Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Indiana Football -- Go Hard, Play Fast and Defend

Spring football debuted early under new coach Kevin Wilson.

The Hoosiers practiced on Tuesday and are set to do it again Thursday. Then they’ll go on spring break and return for the rest of the practice sessions. Previously spring practice didn’t start until after spring break.

While plenty of attention was paid to the new uptempo offense (Wilson ran one of the nation’s best attacks while at Oklahoma), defense remains a key to IU’s prospects of having a winning record next season. Under co-defensive coordinators Mike Mallory and Mike Ekler, the Hoosiers look to be aggressive.

Right now, everything is new. Players were told to go hard and if they make a mistake, and they will, do it at full speed.

Ekler said he saw a lot to be encouraged about.

“We saw the effort and communicataion from the first snap to the last snap,” he said. “The communication in each snap got better. The execution improved along with that.

“We’ve got a ton of stuff to clean up, but it’s a fun process. These guys want to be great. Our job is to hold them accountable and to teach them.”

IU is set to mix man and zone pass coverages. It will blitz. It will fake blitzes and drop into coverage. It will do, Ekler said, whatever it takes to disrupte offenses.

“We’ll be very multiple,” he said. “We’ll have a lot of different tweaks to it. We want to keep offenses off guard. They won’t know what we’re in. That’s the object of every defense. That’s our goal. We want to be multiple, but simple.”


Wilson isn’t a coach who likes his players standing around. The NCAA limits players to 20 hours of football a week and Wilson wants to maximize every second of it.

As a result, in Tuesday’s practice debut, IU ran two scrimmages instead of the more traditional one while the rest of the team watched. Wilson also pushed the pace to maximize the number of reps.

“We’re trying to get more snaps,” he said. “We’ve got a couple of huddles going. Everyone is getting in there. You learn more.You’re not just standing around, but physically doing it, mentally doing it instead of watching.

“It’s tough in practice. You need to be fair to the defense. We know where the ball is going to be spotted because we script it. It’s all written out, so it’s actually a little faster than a game. Sometimes that’s not fair. You’ve got to make it fair for the defense, but at the same time you’ve got this thing called the 20-hour rule. That means we’re going to do as much as we can in a little time.

“That’s the worst rule they made for the players because they get no rest. We just practice.”


Tailback Darius Willis is not ready for contact. Will he be this spring? Probably not, but the Hoosiers don’t need their leading rusher now. He is still recovering from last season’s knee surgery. He participated in some drills Tuesday, but was wearing a walking boot and was limited.

Willis also is dealing with a protective order from a Monroe County Circuit judge from an alleged domestic assault against a female IU student. Willis has not been charged with a crime. At the moment, the student has not pressed charges.

As a result, Willis has not faced any team sanctions. Wilson said he’ll wait to see what happens in the legal process before doing anything.

“Technically, I don’t know what’s going through the court, so we’re just trying to see what the legal folks do,” he said. “Then we’ll wait and see if we have any school or athletic department or football sanctions. We’re just waiting to make sure we have all the facts and legally, everybody’s story. We’ll see how it plays out.”

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