After I preview the secondary and the special teams, I will switch into game week mode. It is an abbreviated game week, of course.
IU's secondary was a major liability last season. IU lost corners Leslie Majors and Tracy Porter after 2007, and the Hoosiers dealt with loads of inexperience and injuries in 2008. Of the eight players listed on the two deep to begin the 2008 season, only one, Chris Adkins, was in the same position for the final game of the season.
The starters: Ray Fisher, 5-9 senior. Fisher played well as a receiver for his first three years on campus and led IU in receiving yards last season. Still, the staff decided to gamble, moving Fisher to DB and placing the receiving jobs in the hands of younger players. Writers covering other teams have found it fashionable to ridicule this move, but I found it encouraging: it shows that the staff realizes that incremental improvement isn't good enough. It will be interesting to see how Fisher responds. Donnell Jones, 5-10 sophomore. Jones received an increasing amount of playing time as the season progressed, and he started the final two games. He had an interception, 3 pass breakups, and 20 tackles on the season.
The reserves: Richard Council, 6-1 junior. Council saw his first game action in the 2008 season and recorded 45 tackles and 7 pass breakups. He started 7 games after beginning the season on the second string. Adrian Burks, 6-0 junior. Burks played sparingly in four games last season.
The starters: Austin Thomas, 6-2 senior. In only 6 games, Thomas recorded 41 tackles and 2 interceptions. He missed 6 games because of various injuries, including a season-ending ACL injury. He was honorable mention all-Big Ten as a sophomore. Nick Polk, 6-0 senior. Polk had 52 tackles and returned a fumble for a touchdown, but like Thomas, his season ended early because of an ACL injury. It is either encouraging or frightening that both ACL patients are listed as starters.
The reserves: Jerimy Finch, 6-1 junior. Finch is an enigma. A elite recruit from Indianapolis, he originally committed to Michigan but then changed his mind and committed to IU. On signing day eve, he changed his mind again and signed with Florida. Finch saw substantial game action as a freshman, and intercepted a pass against Tennessee but left that game with a season-ending leg injury. After that season, he transferred to IU, and because of family issues that generated the transfer, he was eligible in 2008. Few expected him to be a reserve as a junior, to say the least. In 2008, Finch saw action in 5 games, mostly on special teams, and blocked two punts. Hopefully he will be on the field quite a bit in 2009. Chris Adkins, 6-1 sophomore. Adkins was pressed into starting duty at cornerback as a redshirt freshman and recorded 54 tackles, 4 pass breakups, and a fumble recovery.
The secondary was one of many liabilities in 2008. The Hoosiers once again have two new starters at corner, but those starters have jumped ahead of the returning starters. The safety position could be a strength for IU if Thomas and Polk are both truly recovered from their knee injuries.