With the start of spring football practice a month away, Indiana football coach Bill Lynch gave reporters an update Tuesday morning on his team’s personnel changes and injuries over the winter.
Eight players chose to leave the program over the winter, and the significant news among them is the departure of defensive tackles Kevin and Keith Burrus. The Burrus brothers looked to be mainstays in the middle of IU’s defensive line next season, but decided to graduate after the fall semester, rather than plays as fifth-year seniors in 2009.
The other six players who left the squad voluntarily, according to a list handed out to reporters at a team 6 a.m. winter conditioning workout Tuesday, are Devin Anderson, Fabienne Boone, Armando Bustamante, Dane Conwell, Brandon Kiel and Kyle Lambeck.
To help compensate for the loss of Burrus brothers, IU has moved offensive linemen Jarrod Smith and Milton Owens to defensive tackle. The only other returning defensive tackles on IU’s roster are junior Deonte Mack and redshirt freshmen Larry Black, Mick Mentzer and Nick Sliger.
Earlier this offseason, IU announced that sophomore defensive tackle Jeff Boyd had decided to leave the football program.
Lynch said Smith, a 6-4, 306-pound junior, will compete for a starting spot, as could Owens, a 6-2, 297-pound sophomore, who came to IU as a walk-on.
To make matters more difficult at defensive tackle, the Hoosiers will be without Mack, who had off-season hip surgery, during spring football. Other players who will miss spring practice, which runs from March 24 to April 18, because of injuries are Mike Stark (back), Will Patterson (wrist), Chris Hagerup (ACL), Charles Love III (ACL), Nick Polk (ACL), Austin Thomas (ACL), Adrian Burks (shoulder surgery).
The players who will miss spring practice are all expected to be ready to play this fall, Lynch said, except for Stark, a starter on the offensive line last fall.
“His back is a situation where we’re a little uncertain what his future will be,” Lynch said of Stark.
Most of the injuries were suffered last season, with the exception of Patterson, who fell and injured his wrist while working out on his own this winter, and Hagerup, who’s had a problem with his knee for some time that he decided to have doctors correct this offseason.
Lynch also discussed seven players who switched positions, all of them from offensive to defense. Four of those changes will help address a defensive secondary that struggled last season and will be without both of its starting safeties, Polk and Thomas, during spring practice.
The biggest of these changes will involve wide receiver Ray Fisher moving to cornerback for the spring. Fisher was an outstanding cornerback in high school, Lynch said, who was slight of build when he arrived at IU, but has gotten stronger.
“We want to practice him all spring at corner and see what he does,” Lynch said. “He’s a strong, physical kid who we think could become a very good corner.”
Other position changes include moving Trea Burgess from running back to linebacker, Shane Covington from wide receiver to safety, Kyle Dietrick from wide receiver to safety, Collin Taylor from wide receiver to safety, and Smith and Owens from offensive line to to defensive tackle.
Kellen Lewis wasn’t listed as a position change, but did appear to be doing drills with the wide receiver group during the conditioning workout Tuesday. Lewis will be playing “all over the place” during spring ball, Lynch said, which will include time at quarterback, but also at other skill positions on offense.
Lynch said his players’ attitudes and work ethic have been good over the winter, and he likes the leadership of the 2009 team, which has more seniors on its roster, 21, than IU’s past couple of teams.