As I said last week, now that football season will be upon us in less than two months, I plan to begin the preview process. I won't make any schedule guarantees, because those quickly become broken promises, but you can expect to see the following: first, today's post, a big picture look at how the depth chart changed last season from the season opener (Western Kentucky) to the conference opener (Michigan State) to the season/conference finale (Purdue) and to spring practice this year. When we get closer to the season and after fall practice begins, I'll take a unit-by-unit look at IU's returning players and newcomers. In the meantime, I plan to take a look at all of IU's 2009 opponents and, as painful as it will be compared to the last two years, a game-by-game look at the 12-car pileup that was the 2008 IU football season.
The chart below gives a depth chart snapshot of IU's 2008 season at various points and compares it to the 2009 spring depth chart. The 2009 chart is not an official IU release, but is a combination of IU's spring depth chart and the published list of "returning starters" from IU's spring release. Unlike the official spring depth chart, it includes guys such as Will Patterson and Nick Polk who missed spring practice but will be back, hopefully, in the fall. It's not really a prediction, but is more of a rough outline of where the roster stands as fall practice approaches:
|POS||Western Ky.||Mich. St.||Purdue||2009?|
|Andrew McDonald||McDonald||Josh Hager||McDonald|
|LG||Pete Saxon||Saxon||Justin Pagan||Pagan|
|Jarrod Smith||Smith||Mike Reiter||Marc Damisch|
|Jarrod Smith||Mike Reiter||Smith||Perry|
|James Brewer||Brewer||Perry||Josh Hager|
|Matt Ernest||DaMarlo Belcher||Belcher||Belcher|
|Mitchell Evans||Evans||Tandon Doss||Ernest|
|Brandon Walker-Roby||Walker-Roby||Walker-Roby||Chris Banks|
|Ben Chappell||Chappell||Chappell||Teddy Schell|
|Mitchell Evans||Adam Follett|
|Demetrius McCray||McCray||Darius Willis||Willis|
|TE||Brad Martin||Troy Wagner||Wagner||Wagner|
|Max Dedmond||Brad Martin||Dedmond||Dedmond|
|Ryan Marando||Marando||Marando||Terrence Thomas|
|Keith Burrus||Mack||Burrus||Nicholas Sliger|
|Keith Burrus||Burrus||Burrus||Mick Mentzer|
|Fred Jones||Jones||Eric Thomas||Thomas|
|Tyler Replogle||Replogle||Replogle||Darius Johnson|
|Darius Johnson||Johnson||Johnson||Trea Burgess|
|CB||Christopher Phillips||Council||Donnell Jones||Ray Fisher|
|Richard Council||Adrian Burks||Burks||Council|
|Joe Kleinsmith||Brandon Moseley||Colin Taylor||Finch|
|Jerimy Finch||Finch||Jarrell Drane||Drane|
|Donnell Jones||Andre LeGrone||LeGrone||Jones|
What does this tell us?
Looking at the snapshots of the season doesn't provide the entire story about injuries. Still, the chart does make clear that the secondary and the left side of the offensive line bore the brunt of the season-ending injuries last season. On the other hand, the offensive skill positions, the defensive line, and the linebacking corps held up reasonably well, although there were injuries of shorter duration that I will discuss in later posts.
More importantly, what does this tell us about 2009? The good news for the defense is that there is only one new face in the secondary, converted WR Ray Fisher, who is projected to start at cornerback. Three of last season's opening game starters are back, including safeties Austin Thomas and Nick Polk, who were gone by the Purdue game with season-ending injuries. The linebacking corps is in relatively good shape, with Tyler Replogle moving into a starting role and with Trea Burgess backing him up, but the other 2/3rds of the depth chart is intact. The outside of the D-line returns nearly intact, but there are several new faces in the interior. On offense, the most significant turnover was at WR, with two starters, Andrew Means and Ray Fisher moving on or changing positions. The O-line returns 4 of 5 starters from last season. The RB position will be one of the most interesting. Although starter Marcus Thigpen is in the NFL, Bryan Payton and Demetrius McCray have plenty of experience. Still, I think most Hoosier fans will be disappointed if Darius Willis, who showed so much promise in the spring, remains #3 on the depth chart. Finally, of course, is quarterback, where Ben Chappell, who played often last season, is firmly in control of the QB position.
Again, this isn't IU's official depth chart, and I'm sure it will look much different in late August. But it's a starting point for the ramp-up to football season.