Thursday, September 22, 2011

Memo to IU Cornerbacks – Be Prepared, Confident; Willis Uncertainty

To play defensive back in the Big Ten in general, and to play it at Indiana, you’d better be prepared and confident.

Don’t take our word for it. Here’s what cornerback coach Brandon Shelby has to say about it. He was, after all, an All-Big 12 cornerback while at Oklahoma

“You’ve got to keep pushing. Sometimes guys get lulled to sleep a little bit and say, ‘Hey I had a great game last week.’ That’s over. What have you done for me lately? It’s a new challenge, new scheme, new receiver. Have I prepared myself to be 100 percent?’”

Shelby didn’t think his cornerbacks could say that after previously pass struggling South Carolina State totaled more than 200 passing yards against IU last weekend. That has to change Saturday, when Indiana (1-2) plays at North Texas (0-3)

“I called out the corners (Sunday). I said, I don’t think we were quite as prepared as we needed to be. A lot of that is my fault. I’ll point the thumb first. This week we have to get those guys honed in on what we need to do. Be prepared and not play on our heels.

“We have to continue to get confident. Confidence takes a long time to build and is quick to shatter. A corner has got to have confidence to say -– this is what they did the last play, how can I adust to the next series. They’re scheeming us like we scheme them. They’ll have wrinkles. Just be confident in what you’ve been taught. That’s the key to the whole team. Be confident that the coaches know what they’re talking about. You’ve got to play it and perform it.”


So it looks like Darius Willis might be done as a football player. Is this a surprise? Not really. The Indiana tailback has been an injury magnet almost from the day he arrived on campus. A guy whose talent compared favorably with Anthony Thompson can’t get healthy enough to show what he can do.

A torn patella tendon that was surgically repaired last year either never fully healed or was damaged again. Willis sat out the spring and basically never practiced in preseason camp or since the season has started.

Now that the knee problem has resurfaced, coach Kevin Wilson said, “It could be the end of his career. It’s a recurring deal. He’s far enough alone. That’s for the doctors and his family to decide.”

Willis was talented enough to total 885 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in less than two full seasons.

Wilson said he doesn’t know if Willis is out for the season, but “he hasn’t practiced but a couple of times, three times, all year.”

One possibility is that Willis could get a medical hardship waiver. That means he could remain on scholarship and finish school, but he couldn’t play and his scholarship wouldn’t count toward the team’s 85.


Wasn’t it just a short while ago that Nick Turner looked like the Hoosiers’ top tailback? He did, after all, get most of the work in the spring. He did rush for 157 yards and a touchdown last year, plus added 54 more on seven catches.

That was before everybody began practicing in preseason camp. Once they did, Matt Perez, Stephen Houston and D’Angelo Roberts rose to the forefront.

Turner suddenly was a running back with no place to go. After some thought, he’s been moved to safety. Turner is very fast and might be able to quickly adapt to a tough situation.

“We’re trying to find him a spot on the field,” Wilson said. “With some seniors at safety, maybe it’s a year-away move, but why do you wait? If you’re not playing, let’s escalate it.

“I don’t know if he can play over there. He’s fast, but there’s a lot of fast guys who can’t play football. He wasn’t doing well at running bck. The young guys went past him. We’re just trying to find him a spot.”

Turner, a 6-foot-187-pounder, rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries last season, typically working as a change-of-pace scatback. He also had seven receptions for 54 yards

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