Preview 2009 - Offense
2009 CFN Indiana Preview
2009 Indiana Depth
2008 IU Preview
2007 IU Preview
What you need to know:
The IU spread offense has tried to change things up a bit over
the last few seasons, and now it’ll incorporate more power
running while relying a bit less on the passing game. With a
huge, veteran offensive line that struggles in pass protection
but can bowl over defenses, that’s a plus. The young receiving
corps could grow into something special with several very big,
very promising prospects waiting to break out, and now there’s a
new playmaker in the mix. QB Kellen Lewis was going to move over
to receiver, and he would’ve been used in a variety of ways, but
he was kicked off the team. Now team has to hope for Ben
Chappell to step up and become a steady passer and leader. The
running backs should be fine, but they could be excellent is
last year’s super-recruit, Darius Willis, lives up to the hype.
Passing: Ben Chappell
80-153, 1,001 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Bryan Payton
79 carries, 339 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Ray Fisher (now a CB)
42 catches, 373 yds, 5
Star of the offense:
Senior OT Rodger Saffold
Player who has to step up
and become a star: Junior QB Ben Chappell
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Tandon Doss
Best pro prospect: Saffold
all-star candidates: 1) Saffold, 2) WR Terrance
Turner, 3) C Pete Saxon
Strength of the offense:
Weakness of the offense:
Passing game, offensive line production
Can Ben Chappell
handle the work? The junior was given a tryout last offseason
when Kellen Lewis had off-the-field problems, and he stepped in
and was fine at times once Lewis got back into the fold
completing 80-of-153 passes for 1,001 yards and four touchdowns
with three interceptions. While he’s not Lewis running the ball,
he’s not immobile considering his 6-3, 235-pound size with 72
rushing yards and three scores. With a live arm, he should be
able to push the ball deeper than Lewis did and now he has the
experience to be a steady starter if he really does hold down
Projected Top Reserves: While
senior Kellen Lewis might have been the team’s most dangerous quarterback option,
it was hard for the team to rely on him considering his injury
issues and his inconsistencies. The long-time star for the
Hoosier offense had 6,395 career passing yards with 48
touchdowns and 25 interceptions, but his real skill was running
the ball with 1,677 yards and 17 career scores. Now he's gone,
being kicked off the team for a violation of team rules. Had he
been back, he would've been a wide receiver anyway.
Pushing hard for
playing time, or at least the No. 2 spot to keep Lewis at
receiver, is redshirt freshman
Adam Follett, a 6-5,
227-pound bomber who has been a strong scout teamer and has good
running skills for his size. He’s big, athletic, and has the
skills to eventually be the quarterback the offense builds
around. However, it might not happen until next year.
Watch Out For ... Chappell to be fine. Now that Lewis
isn't an option anymore, it should free up Chappell to make a
few mistakes here and there as he can take the quarterback job
by the horns.
Strength: Decent talents. Chappell is experienced
enough and good enough to be the main man, but he’ll have to do
it right away. Follett has the tools to be good once he gets a
little bit of work.
Weakness: James Hardy. It’s
funny what losing an athletic 6-7 wideout will do to a passing
game. It’s not fair to blame all of IU’s passing woes on the
loss of Hardy to the Buffalo Bills, but there would’ve been far
more than 11 touchdown passes had he returned for one more year.
Outlook: Call this a work in progress even
though Chappell is fine and Follett is a nice-looking prospect. Will Follett be good
enough to be ready to see time if Chappell struggles? Probably
not, but if nothing else, this will be an
extremely interesting situation to keep an eye on.
Senior Bryan Payton
was the team’s third leading rusher last season with 339 yards
and two touchdowns before missing the final three games of the
season. While he doesn’t have anywhere near the speed of the
starter he’s replacing, Marcus Thigpen, he brings a little bit
of thump at 5-9 and 207 pounds. More of a serviceable back than
a featured star, he can catch the ball a little bit and can run
between the tackles.
Projected Top Reserves:
It might be just a question of time before redshirt freshman
Darius Willis takes
over. The star recruit of last year, he was kept on the bench to
preserve his eligibility even though he was the most talented
back on the team and dominated on the scout team. At 6-0 and 219
pounds he brings good power and big-time flash.
caliber sprinter, he's also tough banging out 1,728 yards and 28
touchdowns in his senior year at Franklin High in Indianapolis.
Looking to get more work is
Demetrius McCray, a
5-11, 200-pound senior with 4.4 speed and decent power. Staying
healthy has been a problem suffering a foot injury two years
ago, but he was able to see time in every game last season and
finished fourth on the team with 339 yards and two touchdowns.
The star recruit of 2005 has the raw skills to be used more as a
decent third option, but he’ll most likely see most of his work
in garbage time.
Watch Out For ... Willis.
He might be the key to the 2009 IU season. Just being decent
isn’t enough; he has to be a difference maker. It might be tough
to do behind a shaky line, but if he’s as good as his prep hype,
he has to be a 1,000-yard back.
Speed. Payton isn’t lightning fast, but Willis is a sprinter and
McCray can move. There weren’t too many big runs busted out last
season, but that could change this year with more of a reliance
on the backs.
Weakness: Proven production.
Payton and McCray have been fine, but they haven’t cranked out
big numbers on a consistent basis. Willis has the potential and
was great on the scout team, but now it has to translate as a
Outlook: It all depends on whether or
not Darius Willis is the real deal. The team finished a solid 42nd
in the nation in rushing last year helped by the running of
Kellen Lewis but he can’t be counted on now that he’s a receiver
and Marcus Thigpen is gone. If Willis is the player he’s
supposed to be, the ground game will be fine. However, Bryan
Payton and Demetrius McCray can combine for over 600 yards and
can be counted on from time to time if Willis doesn’t turn out
to be the man. With more power running being added to the
attack, the chances will be there for everyone.
With Ray Fisher moving over to
cornerback and Andrew Means leaving to try to become a baseball
player, the chance is there for junior
Terrance Turner to become the team’s top receiver. The 6-3,
207-pounder is an amazing athlete with the speed to stretch the
field now that he’s a full two years removed from a bad knee
injury. He finished third on the team last season with 29
catches for 289 yards, and while he was a steady producer, he
didn’t get into the end zone and didn’t come up with many big
In his true freshman season,
Tandon Doss showed
excellent promise catching 14 passes for 186 yards and a
touchdown highlighted by an eight-catch, 107-yard, one touchdown
day in the upset win over Northwestern. At 6-3 and 197 pounds he
has excellent size and big time upside. He could be a
game-breaker with a bit more time.
Now that Kellen Lewis
is gone, 6-3, 197-pound junior
Mitchell Evans will
be a part-time starter and a key reserve. He’s done a little of
everything in practices being moved around from defensive back
to quarterback and now to wide receiver, and while he has mostly
been a key special teamer, he made nine catches for 129 yards
Returning to his spot
at tight end is tight end
Troy Wagner, who at 6-5 and 271 pounds is more like a third tackle.
He’s a good blocker, but he’s not involved at all in the passing
game failing to catch a pass. It’ll mainly be his job to help
the running game and protect the passer.
Top Reserves: Looking to come back from a torn ACL is
Charles Love, a
redshirt freshman who’s one of the team’s best athletes when
healthy. At 6-3 and 225 pounds he has excellent size, and he was
an all-star triple jumper in high school. He’ll try to see time
at one of the outside spots.
Working with Terrance Turner on the outside will be
Damario Belcher, a
6-5, 209-pound scoring machine who should become all but
unstoppable around the goal line. He was fourth on the team with
25 catches for 337 yards, and while he only caught two touchdown
passes in his true freshman year, he’ll be used far more as a
matchup nightmare from close range.
While Troy Wagner is
the blocking tight end, 6-5, 233-pound sophomore
Max Dedmond will be
the receiver. He’s not a bad blocker, but he’s used for his good
hands and route running ability. He only made six catches for 51
yards last year, but he has the talent and potential to do far
more. He fights well for the ball and is the type who'll
outmuscle his way for catches. While remains to be seen if he
can be a field stretcher, he should be a reliable mid-range
Watch Out For ... far more
production. There’s experience, size, speed. Damario Belcher, Terrance Turner, and Tandon Doss should all
blossom now that they know what they’re doing.
Size. Turner is 6-3, Belcher is 65, Mitchell Evans is 6-3,
Matt Ernest is 6-2, and Doss is 6-3. There will be times when
this group gives shorter secondaries big-time problems.
Weakness: A sure-thing No. 1 target. While there’s a ton
of upside and the potential for this to be one of the team’s
most improved areas, the move of Ray Fisher over to the defense
takes away the team’s top target. With No. 2 receiver Andrew
Means also gone, 76 of the team’s 193 catches from last year are
Outlook: This could be one of the Big
Ten’s breakout units. All the youth and inexperience of last
year should translate into more overall production and more big
plays this year. Considering the
team only came up with 11 touchdown catches last year, there’s
plenty of room for improvement.
Despite being bothered by back and knee injuries, senior
remained the star of the line. He was able to start in ten
games, but he was out in early November when his knee started to
become a big problem. The 6-5, 306-pound left tackle is a great
athlete who can do a little of everything well. While he’s not a
dominant blocker, he has all-star potential and will be the rock
of the veteran front five.
The other possible all-star
is center Pete Saxon,
a starter at left guard for the first five games before moving
to the middle. At 6-6 and 303 pounds, the senior is a huge
presence on the inside and has been one of the few linemen able
to stay on the field over the last few years. Extremely tough,
he fought through a shoulder injury last year to start every
Also back at a starting spot is right guard
Cody Faulkner, a 6-5, 308-pound junior who was one of the team’s top
recruits a few years ago. While he hasn’t played up to his
potential, and he hasn’t been the dominant run blocker he’s been
expected to become by this point, he’s solid and reliable.
The biggest concern up front will be at right tackle where James Brewer will take over for Mike Stark, who will take a year
off to try to heal up his injured back, but might be done for
his career. Brewer is a massive 6-8, 339-pound junior who has
had injuries of his own struggling through foot problems. While
he’s not all that athletic, his size and his long arms make him
a solid pass blocker.
6-5, 311-pound sophomore
Justin Pagan will
take over the left guard spot in a full-time role after getting
a little bit of time at both guard and tackle late last year.
While he struggled a bit in his true freshman season, he showed
just enough athleticism to be decent at tackle even though he’s
far better suited for guard.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior
Alex Perry started the first five games at center last season before
getting moved out of the job by Pete Saxon. He saw time at
tackle as a backup, but he’ll be limited at best this year after
tearing his ACL this off-season. At 6-7 and 285 pounds, he has
good size and has the experience to come back and be a part of
the rotation later this year or even next year.
Mike Reiter is one of
the team’s most important backups with the ability to play any
spot on the inside. The 6-2, 300-pound veteran will start out at
right guard and could be a spot starter, like he was last year
getting the nod against Northwestern, and he should once again
be a decent run blocker.
On the rise is Will Matte, a 6-2, 284-pound redshirt freshman who dominated on the
scout team last year. While he’s undersized, he should be a good
backup at center, and could even see time at guard, with a
full-time motor and a good mean streak.
For ... more stability. Last year was about finding the
right combination, lots of moving around, and lots of patching
things up with so many injuries to deal with. This year, with so
many returning veterans, there should be far less shuffling as
long as there aren’t any major injuries.
Experience. Because there have been so many problems over
the last few years there have been several players who saw
starting time and got good work in as key backups. That means
there are plenty of ready-to-roll blockers looking to form a
more cohesive unit.
Weakness: Production. The
pass protection was non-existent last year and the run blocking
was fine, but nothing special. In the new offense there should
be more blasting for the running game, which should be a plus,
but there will be problems against more athletic defensive
Outlook: The late Terry Hoeppner
specifically went after big, strong offensive linemen to beef
things up to a Big Ten level, and the efforts should pay off.
There’s size, strength, and plenty of experience all across the
board. Injures were a huge problem last year and they’ll be a
part of this year, too, but there are more good blockers ready
to step in where needed. There needs to be better pass
protection with the spotlight on tackles Rodger Saffold and
James Brewer, but with so much size there should be more done
for the running game.