IU did more than just guarantee itself another game when it beat Purdue by two points on Nov. 26. Bowl eligibility gives a program other benefits too.
When the Hoosiers defeated the Boilermakers and claimed the Old Oaken Bucket for the fourth straight year, they also ensured extra practice time for those who occupy lower spots on the depth chart and those whose 2016 season is likely their redshirt year.
“Often times those guys, they don’t get a chance to run our schemes,” IU Coach Tom Allen said. “They’re running scout team, they’re running your opponent’s looks each week. So, it’s been really good for them to even just learn the signals, know the calls.”
That includes guys like freshman wide receivers Taysir Mack, Phil Benker and Jonah Morris, defensive lineman Jerome Johnson and quarterback Peyton Ramsey.
Johnson had a chance to go against the 1’s and 2’s this past week, and how he came off the ball showed Allen he’s really figuring things out. Mack spent much of his first year in Bloomington on the scout team, but has jumped out to Allen of late.
Allen said he can see his confidence growing, and senior wide receiver Ricky Jones said Mack’s speed and ball skills slot him above his fellow freshman receivers — receivers who will all vie for playing time that’ll become available when Jones and fellow senior wideout Mitchell Paige close out their careers against Utah.
When they do see consistent playing time in a couple years, the trio may just be catching balls from the younger of the two quarterbacks who made up IU’s most recent recruiting class.
“Peyton Ramsey knows the whole offense right now,” Jones said. “He’s going to be a great quarterback man, I’m proud of the kid. Every time I go in to get a little extra film work, Peyton’s already on the computer, so for him to be a freshman I’m pretty impressed by him. He’s got a future in this program.”
Junior running back Devine Redding said he can tell Ramsey is relaxed when he sits back in the pocket, and as long as the Cincinnati, Ohio, native continues to grow and develop, he will be a great player for the Hoosiers.
Allen’s focus for his team during this extra practice time provided by the bowl game centers on the fundamentals. Shedding blocks on defense. Doing the little things right offensively.
It’s all developmental time and Allen said IU is going to take full advantage of it.
Junior linebacker Marcus Oliver pointed to IU’s underclassman receivers and defensive line as groups that benefitted from the bowl appearance a year ago. The extra practices in 2015 gave them more time to develop and compete. Competitive practices then, and now, are critical when it comes to making competitive plays in games.
“Those competitive plays don’t just come. You’ve got to be a competitor and have the competitive nature to go out and not want to be beat,” Oliver said. “Any time you step out on the field you should always have that, to be able to continue to do it in practice, it’ll carry over into the game.”