March 19, 2008

Spring Storylines

Just as it did last year

With March 25 only a week away, the time to talk football is almost here
again. Indiana will kick off spring practice in a mere six days, and with that
the Hoosiers will head into drills looking to find two starting cornerbacks and
some stability at quarterback - a position that has been rocked by the
suspension of Kellen Lewis. We'll take a look at those situations and the
additional Spring Storylines that IU faces heading into spring football.

Just as it did last year, spring football will begin on a negative note for
Indiana, but this March, the Hoosiers won't be wondering about the status of
their head coach. Instead, they'll head into spring camp unsure about the future
of the quarterback who helped lead them to their first bowl game in 14 years.

Kellen Lewis, who earned various all-Big Ten honors as a sophomore,
won't be present for day one of spring drills after being suspend from the team
indefinitely for an "unspecified violation of team rules". The news about Lewis
not only put a damper on spring football for the IU fans who were looking for a
relief from an exhausting basketball season, but it also will leave sophomore Ben
Chappell - an unproven commodity - in charge of the first team offense for
most or possibly all of spring practice.

However, there are some bright spots for the Hoosiers, who return every
halfback from last season and the national sacks leader in junior-to-be Greg
Middleton. Also gaining experience will be a defensive unit that was
thought to be young and still green to the college game last year.

Chappell's Show

Though, the storyline that will capture the attention of the mainstream media
and the majority of Indiana fans will be Lewis' future with the team. Only
speculation and unfounded rumor have offered clues about Lewis' situation, but
the wording of the press release announcing the "indefinite" suspension seems to
indicate the the junior-to-be has a chance to return before April 19's spring
game. Lewis is still listed on the official roster as well, and he was spotted
sitting courtside in Assembly Hall for a men's basketball game last month. It
would appear as if he is still a member of the team, but the severity of his
situation is still the subject of speculation and rumor.

Lewis' absence will leave Chappell in the driver's seat. In his college
career, the sophomore-to-be has only thrown two passes, one of which - an
interception at Northwestern - Indiana fans have probably tried to forget. The
pick came when Chappell entered the game for an injured Lewis, who had to leave
the action because he remained shaken up long enough to force a medical timeout.
Chappell entered as a substitution in the second quarter with his team up 14-3
and would attempt what was only the second pass of his career. The results were
disastrous. Northwestern linebacker Eddie Simpson read the ill-timed throw and
jumped the route in front of James Hardy, returning the interception for a
touchdown to pull his team within a field goal before halftime. IU would go on
to lose 31-28.

The sequence, however, might have clouded what was a decent practice season
for Chappell, who was in charge of the second team offense. In last year's
spring game, Chappell led the Crimson in a near upset of the Cream, throwing for
253 yards and a pair of touchdown. The performance capped off what was a good
spring of scrimmages for Chappell, who ran some good fakes and shined
particularly in the play-action passing game.

With Chappell running the main show, former back safety Mitchell
Evans will take over the second-team offense. Evans, who will be a true
sophomore, was an all-state quarterback in high school. He practiced with the
QBs for the first week of fall camp last season but was promptly switched over
to safety, a position he also played as a prep standout. At 6-3, 190 pounds,
Evans has good size for a signal-caller and provides more athleticism than
Chappell, who is more of a pure pocket passer.

Handling scout team duties will likely be walk-on holder Dustin
Hass, who has some experience at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Teddy
Schell, who was in charge of the third team last year, is out for all of
spring after reportedly undergoing Tommy John surgery as well as a hernia

A stable of tailbacks

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