a bit longer…we’ll get there and with pride.

    Just as I finished writing my post on Miami, I turned to another post suggesting we reach out to the Whiteland kid (Meador) to get him to ‘uncommit’. But Podunker took care of that. Mr. Meador, have a great experience with the Rebels. Hope you make All-American and have a great life.
    We…we like what we got!

    And, you know what. A kid like Kiel, who has a vision, integrity and believes in leading…that’s the kind of man who doesn’t break his word. That’s who we want. Commitment is enough; he’s got Honor and Word going for him.

  20. I remember Hep’s reaction four/five years ago when the top rated safety in America (from Indy) was poached by Florida a day or two before signing day. That player (I forget his name right now) played a year at Florida, got injurred after a few games, then transferred to IU after his freshman year. Anyway, Hep was not happy with Florida’s coach. He struggled to stay on the high road when the news broke, but his face, when a reporter asked him the question, said it all.

    Some coaches feel that recruiting does not end until the ink on the LOI is dry. Others accept a player’s verbal and don’t try to pull the kid away. I’m not really sure what the best policy should be these days. In a perfect world, where coaches demonstrated ethics and integrity, they’d take the high road and honor the young man’s verbal commitment. But given the real world, where a lot of coaches, especially at the most successful schools, will do anything to get the players they want, and continue to recruit players right up until signing day, a coaching staff might be more vulnerable if they don’t apply the same tactics. You’d hate to think that your school’s coach takes the high road only to discover that half your best verbally committed players get stolen in the 11th hour. Then you’re scrambling to find less talented players to fill the spots.

    In the hyper-competitive world of college football, what’s the best policy?

  21. And, clearly the kid’s character seems to have limited his potential. After he came back to IU, he seemed to lose more ground by the week (despite the calls of many on the blog to play him). He finally faded and not too long ago decided (I think) to give it up.

    Know what’s funny. I don’t remember his name either.

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