Devine Redding is regressing.
That’s how IU Coach Kevin Wilson described the junior running back’s growth since the first month of the 2015 season.
Wilson acknowledged his 135-yard performance against Florida International and four straight 100-yard games dating back to last season. But a lapse in ball security against Florida International and in practice Monday has Wilson critical of his No. 1 back.
“This ain’t about stats, it’s winning football games,” Wilson said. “Taking care of the football is big for us. He had a little glitch the other night. It wasn’t an accident. He’s working hard to clean that up.”
Redding’s fumble against FIU occurred on the Golden Panther 37-yard line and ended IU’s first drive of the third quarter.
Freshman running back Cole Gest also fumbled, and although his loose ball fell into the hands of nearby IU sophomore offensive lineman Wes Martin, it, too, ended a Hoosier drive that had crossed midfield.
The pair of ball-security mishaps were just two of the many examples of IU leaving points on the field that allowed FIU to keep the game close until the Hoosiers outscored the Golden Panthers 22-0 in the fourth quarter.
Redding’s mistakes mean he’s not living up to the standard Wilson demands, and Wilson said IU’s leading rusher needs to clean that up.
“He had 100-yard games four times in a row, which is getting ready not to happen the next time he puts it on the ground because we have about nine guys there,” Wilson said. “He is getting ready to start seeing the bench.”
Sophomore Mike Majette ran for 47 yards on 10 carries against FIU. Freshmen Devonte Williams and Cole Gest ran for 31 and 17, wrespectively.
Senior Clyde Newton, although he didn’t record a carry, saw time on the field too.
Redding agrees with Wilson. His fumbles are mistakes that should never happen, but running backs coach Deland McCullough doesn’t see him as that kind of guy.
“He’s not a fumbler,” McCullough said. “In our room, we aren’t going to amplify a situation, not unless it became something of high consistency. He had a situation in the game, he had a situation in practice. But, you can go through and point to a whole several seasons, and you can point to a ton of practices where that wasn’t the case. In our room, we’re not going to sit up and dwell on the negative, we’re going to get it fixed and move forward.”
Outside of the loose balls McCullough saw his group’s production as fairly positive. As Redding and Majette were the only guys who really had experience running the ball in college, Williams and Gest showed they were guys who will get consistent time.
In past years Redding knocked on the door of Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard. Now, Redding is in their role, and his fellow running back teammates are in his.
Redding is aware of the change.
“The only difference I feel is that I feel like I’ve been here longer than I actually have. I’ve been here three years but I feel like I’m a senior, actually, and that’s really the only difference,” Redding said. “And, of course I know I’ve got the younger guys pushing me and wanting me to be better, wanting me to get better every day.”
Senior offensive lineman Dan Feeney said he’s confident in all of IU’s running backs and thinks it’s cool they’ve all got different styles of attacking defenses. Although he said Redding maybe took the mistakes a little too personally, that’s the attitude a guy like him should have.
“You’ve got to be like ‘Dang it, I should have got that’ or ‘I missed my read here,’” Feeney said. “So, I think he’s just trying to be the best player he can be.”
Still, as Redding works to improve, so does everyone else in his room.
“All those guys came back to the drawing board this week, took coaching and came out yesterday and today rolling,” McCullough said. “So, we’re excited to see what happens on Saturday. You should see us take a nice step forward, with the number one thing being ball security, and then after that you’ll continue to see production from them.”