NOTEBOOK: Hoosiers evaluating which freshmen will play — and how often

Throughout the preseason, Tom Allen has categorized his freshman in three groups.

There are those who will definitely play, those who will definitely redshirt and those who will at least see action in up to four games thanks to the NCAA’s new rule regarding redshirt eligibility.

With the regular season approaching, those groups are becoming more clear to IU’s second-year coach.

“It’s never going to be set in stone, but we have a list that we go through and look at based on fall camp production and the way that they’ve performed,” Allen said. “I think that’s a much clearer group now than it was.”

Allen didn’t specify which freshmen fell in which specific group, but there were a handful of standout newcomers that asserted themselves on the field across the past three weeks.

Reese Taylor, Indiana’s Mr. Football winner, will see time both at cornerback and within the offense. Running back Stevie Scott turned in a fine camp, including a standout performance in Saturday’s closed scrimmage. Matt Bjorson is in the mix for game reps at tight end. Cornerback Jaylin Williams is not only among the fastest players on the roster, but he’s made plays, too. And receiver Miles Marshall has earned praise for his route-running ability.

The NCAA’s new redshirt rule allows players to participate in up to four games, at any point in the schedule, while preserving their redshirt status and an extra season of eligibility.

“What you really want to do from fall camp is see who’s ready to play in the first quarter of the season, when you have those four games to work through,” Allen said. “Even if the guy is gonna potentially redshirt, you say these are the guys that are really ready to go right now. Some guys, they’re not quite ready yet and we’ll keep working with those. Some guys you say, ‘Hey, they’re gonna play. They’re gonna be guys that are gonna be in the mix with the 1s and the 2s right now out of fall camp.’ I think that list has definitely gotten a lot clearer.”

A couple more freshmen, linebacker Micah McFadden and defensive tackle Shamar Jones, turned in strong camps that put them on the immediate radar. McFadden and Jones have both gone from prospects that Allen wasn’t sure would see the field immediately to potentially earning their way onto the regular season depth chart.

“Micah McFadden is the one who jumps out to me. We knew he was a really good player, but sometimes you never know how they’re going to come into fall camp and play, handling all the new things that they have,” Allen said. “He’s a guy I think has really elevated himself and put himself in position to be under that consideration, when before you thought he might’ve needed some time.

“Shamar Jones is another one that we feel like is a guy that has come in and done a really nice job. We think he has a chance to have a niche for us, skill set wise.”

Allen updates injuries
Entering fall camp, Ryan Watercutter was expected to battle for first team reps at tight end. But an injury suffered earlier this month has kept him sidelined.

Allen did not specify Watercutter’s injury or an exact timetable for his return.

“He’s going to be sidelined for a little bit,” Allen said. “More than anything, I hate it for him, because he’s just one of those guys that does everything we ask and has been such a great teammate. Hard, hard worker. Good player for us.”

Allen also confirmed that former offensive lineman Grayson Stover has received a medical waiver. He’ll remain in school at IU, but will no longer play football for the Hoosiers.

Linder, Littlejohn seeing time at guard
Centers Nick Linder and Hunter Littlejohn are branching out this month.

Both players are seeing time at guard, as well as at center, raising the possibility they wind up on the field together.

“We moved some other guys around in (Saturday’s) scrimmage a little bit,” offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said. “Hunter even moved out to guard a little bit. But, yeah, Linder can play both and that’s a big strength. It helps us and obviously helps him as well.”