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IU takes the field in annual intra-squad Spring Game



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IU senior cornerback Ray Fisher, right, gets physical with wide receiver teammate Damarlo Belcher during practice Thursday, April 16, 2009 at Memorial Stadium. Fisher was a wide receiver last season, but made the jump to the defensive unit this season. James Brosher Buy Photos

Although the IU football team won’t kick off their season until Sept. 3, fans will have a chance to see it play in a game setting this weekend. 

The Spring Game, which is slated for 2 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium, will mark the end of the offseason practice schedule for the Hoosiers. The IU men’s basketball team will sign autographs at the event from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

IU coach Bill Lynch said he would like to see his team play a true game, health permitting. Otherwise, it will be a scrimmage with a point system to keep it competitive. 

For people making their first visit to Memorial Stadium to see the Hoosiers since their season ended this fall, many things will seem different. 

One of the most notable changes will be junior quarterback Ben Chappell taking most of the snaps instead of senior Kellen Lewis, who is now listed at wide receiver. Lewis will still take some snaps at quarterback, but his primary duties will be at wide receiver.  

Lynch said he liked what he saw from Chappell. 

“I think Ben’s had a really good spring,” Lynch said after last weekend’s scrimmage. “I thought he really threw some in there today. He has a good grasp of what they do with the running game and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.” 

The Hoosiers hope changing to the pistol offense will improve their running game. The pistol offense features a running back directly behind the quarterback and includes more running up the middle than toward the sidelines. 

The new formation will also allow running backs more time to read defenses because they start plays behind the line of scrimmage. 

The Hoosiers have good depth at the running back position, with four players competing for time. 

Seniors Bryan Payton and Demetrius McCray will join freshman Darius Willis and junior Trea Burgess in the backfield. 

Lynch said he likes the depth and presence IU has at the position.

“The thing I like about all four of them are physical guys,” he said. “Physical running the ball, and they can break tackles. They are physical in their pass protection as well.”

Another key to the running game will be the offensive line, a group that has impressed Lynch with its recent improvement. 

There have also been changes on the defensive side of the ball.

Senior Ray Fisher moved from wide receiver to cornerback, and Jarrod Smith switched from offensive lineman to defensive tackle. 

In previous scrimmages, the offense has gotten off to a quick start, but the defense has answered with big plays of its own. 

Smith said he believes Saturday will follow the same script.

“That’s the way football is, going back and forth,” he said. “It’s a game of momentum. Whoever has it has it.”

Although many defensive players are injured, including last year’s MVP Jammie Kirlew and captain Will Paterson, sophomore cornerback Chris Adkins said the team is not worried. 

“We have that confidence that we know that we can get a lot better, because we have a lot of veterans that are injured and will come back soon,” Adkins said.

While there are many things still up in the air, one thing is certain: Saturday’s game will be a battle.

IU players will approach the scrimmage with the same intensity they do every day at practice. Senior middle linebacker Matt Mayberry showed the seriousness with which players approach practice with his crushing hit on an IU wide receiver coming across the middle during practice last week. 

Lynch said he hopes the game will provide an atmosphere for players to jumpstart the regular season. 

“You always find somebody in that last scrimmage that has a big day, and that kind of kicks them off into the fall,” Lynch said.    

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