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3 takeaways from IU’s weekend scrimmage

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Updates on Indiana progression through fall camp, courtesy of the Head Ball Coach

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 Rutgers at Indiana Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Two weeks ahead of its season opener, Indiana staged its most involved scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday. It was an opportunity to give IU’s first- and second-team offensive and defensive units approximately 50 snaps to work through wrinkles and get into the rhythm of head-to-head competition. With a nine-game, Big Ten-only slate looming, the Hoosiers — and every other conference team — need the work.

Camp is closed to reporters this year, so we’re relying on IU coach Tom Allen to supply the details. Allen hopped on Zoom to recap the action on Monday, and here are a few things we were able to learn:

Position battles are coming into focus

Up front, we know Caleb Jones will be at left tackle, Harry Crider will start at center and Matthew Bedford will take over at right tackle. But what about the guard spots? Allen said Monday that Dylan Powell, Mackenzie Nworah and Mike Katic are all competing for first team reps, making guard one of the key position battles as camp nears its conclusion. The best guess is that Powell starts on the left side, while Nworah and Katic fight it out on the right. Defensively, Allen is pleased with the depth, skill and versatility found in his linebacking corps. The objective now is figuring where everyone fits situationally. “We have three middle linebackers, with Micah McFadden, James Miller and Thomas Allen,” Allen said. “Those three guys have all played a lot of football for us and give us some position flexibility. We feel we have five guys ... Aaron Casey, I thought did a great job this past Saturday, and Cam Jones is also at that weak-side linebacker position. Those five guys give us the most amount of experience.”

Defense is a work in progress

Last week, coordinator Kane Wommack spoke at length about how improving his defense’s tackling technique has been a priority this year. The early assessment? Well ... it depends on which day you’re asking. “I did not think we tackled as well Saturday — not as well as we did that first scrimmage,” Allen said. “It was not bad, but it was definitely something we worked on (Monday).” As he’s watched the early-season games play out across the country, Allen says he’s noticed defenses nationwide looking like they’re a step behind, and Saturday’s slate of games provided a series of jarring examples. Blame the disjointed offseason, the lack of time on task and, in some cases, the fact that teams are missing key contributors due to quarantine. For Allen, it’s something he’s closely monitoring as the Big Ten season approaches. “I got a text message during one of the games on Saturday night questioning the defenses in the country right now and the struggles that they are having across the board,” Allen said. “It is definitely real. It is real on Sundays, real on Saturdays and you can see it unfolding in front of us.”

A bunch of young receivers are standing out

It feels like Michael Penix is going to have some help this fall — beyond the All-Big Ten caliber talents of Whop Philyor and Peyton Hendershot, that is. Keep an eye on Javon Swinton, who continues to turn heads in the aerial game. Every week, it seems the 6-foot-2 true freshman receives public praise from IU’s coaching staff for his consistency and big play ability. On Saturday, it was the former that grabbed Allen’s attention. “I am really encouraged by his consistency at this point,” Allen said. “Luke Shayotovich catches the ball extremely well and consistently. He gets open, so he is really catching my eye. Jacolby Hewitt had a really good day. I am really excited for him because he has worked extremely hard. So I have listed several receivers there, but David Baker made some plays in the team session in practice I just left. Those young guys are coming along, developing, learning the offense and making plays.”