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2009 Indiana football preview: running backs and offensive line.

RUNNING BACKS


The Hoosiers lose their top two rushers from last season: Marcus Thigpen is in the NFL, and Kellen Lewis is at Valdosta State.  Still, IU returns two seniors with substantial experience, a redshirt freshman who was IU's highest-profile RB recruit in years, and several others.

The upperclassmenBryan Payton, 5-9 senior.  Payton has been a key backup in his last two years, running for 381 yards and 4.2 yards per carry in 2008 and 339 yards and 4.3 yards per carry in 2007.  His best game was against Minnesota in 2007, when he ran for 90 yards and 3 of his 6 career touchdowns.  Demetrius McCray, 6-0 senior.  McCray seems like he has been around forever.  He played as a freshman, was hurt for most of 2007, and returned last year.  His freshman year, in which he ran for 320 yards and 2 TDs, remains his best.  Trea Burgess, 6-1 junior.  Burgess has played sparingly in his career, running for only 131 yards in his first two seasons.

The freshman: Darius Willis, 6-0 freshman.  Willis, a star at Franklin Central and one of the best players in his class from Indiana, is a recruit of whom big things have been expected, and he only added to the expectations by playing well in the spring game.  He has struggled with injuries in recent weeks, but Rivals lists him at the top of the depth chart, and IU fans and coaches seem to share the hope that he can contribute immediately.

 

OFFENSIVE LINE

The seven blocks of limestone have not been the dominant force that Terry Hoeppner imagined when he coined the phrase.  Those seven OL recruits were Pete Saxon, Roger Saffold, James Brewer, Alex Perry, Cody Faulkner, Jarrod Smith, and Mike Stark.  They have fared reasonably well, but not overwhelming so.  Injuries ended Mike Stark's career, and Jarrod Smith now is on the defensive line.  Three of the seven, guard Saxon and tackles Brewer and Safford, are projected to start.  Faulkner and Perry have been injured this summer, and their roles are unclear at this time, and they do not appear on the Rivals projected two-deep at this point.  Rivals projects Will Matte, a redshirt freshman, as the starting center, and Justin Pagan, who played as a freshman last year, as the other starting guard.  We will know more when the official depth chart is released in the next few days.