Saturday, April 30, 2011

Big Day For IU’s Brewer, Doss

So James Brewer and Tandon Doss will get their NFL chances, assuming the NFL doesn’t screw things up by blowing the season because of its labor dispute.

Both former Hoosiers went in the fourth round, not quite what they were looking for, but good enough to get a NFL opportunity. Remember, a quarterback by the name of Tom Brady went in the sixth round and he's done okay.

Anway, Brewer was the 117th pick and went to the New York Giants. Doss was the 123rd pick and went to the Baltimore Ravens.

The Giants like Brewer’s size (6-8 and 323 pounds), speed for that size and overall athleticism. General manager Jerry Reese called Brewer a “bit of a late bloomer” with “tremendous upside.” Brewer has to develop his technique and strength, but he’ll have plenty of time to do that because the Giants don’t have to play him right away.

“We always expect our guys to be ready to play in case there are some injuries,” Reese said on the Giants website. “He’s a smart kid. We think he can come in and do that.”

Doss impressed Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco. According to the Ravens’ website, Flacco gave team scouts six mid-level receivers to grade. Doss topped that list, for good reason. Some scouts rated him as having the best hands of any receiver in the draft. Last year he led the Big Ten in all-purpose yards (175.8) and earned all-conference honors.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh -- yes, the brother in law of IU basketball coach Tom Crean -- said Doss is, “Great after the catch. He’s a catch and get up the field. He’s a strong guy.”

Doss is more likely to make an impact next season -- assuming there is a next season -- than Brewer, but both have potential for solid pro careers.

In previous years since about 1993, players who weren’t drafted were taken as free agents. The lockout was messed that up, which is bad news for former IU players Ben Chappell and Terrance Turner. Both had hoped to be drafted in the later rounds, Chappell at quarterback and Turner at receiver. Neither was drafted, so now both have to wait till the lockout ends and the labor dispute is resolved. The best case scenario at this point is mid-summer.

And what will end the lockout? When both sides feel enough financial pain to agree. Until then, all the battles are being fought in the courts. And that's not nearly good enough.

NFL teams took 12 quarterbacks overall. Chappell, last year’s Big Ten passing leader and the most accurate quarterback in school history, was generally ranked as the 16th best quarterback.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Abell Commits -– Hoosier Deep Throat Offers IU Basketball Truth

We got the call just after midnight. Hoosier Deep Throat was back and wanted to talk about Remy Abell joining the Indiana basketball team.

We arrived at a parking lot deep in the heart of campus. Darkness hid everything but the truth. Never-ending rain made us wonder if it was really Noah who had called.

We waited for the tell-tale glow of a cigarette. Instead, we heard crunching coming from a pitch-black corner of the garage, and then a familiar raspy voice.

“I don’t have all day,” Hoosier Deep Throat said.

“What’s that noise?” we asked.

“Apples. It’s healthier than cigarettes. At least, that’s what my doctor said.”

A shape shifted in the darkness. Something bounced on the concrete toward us. It was the damp remains of an apple core. Hoosier Deep Throat was still shooting straight.

“So what do you think about this Abell guy committing to Indiana?” Deep Throat asked.

We told him what we knew. Abell is from Louisville Eastern High School. He’s a 6-4 combo guard who averaged 16 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals this past season. He plays strong defense and that was big given that wasn’t a Hoosier strength last year. He’s used to winning -- Eastern has won 113 games in his four years, including 33-3 this season when it reached the Kentucky state semifinals. He’ll join super stud Cody Zeller and shooting guard Austin Etherington in Indiana’s upcoming freshman class.

“But what’s the big picture?” Hoosier Deep Throat asked. Munching began again. Another apple. Apparently, he’d arrived with a healthy appetite.

“Well, IU will have a lot of guards.”

“You’re gosh-darn right they will,” Hoosier Deep Throat said. “They’ll have like 57 guards. Does that seem right to you?”

Hoosier Deep Throat was exaggerating. Next season IU will have Jordan Hulls, Maurice Creek, Verdell Jones, Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, Matt Roth, Daniel Moore, Etherington and Abell at guard. A cynic could even call 6-9 Christian Watford more of a guard than a small forward given his perimeter role. Coach Tom Crean will have plenty of competition to keep everybody sharp and hungry.

“That’s a problem,” Deep Throat said. More munching and crunching. “A big problem.”

“In what way?”

“Follow the numbers.”

We hesitated because we didn't want to seem stupid. “What does that mean?”

Another apple core bounced toward us.

“Even a math genius like you should be able to figure it out,” he said.

We waited. Beyond the parking garage, rain and wind battered the campus. The drive home was going to be hell.

“Tom Crean isn’t an idiot,” Deep Throat said. “There’s no way all those guys are going to be happy with playing time. And then the next year, Yogi Ferrell, Ron Patterson and Jeremy Hollowell are coming. And Crean is still going after that Gary Harris guy, and guess what? He’s another guard.”

More crunching. Deep Throat had started on yet another apple.

“Plus, Crean is still going after forward Mitch McGary and he’s already two over the scholarship limit of 13.

“It’s a bleeping logjam!”

A hand smacked against the concrete walls. Deep Throat was becoming edgy.

“Somebody’s leaving,” Deep Throat said. “Crean’s tweet tells you that.”

He referred to Crean’s Wednesday night tweet that said, in reference to his continuing to recruit for the Class of 2011, “It never ends. We are always looking to make this program better.”

“That doesn’t say anything about somebody leaving,” we said.

“You gotta read in between the lines,” Deep Throat said. “Think like a coach and not like a bleeping sports writer!”

A long pause.

“Maybe you should have an apple.”

An object shot out of the darkness toward us. We snagged it clean like the Steelers’ Hines Ward has done for the last decade or so.

We wondered if Deep Throat had lost his touch. Maybe giving up cigarettes had cost him his insight, like Sampson without his hair.

“So who’s leaving?”

No response. The apple had been misdirection, like a magician. Hoosier Deep Throat was gone. As for his implication about somebody leaving, well, that lingered like the bitter sweet smell of an apple core.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Don’t You Love it -- More IU Basketball Recruiting Intrigue

Hey, there’s more perceived Indiana basketball recruiting drama. Why? First, because there’s always Hoosier basketball recruiting drama. It’s been that way since Branch McCracken began coaching in the pre-World War II era.

This time it’s because guard Remy Abell from Louisville’s Eastern High School has apparently been offered a scholarship.

Remy is a 6-4 guard who was recently released from his national letter of intent at Bradley. He’s a three-star prospect who also is getting hard looks from Penn State, Western Kentucky, Xavier and Butler. He would be a freshman next season.

Abell has a strong upside, which is good. What produces Hoosier drama is that IU already has plenty of guards.

There is Jordan Hulls, Maurice Creek, Verdell Jones, Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, Matt Roth and Austin Etherington at guard for next year. And 6-9 Christian Watford is a small forward who sometimes has a shooting guard role.

That’s a lot of guys even if you play a four-guard lineup. If Abell was the next Eric Gordon, there would be no drama. It would be a slam-dunk no-brainer. Sign him, play him and sit whoever else you have to.

But Abell is, by all accounts, a good but not great player. He won’t rock the Big Ten world the moment he steps onto the court. Do the Hoosiers need another guy like that?

What IU could really use is a powerful inside presence to help reduce some of the burden from super recruit Cody Zeller, but most of those guys already have been gobbled up.

That’s most, but not all, which is where Ibrahim Djimide comes in. He’s a 6-9, 240-pound center from Huntington (West Virginia) Prep who can rebound, block shots, run the floor and defend. He might not be a super polished player, but he could be just the guy the Hoosiers need. He’s set to visit IU next month. He’ll also visit Illinois and Old Dominion.

The one guy who could clear all this up is coach Tom Crean, but NCAA rules prohibit him from commenting about any player until he signs an official national letter of intent. All we know is that in the last nine months or so Crean has been on a recruiting hot streak of near biblical proportions, and if that seems an exaggeration, you don’t understand the passion that is Hoosier basketball, especially after three straight futile seasons.

Besides, if Crean did talk, that would spoil all the drama, and where’s the fun in that?


Okay, maybe it doesn’t rate as the biggest football signing in college history, but IU did get a long snapper when Matt Dooley signed an official letter of intent.

The 6-4, 250-pounder played at Scottsdale (Ariz.) Christian Academy in 2009 year and earned all-state honors. He lettered three times in football and twice in basketball. He’s currently enrolled at Paradise Valley (Ariz.) Community College.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

For the Zellers of the College Basketball World, Specialization Rules

Sometimes you wonder if stud high school basketball players get enough time to be kids.

Or to try other things.

Between high school season –- which is basically November through mid-March –- and AAU ball, which is basically April through July –- and other camps and school work outs in front of college coaches, there isn’t much time for anything else.

In other words, it’s specializing.

Yes, this accelerates the learning process, which is why more and more college freshmen players are so advanced when they arrive on campus. Who has time to ease into things any more? Anybody who is any good is playing right away and if you don’t, well, let’s not talk about that.

Eric Gordon hit the AAU circuit and everything else, became a one-and-done guy for IU, and now he’s a really rich guy in the NBA.

Jordan Hulls wasn’t one-and-done material for the Hoosiers, but he’s played a lot as a freshman and sophomore, as has Christian Watford. Some of it was because IU, still emerging from Kelvin Sampson’s sanctioned-filled era, needed them to. Much of it was because they could handle it.

So there is a reward for so much early basketball and missing out on other potential high school opportunities, although it’s not guaranteed. Still, you don’t know, which is why you see many more high school players hitting every event they can to improve their play, boost their profile and make national names for themselves.

That’s certainly true of elite players and you don’t get much more elite than Cody Zeller. IU’s incoming freshman headed to practice for the McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago right after leading Washington to the high school state championship, then played in the Derby Festival Basketball Classic in Louisville over the weekend.

He’ll get some off time before this summer’s All-Star series against Kentucky standouts, but he’ll likely use that to lift weights and work on his game.

The same is true of guard Austin Etherington, who also participated in the Derby Festival. He, too, is heading to IU in the summer. They arrived in Louisville last Wednesday for practice and media availability. Also on the schedule were a visit to children at Kosair Hospital, a tour of the Muhammad Ali Center and participating in the Night of the Future Stars at Bellarmine University.

And then there are the guys in the Class of 2012. They play for Team Indiana and they've already had three AAU events, including one in Merrillville over the weekend. Ron Patterson, Henner Perea and Yogi Ferrell are carrrying the load right now because Jeremy Hollowell and Peter Jurkin are hurt.

It’s a busy schedule, but it seems certain to ensure they'll be major-impact ready when they reach IU.

And then the fun will really begin.


So much for IU’s chance to make a major Big Ten baseball statement. The Hoosiers lost three games to previously struggling Minnesota over the weekend to drop out of a first-place tie with Michigan State.

The Hoosiers had won all three of their conference series to earn a first-place tie with Michigan State. But Minnesota, which had been picked as a Big Ten favorite in the preseason, came to Bloomington seeking to get back in the conference race and did just that. IU lost its offense and got outscored 20-5 while hitting just .182 in the three losses.

Both teams are 6-6 in league play.

IU (25-15) has a chance to get back to its winning Big Ten tourney ways when it plays at in-state rival Purdue this coming weekend.

Friday, April 22, 2011

IU Suspends Willis; Zeller Stands Out

Violence against women can’t be tolerated. Arguments happen and passions flare, but that is no excuse. You walk away. No matter what.

That, in the end, is the lesson with Darius Willis, the talented Indiana tailback who has been suspended for a game next season. The specific game wasn’t listed and the public reason, as released by the university, was as simple as it was vague:

Suspended for conduct detrimental to the team.

And one final thing -– There will be no further comment on this matter.

Here’s what we know. In Decemeber a 21-year-old female IU student said Willis choked her, pushed her onto his bed and threw her across the room. The two had a relationship. The student did not press charges, but did apply for a protective order. The judged granted it for six months. It will expire at the end of August.

Exactly what happened, or at least Willis’ side of the story, is unknown. He hasn’t been available to the media and hasn’t released any statement. He hasn’t been charged with a crime. Maybe he’s innocent. Maybe not. Still, the judge heard enough to decide a protective order was necessary. And that basically mandated that coach Kevin Wilson do something. Again, violence against women –- or any person –- cannot be tolerated.

Wilson has talked about doing things the right way, and he seems a man of his word. Figure if Wilson’s actions had been clear cut – as in charged and found guilty of violence, his IU career would have been over. The one-game suspension reflects the uncertainty about what actually happened.

It would make sense to suspend Willis for the Sept. 3 season opener against Ball State, but we’ll have to see. Willis missed spring practice while recovering from last fall’s knee surgery. The junior is expected to be ready for the upcoming season.

Willis played in just four games last season and rushed for 278 yards while averaging 4.3 yards a carry. He led IU with 607 rushing yards as a freshman.

Willis has the potential to be a big-time player for the Hoosiers, but he has to stay healthy, play to his potential handle himself appropriately on and off the field.

Can he do all that?

It’s up to him.


Cody Zeller continues to show why he’s one of the best players in the country. Case in point: his 16 points and team-high nine rebounds as his Gold team beat the White team 126-122 in the Derby Festival Basketball Classic. He was named Gold team MVP.

Teammate Austin Etherington, like Zeller a member of IU’s Class of 2011 set to arrive on campus this summer, only had two points on 1-for-7 shooting. However, he did finish second in the three-point competition.

The game was full of superstar recruits, including Branden Dawson (heading to Michigan State), Aaron Cosby (Seton Hall), LaQuinton Ross (Ohio State), Deuce Bello (Baylor), Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State) and Angel Nunez (Oklahoma State). Nash is considered the nation’s No. 4 player in the Class of 2011 by Dawson, who is from Gary, Ind., is rated No. 13.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fife Makes A Move; Hoosier Superstar Softball Pitcher

Fife Makes A Move; Hoosier Superstar Softball Pitcher

Dane Fife is moving up by heading out. He’s leaving IPFW for an assistant basketball coaching job at Michigan State, and it’s a no-brainer move.

Fife did as well as anyone on the planet could do at IPFW, a former Division II program that has struggled since moving to Division I status. When he took the job, IPFW wasn’t in a conference, had zero chance of making a postseason tournament and played a brutal road-heavy schedule designed to make money, not victories. Still, his six-year record was 82-97.

The Mastodons had winning records the last two seasons, including 18-12 this past season. That’s their best ever at the Division I level. That was more than enough to position the 31-year-old Fife for another, higher-profile job.

He’d pursued several head coaching jobs in recent years, but those didn’t work out. An assistant under Tom Izzo, is just as good, if not better. He’ll get to work at a perennial Big Ten power while learning from one of the best coaches in the business. He’s back in his home state and, if things work out as expected, in a few years he’ll be positioned to land another, better head coaching job.

Fife first gained fame in the state of Indiana by coming to IU to play for then-coach Bob Knight. Fife’s feisty, defense-first approach made him one of the more colorful playes in Hoosier history. He was a huge part of their surprising 2002 national title-game run.

If Fife could recruit and win at IPFW, imagine what he’ll do at a program with the resources and tradition at Michigan Stae.

Yes, he’s going to have a major impact.


Have you heard of Morgan Melloh? It’s time you did. Why? She’s Indiana’s dominant softball pitcher who just set a school single-season record for strikeouts.

Mellow struck out 14 Ball State hitters in a 3-0 IU victory on Wednesday. That gives her 375 strikeouts for the year, breaking the mark of 370 set by Amy Unterbrink in 1986.

Melloh allowed just two hits and recorded her ninth shutout of the season to improve to 23-14.

She is a big reason why the Hoosiers (28-15) have won eight straight games and are 13-1 at home.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

IU Spring Football Wrapup; Knight Does It Again

Kevin Wilson and his Indiana football Hoosiers are done till August.

Officially, that is.

IU wrapped up its final spring practice on Tuesday, and the first spring practice session under Wilson, by basically showing players how the coaches want them to drill to become better players.

The strength and conditioning staff will work with the Hoosiers to improve speed, strength and fitness, but the players have to run summer drills on their own. Coaches want to make sure that the players have structure and purpose to what they do.

Wilson told that all the players will be taking summer school in sessions 1 and 2, mixing athletics and academics.

“We want them to come back in shape, as better players and want them stronger and faster,” he said.

“Coaches love practice. These kids embrace our values. We stayed healthy and hit a fair amount. We’re getting faster and more confident.”

It sounds great, but the bottom line will come in the fall and if the Hoosiers can find a way to win.


We don’t want to worry anyone, but one of the signs of the End of Days mentioned in the Book of Revelation is when Bob Knight publically apologizes to the University of Kentucky.

Guess what? Knight did just that. Here is his exact quote courtesy of a story that appeared on

“My overall point is that ‘one and dones’ are not healthy for college basketball. I should not have made it personal to Kentucky and its players, and I apologize.”

A cynic might wonder what ESPN officials did to get Knight to say he was sorry. It was certainly more than IU officials did for so many years when Knight dominated/terrorized college basketball.

Knight retains his amazing ability to tick people off. This time it came during a weekend speech at Wabash. He said, and we know this for sure because it appears on YouTube, which has become the definitive source of record for just about anything that happens on the planet, that “Kentucky, year before last, started five players in the NCAA Tournament games that had not been to class that semester. That’s the one-and-done philosophy that we have now.”

Kentucky officials were not happy, especially given the fact Knight was wrong.

One UK starter, Darius Miller, is still in school. Another starter, Patrick Patterson, graduated in three years. Three starters were one-and-done guys –- John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe. UK coach John Calipari said those three finished their class work for the last semester. Wall tweeted that he had a 3.5 grade point average his last semester.

UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart said Knight’s comments were “blatantly erroneous” and that the “University of Kentucky, our student-athletes and their families take great offense.”

Barnhart added every starter finished that spring semester in good academic standing.

One-and-done players were created when the NBA decided to require players wait one year after graduating from high school to enter the draft. So a number of players, including former IU standout Eric Gordon, have played in college for just one year before moving on.

This isn’t the first time Knight has taken a shot at Kentucky and coach John Calipari. Perhaps it will be the last. How will we know for sure? The answer, it seems, is mentioned in the Book of Revelations. You just have to know where to look.

For Wilson Forget Experience – Play Winning Football Or Else

In the end, when it comes to Kevin Wilson’s uptempo, no-huddle approach to offensive football, it’s about the big guys up front.

If you don't have a good offensive line, you've got major trouble no matter how good your skill players are.

Generally you need veteran guys, mature guys, guys who have spent years building themselves up to Big Ten-caliber physical play. At least, you do if you want to win.

But Wilson isn’t messing around with this he’ll-play-young-guys approach. During Saturday’s scrimmage true freshman Ralston Evans and redshirt freshman Cody Evers got plenty of first-team offense work. Evans was at left guard. Evers was at right guard.

Evans got an early jump on the rest of the Class of 2011 by graduating from Indianapolis Arlington in December so he could enroll at IU for the second semester and participate in spring practice.

“I don’t think they’ve been here long enough that they know how to play soft yet,” Wilson said.

Yes, that was a not-so-subtle shot at the lack of physical offensive line play Wilson is trying to break.

Veteran’s Will Matte, Andrew McDonald and Justin Pagan started with the first team, but Wilson indicated nothing is guaranteed.

Yes, it’s motivation for all the Hoosiers to have a strong summer of voluntary workouts if they want to play in the fall.


Do you want some early insight into what’s going on with IU athletics and want to hear it directly from the people who know the best –- the coaches and the athletic director?

You’ll get your chance with the annual IU Athletics Tailgate tour.

It will feature the tour debut of Wilson, a straight-shooting guy with a straight-shooting message –- win now and don’t stop.

“I’m excited to kick off the tour this year,” Wilson said in a university release. “Our staff is fortunate to be here, and we look forward to visiting our fans across the state and talking some IU football.”

IU men’s basketball coach Tom Crean will participate as well as women’s coach Felisha Legette-Jack, volleyball coach Sherry Dunbar, soccer coach Todd Yeagley, swim coach Ray Looze, track coach Ron Helmer, men’s golf coach Mike Mayer, football defensive co-coordinator Doug Mallory and athletic director Fred Glass.

Eight events are scheduled, starting May 18 in Indianapolis. Each will feature a meal or reception, plus a program. There also will be opportunities to purchase football season tickets. Proceeds will benefit IU and the student-athlete scholarship fund. For more information, contact the IU Varsity Club at 812-855-0866 or

Here are the dates and locations:

May 18 Indianapolis, Ind. The Rathskeller 6 p.m. E.T.
May 23 Merrillville, Ind. TBA TBA
May 25 South Bend, Ind. Knollwood Country Club 11:45 a.m. E.T.
May 26 Evansville, Ind. Oak Meadow Golf Club 11 a.m. C.T.
May 31 West Lafayette, Ind. TBA TBA
June 1 Jeffersonville, Ind. Huber Winery 6 p.m. E.T.
June 2 Fort Wayne, Ind. TBA TBA
August 15 Bloomington, Ind. DeVault Alumni Center TBA

Saturday, April 16, 2011

IU Football -- The Search To Reach The 'Highest Level'

So this is what we know now that Kevin Wilson’s first spring game at Indiana is over.

First, quarterback Dusty Kiel can’t play if he’s a turnover machine. He threw two interceptions and one was returned for a touchdown Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Still, he threw for nearly 200 yards and two touchdowns, plus busted off a few nice runs. His overall spring play showed he could be the guy to replace Ben Chappell in the starting lineup.

Second, the defense once again gave up too many big plays (touchdowns of 41 and 28 yards, plus a 52-yard pass), a habit that seems impossible to break no matter who’s running the show. Still, it scored a touchdown on an interception return, and forced a fumble that set up the winning score.

Third, the punting needs work. Lots and lots of it.

Fourth, threw turnovers is no way to win, although forcing three turnovers is.

Fifth, why are we being so negative?

Good question. Maybe it’s because the dog kept us awake all night and we’re grumpy. So let’s start over.

First, Edward Wright-Baker showed the kind of quarterback consistency you can win with by completing 8 of 10 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown without throwing an interception.

Second, receivers Damarlo Belcher, Dywyce Wilson and Kofi Hughes ooze with big-play potential. So did Dre Muhammad, who might finally get a shot at significant playing time.

Third, nickle back Greg Heban was all over the field making plays.

Fourth, well, let’s just say the first public viewing of Wilson’s football vision showed a lot of upside. Was it mistake free? Not even close, but there is enough potential to think that maybe, just maybe, a winning record is in the Hoosiers’ near future.

Yes, we know, it appears that way every spring, especially with a new coaching staff and approach, but hope is what this time of year is for. And there is plenty of that.

So what have IU coaches learned about this squad? Here’s what co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Rod Smith had to say about that.

“I learned that the guys want to win. They’re ready for a change. They’re eager to listen.

“Sometimes it’s foreign to them. It takes a while for them to grasp how hard they have to work and how fast they have to play, but they’re eager to do it. They’re ready to embrace something different and take the next step.

“Nobody wants to be a .500 team. We have to change gears and make this a program we all want it to be. That’s at the highest level.”

The Hoosiers have all summer to work on reaching that level. Coaches can’t work with them, so the players have to run the football show while the strength staff builds their size and strength.

“Going into the summer we need to develop commaraderie and leadership and togetherness,” Smith said. “That’s what the summer is about. It’s those guys digging in, being together, working on the timing. It’s where you foster that team chemistry that propels you into (training) camp.”

That’s part of what we know. What about the rest? That’s for an upcoming blog.


It was rainy and cold and wet, but that didn’t stop the Cutters from winning their fifth straight Little 500 bike race Saturday. It’s a dynasty, of sorts, in what remains very much an IU tradition.

Friday, April 15, 2011

IU Football – It’s Time To Hit; Bill Cook Will Be Missed

For Damarlo Belcher and the rest of the Indiana football Hoosiers, it’s time to smack somebody.

Sure, IU has hit some in spring football practice, but the concern of getting guys injured often means curbing the impact.

Not today. The Hoosiers will have their annual spring game, following the return of the pancake breakfast, and with the exception of the quarterbacks (as usually, they are off limits to contact), full contact has arrived.

“A scrimmage is better than practice,” Belcher said. “We look forward to this. We’re ready to hit. A lot of times in practice we’re not hitting Guys want to make a little contact and play real football.”

Reality won’t arrive in all its glory until the fall, but for now, this will have to do. Coach Kevin Wilson will match his No. 1 offense against his No. 1 defense, then the No. 2 offense against the No. 2 defense, and see who wins. He’ll mix in guys to give them more of a chance to prove they belong with the starters.

“It’s a fun thing,” said Belcher, IU’s returning All-Big Ten receiver. “It’s also a test to see where we’re at before summer camp. We want to have fun, play hard and see where we’re at.”

All during the spring the Hoosiers have been learning Wilson’s new system. There are different plays, different terminology and a far faster pace to master.

“We’re putting in new stuff every day,” Belcher said. “It takes a lot of extra studying. We do a couple of study sessions to make sure we know the plays before practice. It’s more work to do, but we should be ready for (August) camp.”

Ready is great, but winning is Priority No. 1. Are the Hoosiers up for it? The spring game will be the first public chance to see.


For those who follow IU and Bloomington, Friday’s death of Bill Cook will be a blow. Cook, 80, founded Cook Group Inc, a Bloomington-based medical equipment manufacturing company that became an international giant in the field.

He was a major contributor to Indiana University and the name-sake donor (courtesy of a $15 million gift) to Cook Hall, the university’s new state-of-the-art basketball practice facility.

Cook, who had battled congestive heart failure for a number of years, ranked among the wealthiest people in America. Forbes Magazine listed him at No. 101 with a net worth of $3.1 billion.

He impacted countless people through his company and his generosity toward the university, Bloomington and beyond. If you’ve ever seen the major improvements he spearheaded at West Baden and French Lick in southern Indiana, you’ll understand. If you haven’t seen them, you need to.

IU posted comments from athletic director Fred Glass and basketball coach Tom Crean on its website. Here’s what they had to say:

Fred Glass: “The coolest thing for me was just to get a chance to meet him. Even after the gift was complete, we had a few conversations. Not a lot, but it was an acquaintanceship that I really treasured. He and his wife's gift to the athletic department really helped kick start the Tom Crean era, making Cook Hall what it is today and showing confidence that we were going the right way. His gift led to many other significant gifts. They weren't as big as Bill's, but it was obviously that people realized that if Bill Cook thinks this is something he ought to invest in, maybe we ought to as well. When you're dealing with a guy like that, what can you say? He was something else. I feel lucky just to have known him.”

Tom Crean: “I am stunned and saddened. It's hard to do justice to what he meant to not only this University, community and state but even the world. He was literally a life-changing giant of a man and leader. Not many people can say they made the world a better place because of work they did, but Mr. Cook sure can. The contributions he made will continue to impact lives forever.”

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Will Spring Game Solve IU QB Mystery? Zeller and Etherington Make It

Do you love a good football mystery that doesn’t involve whether NFL owners and players will ever work out their labor differences?

Sure you do. It’s part of America’s social DNA these days. At Indiana most of the intrigue centers on the quarterback situation. Nobody knows who is going to replace Ben Chappell as the starter. Of, if somebody does know, he’s keeping it confessional quiet.

Here’s what we know. Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker are the leading contenders, although both showed little last season as redshirt freshman. Much of that was because they got few chances to show what they could do with Chappell handling most of the plays.

Both have good arms. Both are mobile. Both could handle more of a spread attack than Chappell, who was smart and accurate, but not much on running, which is why the Hoosiers went to a pistol attack the past two years.

Also in the mix are Adam Follett and Teddy Schell, who basically have no chance of starting unless a major rash of injuries hits.

Perhaps the most intriguing prospect is Tre Roberson, last year’s Indiana Mr. Football out of Lawrence Central High School. He’s an outstanding athlete who is a threat running and throwing, but he’ll be just a freshman and quarterback is usually too demanding a position for a true freshman to handle.

However, if Roberson can learn IU’s uptempo offense, read defenses and command respect in the huddle, he has a chance to make significant impact. Why? Because coach Kevin Wilson is fine with freshmen playing right away if they can handle their positions.

Still, playing quarterback is perhaps the most unique and demanding job in sports. What is Wilson looking for?

Glad you asked.

“The quarterback is a critical position,” Wilson said. “He has to earn the respect of the team,” he said. “You can’t give that to him. It’s not a political vote or a media deal. That’s one of the reasons why practices are closed. A guy can statistically look bad at quarterback and it’s not his fault. Then you read in the paper that this guy looks better than that guy. Does he? The guy that looked good went wrong three times and got lucky.”

You might think leadership is a huge attribute for a quarterback. It is, of course, and Wilson wants to see it in action and not by speech.

“It’s not like he’s Bart Starr giving that speech in the huddle. We’re a no-huddle team so it’s not like he has time to talk a lot in the huddle. He’s the guy calling the plays, running the offense. He has to be the guy chasing down players and getting them here for voluntary workouts. The players have to do that. The coaches can’t. Good teams have great attendance over the summer. Players make players come. They get guys to follow them and practice with them. We’ll see how it goes this summer.”

First we’ll see how it goes with Saturday’s Cream vs. Crimson Spring Game. Gates at Memorial Stadium will open at 8:30 a.m.

The Big Ten Network will stream that game and show it as a televised replay at 7 p.m. on Sunday. Don Fischer and Buck Suhr will call the action.


In case you missed it, Cody Zeller and Austin Etherington made the Indiana All-Star squad. Both are signed IU players set to come to campus this summer. For now they'll join Marquis Teague, Dee Davis and Branden Dawson on the Indiana squad that will face a group of Kentucky All-Stars.

The Indiana All-Stars will play a couple of exhibition games against the junior All-Stars that features 2012 IU commits Yogi Ferrell, Ron Patterson, Jeremy Hollowell and Hanner Perea. The June 6 exhibition is set for Washington. Two days later, the All-Stars will play in Kokomo.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

IU Football -- Wilson Taps into Seinfeld, Lil Wayne

Kevin Wilson as comedian. Could that be right?

Granted, the Indiana football coach reminds no one of, say, Jerry Seinfeld, but his all-business persona briefly morphed into the good humor guy.

Maybe it was because, on a sun-splashed late Tuesday afternoon, Wilson’s Hoosiers had practiced well. His mentally weak comments from a week earlier were no where around.

“We were good,” he said. “We had a lot of energy. A lot of enthusiasm. I don’t know if they’re excited about Lil Wayne coming to town, but I told them I’ll make a cameo. I’ll come up through the stage. With smoke. All that deal.”

Lil Wayne, for those whose musical tastes run closer to Bruce Springsteen, is a Grammy-Award-winning tattooed rapper who had a concert at Assembly Hall on Tuesday night. Even as the football Hoosiers practiced, students gathered for the show. A number of IU players were set to go and Wilson couldn’t resist a little fun.

“I think Lil Wayne was at my wedding. So I might have to go back and pay homage.”

Do you even know any Lil Wayne songs, he was asked.

“I don’t know. My daughter knows.”

And then he was back to business.

“Today was good. Really good teams and really good players, they repeat. They do it over and over. They have consistency.

“This team has the potential to be really good, but they’ve got to do it day after day. You can’t be up and down. When you’re going up and down, you’re not getting any better. You’re just staying the same. Good teams keep gaining.”

Wilson hopes the gains are apparent during Saturday’s spring game.

“I like the competition we’re showing,” he said. “It’s good to see the give and take in practice. I’d like to see this week be clean, healthy, very physical and competitive.”

IU’s spring game will not divide the players into two different teams. Instead, it will be offense against defense, the No. 1 offense against the No. 2 defense, and the No. 2 offense against the No. 1 defense.

Basically, the No. 1 offense and No. 2 defense will be on a team. The No. 2 offense and No. 1 defense will be another team. Players will switch from team to team as the coaches continue to evaluate to see who is Big Ten ready, and who isn’t.

After the spring game, the Hoosiers will have one more practice next week. Wilson will use it to show the players the work that needs to be done over the summer. NCAA rules prohibit coaches from having any time of athletic contact with the players, so it will be up to the players to get things done during voluntary workouts.

“I heard a great quote from (former Florida coach) Urban Meyer during the Texas spring game that you don’t get timing in the spring, you get it during the summer and preseason camp,” Wilson said.

If the Hoosiers get that timing, if they learn to play at the full-throttle effort Wilson will demand, they will have a chance for a bowl game. Yes, we've heard that before. But that's what spring is all about -- hope, optimism and Lil Wayne, not necessarily in that order.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Big Ten Football Recruiting Worries? Brothers And Mr. Basketball

Is Big Ten football set to take a big hit?

If you believe in the power of recruiting rankings, it’s possible. lists its top recruiting classes for the Class of 2011 and no Big Ten school makes the top 10. The best is Ohio State, which rates No. 11 with a 23-player class that has one 5-star player and nine four-star guys.

Contrast that with Alabama, the No. 1 class. Of its 22 players, three get 5 stars and an impressive 14 get 4 stars. Florida State is No. 2 with two 5-star players and 13 4-star prospects.

The Big Ten’s second-best recruiting class is newcomer Nebraska, which has no 5-star guys but has 11 with 4-star ratings. Michigan comes in at No. 21 with six 4-star players.

That’s it for Big Ten representation in the top-25.

Ratings, of course, don’t guarantee success. And one mediocre recruiting class doesn’t ruin a power conference like the Big Ten. Still, the schools you see with the best recruiting classes every year are consistently the ones you see contending for national championships.

So if this is really a down recruiting year for the Big Ten, and it will take a couple of seasons to determine that, it can’t be repeated. Not if the conference wants to continue challenging for major bowls and national titles.

Where is Indiana in all this? Basically at the bottom of the Big Ten according to the recruiting experts. That’s not surprising given this is the first year in the transition to new coach Kevin Wilson. The first year for almost every new coach is a little rough in recruiting.

No matter. Wilson doesn’t have to land a bunch of top-5 classes (although wouldn’t it be cool if he did), but he does need to sign some high-impact guys in the years ahead to elevate this program to consistent bowl participation.


The Zellers are the first family to have three Indiana Mr. Basketballs with Luke, Tyler and Cody.

Two other sets of brothers have won the award.

Indianapolis Manual’s Tom and Dick VanArsdale shared the award in 1961. They went on to total almost identical numbers during standout careers at Indiana.

Carmel’s Billy and Dave Shepherd won, but in different years. Billy got the honor in 1968. Dave won in 1970.


Indiana’s Jori Davis was a third round draft choice of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever. Davis was the 33rd overall pick. She’s the first player under coach Felisha Legette-Jack to be drafted.

Only two other Hoosier women have ever been drafted by the WNBA – Quacy Barnes (the 21st pick by Sacramento in 1998) and Jill Chapman (the 21st pick by Detroit in 2002).

Davis averaged 19.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.8 steals this past season. She was a two-time All-Big Ten selection. She finished her career with 1,586 points (eighth in school history). She’s only the sixth player in school history to total more than 1,500 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists.

“We are extremely proud and excited for Jori,” Legette-Jack said in a university release. “She has worked so hard and her dream has been realized with her being drafted. It goes to show that people in this state are paying attention to Indiana women’s basketball.”


There is still hope that IU could get some more inside help for next season. Yes, 6-7-, 215-pound Jamari Traylor is still in the mix for the Class of 2011, although according to a blog by Adam Zagoria, he will visit Oklahoma State this weekend, and is set to visit Kansas in the future.

Traylor, who is from IMG Academies, would join Cody Zeller as an inside newcomer next season. Veterans Tom Pritchard, Derek Elston and Bobby Capobianco return from the frontcourt.

A strong inside game is crucial if the Hoosiers are to finish with a winning record and return to postseason play next season.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Zeller Obvious Mr. Basketball Choice; IU Baseball Thrills Again

By now you know Cody Zeller is Indiana’s Mr. Basketball.

Was there really any other choice?

Of course not. Zeller is everything you’d want a Mr. Basketball to be. He’s a great player, a great student (a 3.99 GPA after getting an A- in freshman English), and a great representative of his school and community (Washington). Heck, he probably rescues cats out of trees in his spare time.

Oh, yes. It sure didn’t hurt that he committed to play at Indiana, starting next season.

The fact he’s the third brother to win the honor, joining Luke (2005) and Tyler (2008) reflects the quality of his family and leads to one obvious question:

Why didn’t the Zellers, Steve and Lorri, have more kids?

Sorry. It is the first time three brothers have won Mr. Basketball, though.

Anyway, Cody got 198 of the 293 votes cast. Warsaw’s Nick Moore was second with 21 votes. Indianapolis Pike’s Marquis Teague and Bloomington South’s Dee Davis tied for third. Both had 16 votes.

Those players are all outstanding, but none of them could match Zeller’s accomplishments.

The 6-11 standout played on three state championship teams with Washington, including two straight. He had 20 points and 18 rebounds as the Hatchets beat Culver Academies 61-46 in the Class 3A title game.

Washington coach Gene Miiler told Kyle Neddenriep of the Indianapolis Star that Zeller was “the total package.” Zeller averaged 24.1 points and 13.4 rebounds this season.

Don’t expect him to put up those numbers at IU, but he certainly will make a big impact for the Hoosiers. Big enough to help them get their first winning season under coach Tom Crean?

You’d better believe it.


If you like thrills, check out the Indiana baseball team. The Hoosiers have won nine games when either tied or behind in the eighth inning or later.

On Sunday, IU stunned visiting Ohio State by scoring four runs in the bottom of the ninth to win 10-9. T.C. Knipp’s bases-loaded triple in the ninth tied the score at nine. Then Michael Basil singled up the middle to drive in the winning run.

Pitcher Joey DeNato came through with six relief innings to get his third victory over the year. He retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced and allowed just three hits and one walk.

IU won the final two games of the season to improve to 20-11 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

IU Football – Push And Relax; Basketball Recruits Shine

Kevin Wilson might talk tough and have no time for idle chit-chat, at least not yet with the media, but he does understand the demands his players are facing with the transition to a new staff with new expectations.

Check that. It is the same expectations, which are to win, just doing it with a different approach.

Anyway, Wilson has called the Hoosiers mentally weak, which doesn’t mean they are lazy or losers. It does mean they have a ways to go to meet Wilson’s demands that IU win now, not later.

He talks about guys trying so hard to succeed that they have to battle their bodies as well as opponents.

“You have guys pressing and that’s a lot of stress in your body and you lose your wind. You don’t look like you’re in shape, but it’s just because you’re trying too hard.

“It’s hard to teach guys who really want to do well how to go as hard as they can and relax in their body.”

Track coaches tell their sprinters this all the time. To go your fastest you have to relax rather than tense up. It’s the same in football.

“You want them on edge,” Wilson said, “but not wound so tight they’re fighting their bodies.

“It’s the way you teach. You’ve got to go through it. We’re going through it in practice now. We’ll go through it in games. The freshmen will go through it when they get here.

“As the games get bigger, our guys will go through that. It affects your conditioning from a mental side.”

IU’s physical condition was tested during Saturday’s scrimmage. After dealing with heavy morning showers, the weather cleared and the Hoosiers took advantage at Memorial Stadium.

IU worked on red-zone plays along with goal-line, special teams and clock situations.

Wilson said the Hooisers had a strong practice Thursday and followed it with a good scrimmage.

“Our defense has been real strong all spring, but our offense made a few more plays and had the upper hand (in the scrimmage).”

All this was preparation for next Saturday’s spring game at Memorial Stadium. It will start at 11 a.m. after the annual Pigskin and Pancakes event. That is also the same weekend as the Little 500 bicycle race.


Okay, so the basketball world didn’t stop with all the high school talent assembled at Indianapolis North Central High School this weekend, but there was plenty to notice.

College coaches couldn’t notice because NCAA rules keep them away from April AAU events like the IndyBall Shootout, although you can bet the house they know what’s going on.

Take, for instance, the Indiana Elite/Team Indiana 17s that smashed its way past the overmatched Hancock County All-Stars 103-63. Indianapolis Park Tudor point guard Yogi Ferrell, perhaps the most important member of IU’s heralded Class of 2012, hit 8 of 9 three-pointers and scored 29 points. Granted, Hancock County will never be confused with, say, Ohio State, but the performance did showcase Ferrell’s ability to score as well as pass and run the offense.

Once upon a time, a point guard ran the show without dominating the scoring. In today’s game a point guard has to do it all. Ferrell, it seems, can do that.

Ferrell joined with Indianapolis Broad Ripple’s Ron Patterson, Lawrence Central’s Jeremy Hollowell and LaPorte’s Hanner Perea on the Indiana Elite/Team Indiana 17 squad. Missing was center Peter Jurkin, who is dealing with an injury.

Then there’s the Class of 2013 that features Indianapolis Cathedral’s Collin Hartman and Indianapolis Warren Central’s Devin Davis. Both play on the Eric Gordon 16s team. Both are IU recruits.

Finally, it looks like Kentucky, which seems to scoop up every top player it recruits, is interested in Hamilton Southeastern’s Gary Harris. Yes, that’s the same Harris who has received offers from Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State and most of the rest of the free world.

The 6-4 Harris is still intrigued by football. He’ll play it again this fall and, perhaps, decide that is his game over basketball. Or, he can try to do both in college.

For IU, James Hardy and Antwaan Randle El tried doubling up in the last decade, although neither lasted very long before sticking with football.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wilson Seeks IU Football Answers; Eva Longoria and Big Ten Scheduling

Kevin Wilson has questions. Answers remain as elusive as a balanced U.S. budget, which is what you expect when a new coach from a powerhouse program arrives to turnaround a perennial Big Ten bottom feeder.

So Wilson, driven by a successful offensive coordinator run at Oklahoma, wonders as Indiana’s spring practice season closes in on its final week:

“Who will come to play every day? Who will be physical? Who can you count on?”

Those answers could determine whether the Hoosiers finish with a winning record next season.

Wilson continues to push for that, even though some shaky spring practices (at least by his standards) suggest that next year might be a bigger challenge than expected.

“I’ve seen seniors get beat out by freshmen,” he said. “Potentially there are seniors who can be beat out by guys coming in. I hope. We have some guys on the 2-deep who can be beat out by guys coming in.”

Freshmen won’t start showing up on campus until June. For some, that will be enough to earn playing time. For others, it will lead to a redshirt season. Former coach Bill Lynch was a big believer in redshirting guys at IU so that, in theory at least, by the time they reached their fifth year, they were ready to handle Big Ten battles.

Wilson is a more play-‘em-now coach.

“We need to develop our team. That’s lifting. I don’t see it as a five-year deal. I see it by competition. It’s not developed by waiting. We’ve been waiting for some 40 years to go back to a Rose Bowl. It’s not about waiting. It’s about increasing the competition. It’s about increasing the energy level.”


So the truth comes out –- the Big Ten doesn’t want Nebraska facing the Hoosiers in football.

Are you like us? Do you see dark forces at work? Do wonder what Tony Parker was thinking when he messed up with Eva Longoria?

Sorry. An image of Eva in a tuxedo jacket and short shorts during a David Letterman appearance lingers.

Anyway, here’s what we know.

Fact: IU won’t play the Cornhuskers in the next four seasons. The first year it could happen is 2015.

Fact: The Big Ten office makes the schedule.

Fact: Nebraska is a national power, although not in the same way Alabama is right now. The Cornhuskers used to be an elite program, then hit a lull and are trying to muscle their way back.

Fact: Indiana is not an elite program. It never has been. Cynics might suggest it never will be, but cynics haven’t seen new coach Kevin Wilson’s no-bull intensity.

Fact: Non-conference games against Missouri, Navy and Virginia are coming. So are contests with South Carolina State, North Texas, Indiana State and Ball State.

Fact: Eva Longoria will not be a sideline reporter during any of IU’s home games this coming season.

Add it all up and it’s obvious league officials are concerned that Wilson, with deep Oklahoma roots, will embarrass Nebraska. If that doesn’t seem obvious to you, look at the Eva-Letterman video and get back to us.


In case you missed it, Indiana’s rock-the-basketball-world Class of 2012 will be playing for Indiana Elite/Team Indiana this weekend at Indianapolis North Central as part of the annual tourney.

That means Yogi Ferrell, Hanner Perea, Ron Patterson and Jeremy Hollowell. Also on the team, although perhaps not playing this weekend, is Peter Jurkin.

Eventually these guys will all be on the court at the same time, which will be an early preview of what IU’s future lineup will be like. The early and extra playing time will help with chemistry, something that should be fine tuned by the time they all arrive in Bloomington. They’ll have to adjust to college and coach Tom Crean’s system, but every freshman in every program has adjustments to make.

In the meantime fans will get a kick out of seeing what could be a future championship squad in action.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

IU Football Coach Sugar Coats Nothing; N.C. State Coaching Conspiracy

Kevin Wilson arrives as a man with things to do, deadlines to meet and interviews to shorten.

He’s spent at extra half hour at spring practice and it’s not because he enjoys making long days longer. His Indiana football Hoosiers struggle to meet his demands, and that’s not good enough. He seeks enough good men to turn this perennial losing program around.

You wonder, as he bites off words as if they were gristle, if he’ll find it with this group.

“We mentally are weak,” he says. “We’re not a mentally tough team.”

If true, and we don’t know because practices are closed, it would not bode well for next season. Wilson is determined to start winning now and given that the roster lacks physical supermen, mental toughness and attention to detail are critical.

“I think physically we can go out there and run,” he says, “but I think we get tired a little too quick when we practice. It’s just playing through it, learning through it, growing through it. It’s repetition day after day.”

Football is a macho sport played and coached by men who don’t shy from hard knocks. Wilson has no time for playing nice through diplomatic double-speak. He knows what he wants and what the program needs, and if players don’t give it to him, they’ll hear about it -– from him directly and through the media.

Wilson talks about wanting to play freshmen right away. He speaks after an apparent dismal practice leaves him using the verbal needle as a sledgehammer. This is motivation as suggestion, if not threat, that reduced –- or even no –- playing time is coming for veterans who can’t keep up.

“Our plan is to play as many freshmen as we can,” Wilson says. “From watching some of our guys, I would hope some of our freshmen are better than the guys we have on our team.”

What, you were expecting a profession of love?

Wilson wants a team of his guys. He can get them through recruiting or by molding returning players into his vision of what winners should be, which likely is showcased at Oklahoma, his former school.

“I’ve seen seniors get beat out by freshmen,” he says. “I would think here there are some seniors that can get beat out by guys coming in. I hope.

“We need to develop our team. I see it as development by competition, not development by waiting. We’ve been waiting 40-some years to go to the Rose Bowl again. It’s not about waiting, it’s about increasing the competition, increasing the energy level.”

So you challenge guys. The true players, the ones you win with, respond. The others cave.

Does Wilson have a roster full of responders or cavers? That’s up to the players. In that, at least, he will have to wait.


So how did your NCAA tourney bracket work out? If you’re like most of America, not well.’s tournament challenge produced a record 5.9 million brackets. Of those, only 881 picked Butler to play Connecticut in the title game.

However, 279,308 brackets had the Huskies winning it all. They were the fifth most popular pick behind the four No. 1 seeds.

In case you’re wondering, President Barack Obama finished No. 746,086 with his bracket.


Don’t you love drama?

North Carolina State athletic director Debbie Yow has suggested that Maryland coach Gary Williams tried to sabotage N.C. State’s search for a new basketball coach.

Why would Williams do that? Well, Yow used to be the athletic director at Maryland and the two apparently didn’t get along.

So when a reporter, during the press conference announcing that Mark Gottfried was the new N.C. State, asked Yow if she had a reputation of being difficult to work with, Yow reportedly said, according to the Associated Press, that she had a “reputation of not getting along with Gary Williams, who has tried to sabotage the search. Come on, we all know that.”

Williams later released a statement to the Baltimore Sun saying he hadn’t talked to anyone connected to the N.C. State search and anyone who said he did, “isn’t being truthful.”


Rumors had popped up that Pat Knight, the son of Bob and the fired coach of Texas Tech, might come to Purdue as an assistant coach under good friend Matt Painter.

Not exactly.

Lamar has hired Pat Knight as its head coach. The younger Knight went 50-61 in three full seasons at Texas Tech.

Lamar, if you’re interested, is located in Beaumont, Texas.

Monday, April 4, 2011

For Indiana, To Blitz Or Not To Blitz; Rivers Gets Invite

If it was up to Indiana linebacker Jeff Thomas, and it’s not, the Hoosiers will blitz a lot.

That’s not to say IU won’t blitz. It just means Thomas won’t be part of the decision making.

“Blitzing is a blast,” he said. “We’ll have a lot of it this year. We’ve got a lot of zone pressures, man pressures. What we have is real good. I’m happy with it.”

This is part of IU’s attacking, multiple style brought in by co-defensve coordinators Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler. This defense will, Thomas said, give the Hoosiers, “a little more free reign, but we’ve got to know more.”

Knowledge, whether in football or dating, is always a good thing.

“We’re more of an aggressive defense,” Thomas said.

Unlike last year, defensive linemen will take on blockers instead of shooting through gaps. The idea is to free up the linebackers to make more plays. As you can guess, this is great news for the linebackers.

“The D-line is taking guys on and not letting guys climb as quick,” Thomas said. “They’re trying to hold and sustain double teams so the linebackers can run around and make plays.”

There is a catch –- “We have to be disciplined in our assignments,” Thomas said. “If not, it’s not good.”

IU under new coach Kevin Wilson hopes to be good enough on defense to make a season-changing defense. It’s way too early to tell if that can happen, but this is the spring, when all things are possible except, it seems, Butler being able to make a shot in the national championship game.

But that’s a topic for another day.


Does IU senior guard Jeremiah Rivers have a shot at the NBA?

He’ll try to prove it at the upcoming Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. What’s that? It’s an annual pre-draft camp in Portsmouth, Va., for the nation’s top 64 college seniors. It starts Wednesday and runs through Saturday. Rivers got a late invitation and he hopes to take full advantage of it.

If Rivers impresses the scouts, it likely won’t be with his offense. He only averaged 3.8 points last season.

However, Rivers is very athletic and can play strong defense. It also doesn’t hurt that his father is Doc Rivers, the head coach of the Boston Celtics.

You likely won’t find potential lottery picks in Portsmouth, but you will find very good players such as Butler’s Matt Howard, Ohio State’s Jon Diebler, Penn State’s Talor Battle, Michigan State’s Durrell Summers, Minnesota’s Blake Hoffarber, and Illinois’ Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis.

Scouts will be from the NBA, European leagues and the NBA Development League.


Tom Crean knows people in high places. How high? Well, during the women’s NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis, the Indiana coach and his wife, Joani, watched with Stanford professor, and former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, plus Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard and his wife, Winnie.

Stanford, coached by former IU grad Tara VanDerveer, lost to Texas A&M in the semifinals at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Crean, as usual, was a busy guy. He also was at the men’s Final Four in Houston.


IU assistant basketball coach Tim Buckley also has been busy. Besides his many IU responsibilities, he was a top candidate for jobs at Northern Illinois and Loyola of Chicago. He didn’t get either (Michigan State assistant Mark Montgomery went to Northern Illinois; St. Louis assistant Porter Moser reportedly will take over at Loyola), but his strong background makes it likely he will eventually return to head coaching responsibilities. He used to coach Ball State.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hoosier Football – Subtlety Isn’t Part of Wilson’s Style

Kevin Wilson is not a subtle football coach. By that we mean he doesn’t deliver vague messages like those found in literary novels so that you’re never exactly sure what is said or meant.

Wilson coaches like a hammer because he wants his football Hoosiers to make an instant impact in his debut season. He doesn’t want this fall to be a repeat of so many football falls at Indiana.

So Wilson and his staff coach hard and fast. Mediocrity is not an option.

And that leads to spring practice and a first scrimmage that saw IU bust off 115 snaps. It was a closed session, so perspective could not be verified. Wilson’s assessment was that the players need more work with the strength and conditioning staff.

“I told the players they were too slow and in bad shape,” he said.

As you can see, Wilson is not a touchy, feely kind of coach.

“We’re making some strides,” he said. “We had officials in so they can see how they play the game. Practice is not truly a game. You have coaches running around then. This was a good learning experience. We’ll take a good look at the tape and keep growing as an offense.”

The scrimmage was held Saturday at Memorial Stadium. It was cool and breezy. The revamped defense had the edge on the sped-up offense. There were some interceptions, and interceptions returned for touchdowns.

If you’re a defensive coach, you love that. If you’re an offensive coach, and Wilson is, that’s a problem.

“Where I came from (Oklahoma), I’m used to (defenses dominating), so I came off the field feeling good,” Wilson said. “We’ve got some work to do, but in the short term we’re making some good gains.”

Defensive tackle Adam Replogle can see the defense evolving under new coordinators Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler.

“We made mistakes, there’s always room for improvement,” Replogle said, “but we’re making strides.”

Added Belcher: “The defensive coaches have them running to the ball a lot. When you do that it limits the amount of yards you get after the catch. They looked pretty good.”

IU’s up-tempo offense remains a work in progress, which is what you’d expect while implementing a new system and approach.

“The offense will be real fast,” receiver Damarlo Belcher said. “Everything we do has be quick, even in the weight room. Coach is bringing in the (offensive) signals fast, so we have line up fast.”

Last year’s group of receivers ranked among the Big Ten’s best. Losing Tandon Doss and Terrance Turner hurt, but the potential is there with Belcher, Duwyce Wilson and Kofi Hughes, among others.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys who haven’t played much,” Belcher said, “so we’ve got to do a good job of getting them ready to play.”

Friday, April 1, 2011

Save Us From Pay-College-Athletes-To-Play Nonsense

Paying athletes to play college sports is a bad idea.

Repeat this 100 times.

Maybe it will finally sink in.

College athletes are not exploited. They get advantages in fame, opportunity and, yes, chicks the average student would kill for. If they’re good enough, they’ll get a chance to make millions of dollars as pros. If they’re not good enough, they’ll still have an edge in the job market because a lot of employers like to hire former athletes, especially in the college’s town, surrounding area and state.

Sure, some athletes complete their eligibility without graduating, but that’s more their fault than the university’s. If you’re an athlete and you want to do the work and get a degree, you will.

Paying athletes won’t stop cheating. Some schools will still see to it that prospects get money or girls or Justin Bieber concert tickets.

It’s human nature to cheat, just like it’s human nature to do a lot of things that aren’t right or nice, which is why we have laws, police and enough NCAA rules to confuse Einstein.

Most of this pay-the-athlete talk centers on football and men’s basketball. There’s this idiotic idea they’re being taken advantage of.

We should all be so lucky.

In those sports players get full rides which, depending on the school and if you stay for as long as five years (occasionally, for medical reasons, a player might get a sixth year), could be worth a quarter of a million dollars, or more.

Every athlete gets free medical care, from physical exams to surgery to rehab and everything in between. Have you seen the rising cost of health insurance or medical expenses? It’s brutal. That benefit alone is priceless.

IU basketball player Maurice Creek has needed a pair of knee surgeries in the past 15 months. Imagine how much those cost, plus all the rehab time with trainer Tim Garl. Four Indiana running backs have had knee surgery within the last six months. Those weren’t free.

Factor in all the Hoosier athletes and all the college athletes across the country, and the amount universities spend on medical care is mind boggling. And it’s not like athletes are being treated by quacks. Some of the nation’s top doctors and trainers work with them.

Then there are training table meals (Indiana, like a lot of schools, has hired a nutrionist to ensure athletes eat well), tutoring, shoes, uniforms, workout clothes, the chance to go to some cool places for preseason basketball tourneys even if it’s not a vacation (Hawaii, the Caribbean, New York City, ect). That doesn’t count the opportunity to go to bowl games or the NCAA Tournament. Don’t forget some of the neat bowl gifts for football players –- including Xbox 360s, iPod Touches, custom-made watches, and even a $420 shopping spree at Best Buy.

Athletes don’t pay for any of this.

Plus, they’re doing something they enjoy at some of the most famous facilities in America. How many people would love the chance to play basketball at Assembly Hall or Rupp Arena, or play football at Michigan Stadium or Ohio State Stadium or Notre Dame Stadium?

Athletes get prime-time opportunities to display their skills and, if they’re good enough, earn mega-million-dollar salaries as pros.

Look at Butler’s Gordon Hayward last year. Look at IU’s Eric Gordon and D.J. White from a couple of years ago. They’re millionaires today, and their time in college helped.

Sure college athletes work hard. Big deal. So do college music students, accounting students, members of the marching band, cheerleaders and a lot more, and they don’t get paid.

And if you do pay athletes, who do you pay and how much? Should the star quarterback get more than the third string tackle? Should just football and basketball players get paid because those sports make money?

In fact, you’d have to pay every athlete the same amount. Otherwise the system would be flooded with lawsuits, and then the only ones making money would be lawyers.

Here’s a news flash. Most college athletes don’t get full rides. They do in football and basketball because it’s an NCAA rule. Most of the others get partials. For instance, soccer and wrestling get basically a maximum of 10 scholarships a year. They might have 20 or 30 guys on a team. So you divide the financial aid to help as many as you can. A super stud might get a full ride, but somebody else might get just 20 percent, or nothing.

That percentage can fluctuate from year to year depending on individual performance and overall team need.

If anybody needs money, it’s athletes in those non-revenue sports.

Here’s the bottom line -- there’s not enough money to pay athletes. Most athletic departments lose money. Yes, the NCAA tourney generates billions of dollars. Schools make money from player uniform sales, and a whole lot more.

But when you factor in expenses, most of that money disappears. Blame it on coaches’ salaries, facility building, facility upkeep, and heaven knows what else. In a world in which nine billion dollars isn’t enough for NFL owners, nothing is sure except enough is never enough.

College sports are big business. No one debates that. Is there cheating and corruption? Absolutely. Should some rules be adjusted to reflect 21st Century reality? Sure. But when it comes to paying college players, consider this last thought.

We remember a former Indiana basketball player who, and we’ll be nice here, was not a good-looking guy. It wasn’t even close. He should have been lucky to get a date, yet he had a girlfriend who could have been featured in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue, not that we admit to having seen that despicable issue. It was almost certainly the result of the power of Hoosier basketball.

Was he being exploited?

We should all be so lucky.

Yet Another Reason Why Zeller Will Thrive At IU

So what do we know after Cody Zeller’s McDonald’s All-America game?

Basically, the stuff we know before. He has impressive skills. He’s going to be a very good college player. But he’s not going to have Jared Sullinger-like instant impact.


First, and there’s no diplomatic way to say this, he he doesn’t have the large enough back side to clear out space under the basket. Among the reasons why Sullinger was so good so fast -- beyond his high basketball IQ, tough-minded play and ability to quickly pass out of double teams -- was that he used his legs and, well, rump, to muscle his way into inside position.

Zeller can’t quite match that.

But the bottom line is overall strength. Yeah, Zeller needs to continue working on his individual skills, and he will, but the sooner he gets back in the weight room and really hits it hard, the better.

It's been hard for him to do that lately considering his Washington team just won a second straight state championship and then he immediately headed to Chicago for the McDonald's preparation.

Indiana basketball strength coach Je’Ney Jackson almost certainly has already given Zeller a workout plan to follow. Once Zeller gets to IU this summer, he can fully take advantage of that.

The McDonald’s experience got Zeller game time –- he had 10 points (on 5-for-10 shooting), three rebounds and three assists –- but it also gave him the chance to play or practice against some of the nation’s top big men such as Khem Birch (going to Pitt) and Anthony Davis (heading to Kentucky). The main lesson learned was again how important strength is.

Figure Zeller will learn it well. He's seen what it's done to older brother Tyler, who had a big-time junior season at North Carolina in part because he was able to physically handle the inside power stuff.

While Zeller was IU’s only McDonald’s participant, Kentucky was well representated, which once again showcases how effective a recruiter John Calipari is.

Michael Gilchrist had 16 points and 12 rebounds to lead the East to a 111-96 victory. Marquis Teague, the Indianapolis Pike standout, also was there.

Next year IU could dominate the event with guys like Yogi Ferrell, Hanner Perea and Jeremy Hollowell in the mix.

Yes, the Hoosier future is very bright.


Could Illinois coach Bruce Weber be heading to Oklahoma?

It’s possible. Weber isn’t as popular in Champaign as he was in his first two seasons, when he won a pair of Big Ten championships and led the Illini to a national runner-up finish.

They’ve struggled in recent years and badly under-achieved this season, when they went 20-14. While they made the NCAA tourney as a No. 9 seed and lost in the second round, they didn’t make it by much.

Illinois has to replace four senior starters. Plus, athletic director Ron Guenther might not be around much longer (his contract expires in June), so administration support for Weber might be a little shaky.

While Weber has released a statement saying he's committed to Illinois, as we saw with the Matt Painter situation (rumors were rampant he was heading to Missouri before settling on a $2.3-million-a-year deal to stay with Purdue) nothing is sure this time of year.

Except that somebody is going to sign a big-money contract to coach, and it's not going to be us.