Freshman linebacker Jack Denton graduated from Zionsville High School early so that he could attend spring practice, but he apparently won’t be around for the preseason.
Indiana coach Bill Lynch said Denton is not one of the 105 players who will suit up this preseason. That is the NCAA limit of participating players until school starts.
“Denton didn’t meet some of the expectations I had for him going into this thing,” Lynch said. “So he’s not part of the 105.”
When asked if he could join the team when school started, Lynch said, “We’ll see. There’s some expectations and things that have to be done.
Denton was one of four true freshmen who were not at IU on Friday for the first day of practice. Lynch said Cameron Cole, a defensive back from Cincinnati, has academic issues to work through. Safety Shaquille Jefferson and linebacker Ryan Phillis are also both being held out of preseason practices because of injuries.
Another true freshman had to miss a few reps at the end of practice. Running back Antonio Banks, who had an impressive spring session after he also graduated early, was attended to by trainers with an apparent leg injury. At the end of practice, Lynch said he didn’t know his status but was hopeful it wasn’t anything serious.
“I didn’t like that,” Lynch said. “Seriously. They pulled him over and he was back when (running backs coach Dennis) Springer was talking to them, so hopefully it isn’t anything serious. It had to be something from running, because we didn’t have any contact or anything.”
Indeed, the first day of practice is really the first day of the acclimation period. Teams are allowed to wear helmets, but no other pads, which obviously precludes full-contact drills.
That obviously makes it sort of difficult to get a read on who looks good and who doesn’t the first day of practice, but there were a few standouts. Senior quarterback Ben Chappell threw some sharp passes, completing five of the six of the first six he threw during a 7-on-7 drill and more once the Hoosiers went to 11-on-11. His receiving corps of senior Terrance Turner, juniors Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher and redshirt freshman Duwyce Wilson looked sure-handed as usual.
In a no-contact practice, the most interesting thing to watch in Friday’s session was how the coaches put together the first, second, third and scout teams for 7-on-7 drills and 11-on-11 at the end of practice. Lynch stressed not to look into that too deeply, but it did provide some degree of inside.
The first-team offense didn’t provide many surprises especially at the skill positions. Chappell was at quarterback. Sophomore Darius Willis was the running back, Belcher, Doss and Turner were at wideout with Wilson coming in in four-wide receiver sets and junior Max Dedmond was the tight end.
There was slightly more intrigue on the offensive line. Sophomore center Will Matte and fifth-year senior right tackle James Brewer were back in their respective positions. Junior Andrew McDonald, who was listed as the starting left tackle after spring practice, was back on the first team ahead of competitor Josh Hager. As reported earlier in Ryan Winn’s blog, however, the two first-team guards were actually listed as second-teamers on the post-spring depth chart. Lynch said he had Bloomington South graduate Aaron Price at left guard and sophomore Marc Damisch at right guard because projected starters Justin Pagan and Cody Faulkner missed so much time in the spring and offseason with ankle injuries.
The defensive personnel the Hoosiers were using showed that they plan on mixing it up. The first team defensive line had sophomores Nicholas Sliger and Mick Mentzer, listed as backups on the depth chart, as defensive tackles. Junior Darius Johnson, the listed starter, was playing the “drop” end position, but sophomore starting defensive tackle Adam Replogle was playing the other defensive end.
This seemed to run contradictory to Lynch’s statement that the 3-4 alignment the Hoosiers were going to incorporate would operate like a 4-3 defense, with the only difference being a stand-up defensive end. In a true 3-4, all three linemen operate mostly like tackles with linebackers coming off the edge to pass rush.
Lynch, however, said Replogle will still play like an end.
“He’ll be an end,” Lynch said. “We’ll still have two ends and two tackles. He’s the one guy that can play both inside and outside, so we’re going to play them some of both. We’ve got four pretty good guys inside, so if he can play end, then we’ve got three of them playing at the same time. That’s the thought process. … He’d be playing the same position that (Greg) Middleton played last year. It’s just a 295-pound body or whatever the heck he is. It’s just him having the ability to play tackle or end, because when he’s out there, he’s an end.”
The linebacking corps looked similar to the way it did at the end of spring. Bloomington North graduate Leon Beckum manned the middle, senior captain Tyler Replogle was on the strong side and redshirt freshman Damon Sims was on the weak side. The secondary, however, varied a great deal each time the first teamers were out. Fifth-year senior Aaron Burks was at safety with converted wide receiver Mitchell Evans on the first drive with returning starters Richard Council and Adrian Burks at the corners. Later, junior college transfer Andre Kates and redshirt freshman Lawrence Barnett played with the first team. Cornerback Matt Ernest and safeties Donnell Jones and Chris Adkins had some first-team reps in 7-on-7 drills. It was just further proof that the secondary competition is going to be completely wide open.
“We’re going to give them all pretty equal reps,” Lynch said. “(Secondary coach Joe Palcic) was going to move it around, I think with the idea that they’re all going to compete. We’re going to play a lot of safeties and a lot of corners here for the next 10 days until it starts to shake itself out.”