Moving junior Ben Chappell to the primary quarterback position this spring seemed to be working well.
In the Hoosiers’ second spring scrimmage Saturday at Memorial Stadium, Chappell connected on his first eight passes for a total of 111 yards in the day that consisted of the scrimmage, 7-on-7 and red zone drills and field goal attempts.
The most impressive play of the day was a 22-yard touchdown strike to sophomore wide receiver Damarlo Belcher.
Then the defense woke up.
Junior Jarrod Smith, who switched from offensive lineman to defensive tackle this spring, sacked quarterback Adam Follett for a 7-yard loss.
Chappell said he saw improvement in the defense from last weekend’s scrimmage.
“I think the defense did a lot better today,” Chappell said. “I think we executed OK on offense. We could have done a few things better. We will watch it on film and see, but I think the defense flew around a lot better today.”
During the next series, with Chappell behind center, the defense struck again as sophomore cornerback Chris Adkins picked off a pass to end another offensive possession.
Adkins said the play wasn’t incredibly difficult to execute.
“I felt like (Chappell) just threw it to me,” he said. “I don’t know – right place, right time – something like that. Thanks, Chap.”
The Hoosiers’ defense is missing several key players this spring. They are without safeties Austin Thomas and Nick Polk, last year’s captain Will Patterson and last season’s MVP Jammie Kirlew.
Despite the injuries, IU coach Bill Lynch said he liked what he saw from the defense during the scrimmage but also acknowledged there is still work to do.
“I liked their enthusiasm,” he said. “They got a lot of guys out, so a lot of young guys are getting a chance and they’re flying around. The biggest thing I see is we need to tackle better.”
Lynch also said he thought Chappell was having a good spring and has a good grasp of the new offensive formation.
“He’s got such great command of the offense,” Lynch said. “That’s the biggest thing. ... When the play is over, he comes off the sideline and
– Coach (Matt) Canada talks about that all the time – he will tell you exactly what happened out there. When you watch the tape later on, he really saw it.”
The quarterback trio of Chappell, Follett and junior Teddy Schell threw the ball to 10 different wide receivers on the day. Sophomore wide receiver Matt Ernest led the group with two catches for 47 yards, including a 40-yard completion from Follett.
Chappell said he likes the balance and chemistry that has developed between the quarterbacks and receivers.
“With that much talent, with those guys at wide receiver, I think it could be really special,” he said.
The running game, which has been a focus of spring practice, also came through as the Hoosier ball carriers accounted for 169 yards on 30 carries.
Freshman Trea Burgess sprinted down the right sideline for a 37-yard gain to set up a 5-yard touchdown run on the next play. Senior Bryan Payton rushed for 38 yards, including a 25-yard run, and senior Demetrius McCray rushed for 25 yards.
Freshman Darius Willis gained 20 yards in his first scrimmage after returning from an injury.
At the end of the scrimmage, Chappell said he thought it was a productive practice.
“I think it was a good day overall,” he said. “We came out and ran the ball really well. That was nice. The defense picked it up a little bit, too, so I think overall it was really good.”
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