This is the seventh in an eight-part series previewing the IU football team by position. Doug Wilson takes a look at the tailbacks today.
PROJECTED STARTER: Marcus Thigpen, 5-9, 193, Sr.
STARTERS LOST: Josiah Sears (started three games)
KEY RESERVES: Bryan Payton, 5-9, 205, Jr.; Demetrius McCray, 5-11, 208, Sr., Trea Burgess, 6-1, 223, So.
2007 REVIEW: Bill Lynch emphasized improving Indianaâ€™s running game last season and was successful in making it better. After finished last in the Big Ten in 2006 with 113.8 rushing yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry, Indiana improved to eighth in the conference with 157.4 yards per game and 4.3 yards per carry in 2007. For the second straight year, quarterback Kellen Lewis was Indianaâ€™s leading rusher. He finished with 56.6 rushing yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry. Marcus Thigpen was the top running back with 47.3 yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry.
2008 OUTLOOK: Indiana has to continue to get better at running the ball, particularly against the upper-division Big Ten opponents. Lynch plans to use Thigpen to start games, with Bryan Payton and Demetrius McCray also getting carries. He said Tuesday that he hasnâ€™t yet decided whether to play highly touted freshman Darius Willis or give him a redshirt season. With that group of running backs, the Hoosiers need to have a better traditional running game than they did last season.
STAT THAT MATTERS: In its seven wins last season, Indiana averaged 200.6 rushing yards. In its five losses, it averaged 112.3.
DID YOU KNOW? With 1,177 rushing yards (441 as a freshman, 736 as a sophomore) the past two seasons, Lewis is on pace to break into the top 10 on Indianaâ€™s career rushing list sometime next season. The only quarterback currently in IUâ€™s top 10 is Antwaan Randle El, who stands second behind Anthony Thompson with 3,895 career yards.
Q&A WITH MARCUS THIGPEN
Q: Whatâ€™s your major and how did you pick it?
A: â€œItâ€™s general studies. I switched my major like three times. I started off with sports marketing and then I went to physical education. I ran out of options. I had to go to general studies so I could graduate on time.â€
Q: Whatâ€™s your best class at IU so far?
A: â€œProbably sociology. The teacher I had Justin (Everett) is a very good guy. He made it interesting and I liked it a lot.â€
Q: Whatâ€™s your favorite place to eat in Bloomington?
A: â€œRed Lobster. I love sea food. Thatâ€™s my favorite food.â€
Q: Whatâ€™s your game-day ritual? Any superstitions?
A: â€œI pray in the shower area before every game.â€
Q: Whatâ€™s one thing you want to do better this year?
A: â€œBreak more tackles and pick up more blitzes. Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™ve been working on.â€