The loss of No. 1 running back Marcus Thigpen, an unsettled quarterback situation and the movement of Ray Fisher, one of last year’s most productive wide receivers, to corner back all have the IU offense in flux.
In its second spring scrimmage at 10 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium, the Hoosiers will test out and evaluate a number of newly implemented players in preparation for the 2009 season.
Another change is a revamped offense referred to as the pistol. The pistol offense has the quarterback behind center and a featured running back as the last line of attack.
Last season the Hoosiers used a spread formation, where the running back would line up to the side of the quarterback.
IU coach Bill Lynch said he thinks this will help with the players’ running game and allow the team to be less predictable in its play calling.
Junior quarterback Ben Chappell said he is getting more comfortable with the new formation every day and believes it will help the team.
“It keeps the defense off balance and gives us a lot of different options,” he said.
Freshman Will Matte is also an emerging top center for the offensive line.
Chappell said developing center-quarterback chemistry can be a long process, but said he thinks Matte has adjusted very well.
“Normally it does take a while, but with Will it has been a seamless transition,” he said. “He has been good so far – really good.”
Matte, who has braved new, more talented opposition this spring, said he embraces the idea of an increased running back presence in the backfield.
“I love getting fired up,” Matte said. “I love playing offensive line. I think it’s a great position. Center has been a new challenge coming to college, but I’ve loved every minute of it, and I can’t wait to get better.”
With Chappell taking more snaps at quarterback during spring practice, senior Kellen Lewis has shifted to wide receiver in many of the Hoosiers’ formations.
One of Lewis’ targets at wide receiver last year has also made a position switch.
Fisher, who ranks eighth on IU’s all-time reception list with 118 receptions and 1,070 career receiving yards, is playing cornerback this spring. Lynch said he is happy with where the team is, noting the play of members of the offensive line, who he said have progressed well and stayed healthy.
Lynch said one of the biggest goals he has for spring practice is the chance to evaluate his players and determine who the top 50 will be.
“You want to have a good idea of where you are when spring practice is over,” he said.
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