Wilson pleased with team’s size, depth after 1st week of camp #iufb

Nearly a full week into his sixth fall camp at Indiana, Kevin Wilson has come to understand some simple truths about his football team.

There is more size across the board than at any previous point in Wilson’s tenure. There is more experience and skill, too, and it all adds up to a formula that may produce the consistent Big Ten breakthroughs Wilson’s program is seeking.

“We’ve got more depth than we’ve ever had, more big bodies than we’ve ever had,” Wilson said on Monday. “It’s encouraging.”

Depth and size are clearly apparent early this preseason as newcomers begin to surface and Wilson plugs holes to account for minor injuries. So far, Indiana has avoided serious injury, though a handful of players are dealing with issues that have kept them off the field.

That includes projected starting left tackle Brandon Knight, who has been held out of practice due to a sprained foot. In Knight’s absence, Wilson has toyed with a couple different options at the position. He’s moved Dimitric Camiel, normally IU’s starting right tackle, to the left side and shifted All-American right guard Dan Feeney over one spot to tackle.

The IU coach is also introducing highly-regarded freshman recruit Coy Cronk to the mix at left tackle. Wilson already believes Cronk, a 6-foot-5, 286-pound native of Lafayette, will push for playing time when the season begins next month.

“Dimitric can play over there and we can play Dan at (right) tackle, or Dimitric can stay at right and we can go with Coy as the freshman,” Wilson said. “Right now, if we were playing today and that’s the way it was, we’d probably do a little bit of that. It just takes some stress off of Coy. Probably our next best backup player is some of those guards. Dan is long enough and has enough balance (to play tackle). He’s been very good.”

Although running back Camion Patrick isn’t expected to be cleared to play until October, at the earliest, the former junior college transfer’s rehabilitation from ACL surgery seems to be continuing on schedule.

Patrick appeared in pads during Monday’s practice, and while he remains limited in football activities, he has been able to run around with the team.

“Straight line, he’s good,” Wilson said. “But when you gotta make a guy miss or whatever (he’s limited). We’ve got some nick-ups. Nothing major, which is good.”

Wilson seems especially intrigued by his options at that running back spot, where he has returning 1,000-yard rusher Devine Redding in mind, along with a mix of versatile scat backs and a newfound power game.

One of the most intriguing glimpses into Wilson’s mind on Monday came courtesy of the Big Ten Network’s Dave Revsine. Indiana hosted BTN’s panel of football experts at practice Monday and Revsine tweeted about an exchange with Wilson, who compared freshman running back Tyler Natee to Wisconsin Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne.

Revsine also tweeted a photo of the 260-pound Natee lining up at quarterback in a zone-read drill. The 6-foot Houston native played quarterback and fullback during his high school career and is quickly becoming one of the most intriguing players in IU’s camp.

“Tyler Natee has been impressive as a big back,” Wilson said. “I mean very, very impressive. Cole Gest is impressive. Clyde Newton moving over, (he’s) done well.”

Wilson is also happy with the size at tight end, where IU has three players in the 260-pound range. JUCO transfer Ian Thomas is listed at 225 pounds, but Wilson says he’s weighing in at 258. IU also has redshirt freshman Austin Dorris at 255 pounds and Wilson says redshirt junior Danny Friend is tipping the scales at nearly 270 pounds.

“It’s a good looking group of guys,” Wilson said. “That’s a group that I’ve talked about that needs to come through.”

IU is moving forward without at least one of its freshman blockers available up front — at least initially. Ryan Smith, who played both ways in high school and is projected to begin his college career on the offensive line, is recovering from a lisfranc injury that will keep him from joining the program this season.

The injury is expected to prevent Smith from being cleared until November and, with that, Wilson said Smith won’t officially join the program until January.

Smith will pay his own way as a student at IU this fall, then accept his scholarship at the start of the new calendar year. IU now has an extra scholarship to use on a walk-on this fall and, technically, Smith will now count as a recruit in IU’s 2017 class.

“It gives us more options at the end for him,” Wilson said. “He’s gonna be good. He’s 295 … He just can’t practice, can’t be at meetings, can’t be here. Physically, he’s gonna be with us, but he’s not really on the team right now. That just gives him more options (to play later in his college career) and us more options.”

On the other side of the ball, IU’s defensive line depth remains questionable. It’s the only position group where Wilson seems to have significant qualms about able bodies after the program lost defensive tackles Darius Latham and Adarius Rayner and end Nick Mangieri during the off-season. Robert McCray, meanwhile, was unable to practice Monday after falling on his shoulder on Sunday.

Wilson says that while he sees the group playing hard under new position coach Mark Hagen, he’d like to see more guys emerge as possible contributors.

Elsewhere on defense, IU currently has a trio of players in the mix at the Husky position, which functions as a hybrid linebacker/safety spot. Zeke Walker, Ben Bach and freshman Marcelino Ball are all getting looks at Husky. Jayme Thompson is also expected to compete at the position, but the JUCO transfer is currently wearing a boot while he recovers from a turf toe injury.

Finding help at that spot, so far, doesn’t seem to be a problem.

“We’re bigger, stronger and the best thing about Husky and DB is we’re a little bit bigger,” Wilson said. “(Cornerback Rashard) Fant is bigger, stronger. We just have some bigger guys, which is encouraging.”

11 comments

  1. Listening to coach Wilson on BTN and reading this article Coach seems to be very optimistic about the team this fall. I remember after the Purdue game Coach talking about how talented this team would be. he commented that people outside the program really didn’t know how good IU will be. It seems like he hasn’t changed his mind on the team other than to be more pleased with the defense and the improvement they have shown. The BTN crew commented that the defense didn’t ‘dominate’ the offense but certainly beat them toady.

    Could this be IU’s year, I think once Patrick makes it back from injury, IU will be far better than others think IU will be.

  2. Wilson is doing what he’s supposed to be doing, selling IU Football to the Hoosier Nation. He needs to get a lot more butts in the Memorial Stadium seats.

    Could this be IU’s year? I love your optimism, and don’t intend to sound sarcastic, but IU’s year for what? A winning season? Yes, perhaps we’ll win 7 games this year. I think we have a good chance of going to a bowl game again. And maybe we’ll win that bowl game. Any of those accomplishments would represent real progress for IU Football. But our schedule is tougher this year and we won’t surprise anybody. The defense will be the key, and I just don’t think the new DC will have had enough time to make enough of an improvement on that side of the ball. As a result, we’re going to lose some more shoot out this season. I predict that 2017 will be the season IU Football turns the corner and begins to win on a regular basis. We’ll have a senior QB and a much more mature and experienced defense playing its second year under the new and improved DC. In the mean time, I’d be happy with another 6 – 6 regular season with a bowl game victory.

  3. v I’m with your thinking about this year and for the very reasons Po lists. Because the schedule is a 9 conference game test, IU’s performance this year will be less surprising but the D will offer a dynamic intangible missing in the last 20+ seasons “genuine toughness” something Allen does not need more than 1 season to instill. I have no problem conceding 2017 can be better but 2016 will be noteworthy. That is why Wilson is proclaiming what he is.

  4. Po, I wouldn’t be surprised if IU wins more than 7 games this year. The change in defense will be better than you think. Look at last year, great 3rd quarters but couldn’t maintain that kind of play. Coach Allen will get much more out of the defense this year and keep them psyched up every quarter. We have added talent and I sure hope we don’t have the same injury problems this year. The prep for the game will be much better and the players admitted they didn’t buy into the defense previously but that they are now due to Coach Allen. The coverage will be much better this year and confusing for the offense. Expect the 3rd quarter last year to be every quarter this year with more takeaways.

    Our offense will be explosive especially when Patrick returns to the games. Give Lagow enough reps to time up with the receivers and fully get comfortable with the offense and the offense will be very explosive. He can throw it all over the field if given the chance.Don’t bring in the #3 rated drop back QB and sit him on the bench. I will be disappointed if Zander gets the job this year. Listening to the players they talk as if Lagow should be the QB. When teammates say your best trait is being competitive as a QB and don’t bring up how well you throw [he has improved this year] the ball it tells me something. Wilson wants to name the starter some time this next week. If Lagow doesn’t have the whole offense down then reduce some of it but still let it cover all parts of the field. If Zander is QB there will be limits so go with the player with a better arm. The coaches have a very good offense every year so I know their choice will be the right one.

    I expect this team can knock off one or more of the big boys this year and get a few wins they aren’t expected to get. I hope they start the season 3-0 then knock off MSU. If they do beat MSU then they open the door wide open to beating a few others and having a great season.

  5. Comments this time of year (as with most teams) regarding IU football are re-runs of past history (60 years or so). I suppose it is a good reason to play the games.

  6. v, I’d be surprised and thrilled if IU won 7 regular season games this season. It is certainly possible, and that is exciting. And while I agree with HC that IU’s defense will have greater toughness this year, which must include mental toughness, watching the defense collapse last year against Rutgers, Michigan, and Wake Forest suggested that IU’s defense had a long way to go before it would be considered an average defense. As bad as it was at times last year (and it was still really bad), IU’s defense lost some highly experienced players. I’m optimistic about our new DC, but no matter how good of a coach he is, he needs time and the right type of players to produce improved results. The verbal commitments he’s secured for the 2017 class are reason for optimism, but the players he’s working with now are still not up to par for a Big Ten defense. Combine that with the loss of IU’s two most productive offensive players and an All American left tackle, and you have the potential for regression this season. Maybe I’m just guarding against disappointment, but I know that progress in such matters is rarely linear. Regardless of how things turn out this season, I’ll remain very bullish on IU Football for the 2017 season. I think that will be the beginning of a new era for IU Football.

  7. In honor of the start of a new Hoosier football season, I propose we kickoff a ‘t.’

    New “era” for IU Football…..inspiring a new “aerosol” for a 1000 ways to hide the same old smell….followed by “Fire Wilson now!!”

  8. I love hearing KW say that they have bigger backs this year that can be used for ball control even out of the spread. I’d love to see a steady diet of runs to Patrick, when healthy, and to the 280 lb freshmen, Natee. KW says he’s Ron Dayne and hopefully he can live up to the comparison. But keeping the defense on the sideline will do wonders for their toughness. Last years lopsided scores allowed in the 2nd and 4th quarters points to either starters getting tired on second string guys not up to the task. We have much better depth everywhere but the defensive line. If the line can hold up and if they can manufacture a pass rush, even by committee, I think this could be a special year. Next year’s talent looks even better but I hope this year they live up to the talent they already have.

  9. If Wilson continues for three straight seasons of winning six games in each, I will conclude that the 6-6-6(along with the sea of ravens that descended from the heavens a couple of years ago upon Bloomigton streets as earlier warning sign) symbolizes a false prophet, a dark force, exerting a sinister will to turn our twisted souls feeding on weak meaningless bowls away from our only salvation in Hoosier hoops…Amen.

  10. This time of year: Theoretically, IU has a chance to go 12 and 0, play and win the national championship.
    Theoretically: My own Vegas odds…throw in a dollar and winner take all. No national championship for IU fb house keeps your dollar.

  11. Using your logic, t, there are 128 FBS teams and only 1 national champion. Any one team’s chance of wining the national championship in any given year is less than 1%. So there’s really no good reason for ANY team to be excited about their season…theoretically.

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