Saturday, April 17, 2010

Indiana Football Future Has Freshman Feel

So here we were on a crisp spring night at Memorial Stadium, watching the future of IU football before our eyes.

One part of that future centered on true freshman tailback Antonio Banks. Running behind a makeshift offensive line because of injuries and a split squad, he still managed 49 yards on 11 carries, an average of 4.5 yards a carry. He was among the reasons why his Crimson squad beat the Cream 17-10.

Granted, 30 of those yards came on one carry, which means Banks averaged 1.9 yards the other times, but that misses the point. At 5-10 and 200 pounds, he showed enough potential to suggest he could be a solid contributor this season.

That is, if he doesn’t redshirt.

Here’s the deal. Banks graduated from high school in December, then enrolled at Indiana in January. That gives him a head start on typical freshmen, who normally doesn’t get to campus until the summer after their senior year. Still, he's got a lot to learn and improve.

With veterans Darius Willis and Trea Burgess, plus speed back Nick Turner in the running back mix, Banks seemed headed for a scout team role.

But consider Willis missed the spring game because of ankle surgery. Before that he was out with rib injury. Before that, well, this is nothing new. In fact, saying Willis is out with an injury is much like saying, “Mario Andretti is slowing down” was for so many Indy 500s. Willis is a talented guy, he led the team with 607 rushing yards and six touchdowns last year, but he struggles with durability.

And if he keeps struggling, then Banks has an instant-impact chance. He did total 2,948 rushing yards, 507 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns during his career at Middletown (Ohio) High School. He's an impact guy.

“He’s one of those guys you just notice,” coach Bill Lynch said. “He breaks tackles. He finds seams. He did that every practice all spring. When a guy does it day after day, you really notice him.”

The crowd noticed him. IU officials said the attendance of 5,325 was a record, although that’s hard to verify given the school has rarely recorded spring game attendance over the years. Still, it was certainly double the number from last year and far better than what the Hoosiers usually do.

That’s a good sign for the program, but a better one would be winning, say, eight games and going to a bowl game. And if Antonio Banks helps make it possible, well, it’s gonna be a heck of a future.

No comments:

Post a Comment