Indiana made it through four practices in March 2020 before all hell broke loose. The COVID-19 pandemic robbed the Hoosiers — and everyone else — of valuable offseason training time last spring. But as we reach the first anniversary of the pandemic, it seems increasingly likely that IU will make it through a full spring ball season — and that there will be a lot to look forward to in the fall.
Here are a few news items and notes on the eve of spring in Bloomington:
Caleb Murphy, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound freshman, is moving back to the defensive line. Murphy didn’t see any on-field action during the 2020 season after moving from the line to tight end during the fall.
Gavin McCabe, a 6-foot-4, 291-pound sophomore, is also moving back to defensive line after spending last season providing O-line depth. He, too, did not see game action in 2020.
“We feel good about the depth they can give us there and compete and play,” Allen said. “We have an open competition there at the three-technique spot with our two upperclassmen moving onto the NFL. I’m excited to see how that plays itself out.”
Staff-wise, Kasey Teegardin will now coach both of Indiana’s hybrid positions — the safety-linebacker “Husky” spot and the weakside-outside linebacker “Bull” position, too. Along those lines, Bull candidates Michael Ziemba, D.K. Bonhomme and Alfred Bryant are now formally listed as outside linebackers on the official IU roster.
Not to be forgotten, Brandon Shelby, IU’s longest-serving countable assistant coach has added the title of assistant head coach. Allen made clear on Monday that this is a promotion for Shelby, who has worked as Indiana’s corners coach since 2011, and not merely a vanity title.
“It’s something I have really taken very seriously here,” Allen said. “Sometimes, certain staffs, those roles can just be titles they give to people for pay purposes and different things. But I really choose to do it in a way that’s very purposeful, that helps our staff get better. ... I feel he has a really strong personality to be able to address our players. He has a good connection with our players and understands them.”
It’ll be Tuttle (and Williams!) Time this spring
Michael Penix Jr. continues to recover from surgery to repair an ACL tear in his right knee, so he won’t participate in any of IU’s team workouts this spring.
That, of course, means backup Jack Tuttle will get the bulk of the first team reps over the next month-plus. Tuttle started two games for IU in 2020, including the Hoosiers’ Outback Bowl matchup against Ole Miss, completing 61% of his passes for 362 yards with two touchdowns and one pick.
With Penix’s injury history, Indiana needs a trusted second option. So this is an important spring for Tuttle to continue growing his game with the No. 1 offense.
“It’s a big spring for him,” Allen said. “... Jack proved his worth on the field last year. He was a guy we talked about a lot before that, (but) had not gotten a chance to play a lot on Saturdays. That changed at the end of last year. Just really looking forward to him having that opportunity to get all those reps — another year of growth and development. He’s worked extremely hard in the weight room these last several weeks. Just (excited) to see him grow as both a football player and a leader on our football team, because we know — and as time has taught us — you’re going to have to have multiple guys ready to play at every position.”
In that spirit, it’ll also be a valuable spring for freshman quarterback Dexter Williams. Although the Georgia native did not see any game action during the 2020 campaign, he came close to relieving an ailing Tuttle in each of the Hoosiers’ final two contests.
“He was just seconds away from going into that game at Wisconsin, for sure,” Allen said. “I thought he was going to go into that game, then Jack came back. Even the bowl game, the opportunities were right there. Bottom line is those guys’ development is extremely crucial for our program”
3-star LB is IU’s first commit for 2022
With both signing days in the rearview, the focus is on the 2022 cycle. And now, Indiana has its first member of that class.
Three-star Arkansas linebacker Kaiden Turner announced his commitment to Indiana on Monday, choosing the Hoosiers over offers from Arkansas, California, Coastal Carolina, Houston, Kansas State, Liberty, Louisville, Memphis and Wake Forest, among others. Per the 247 Sports Composite, Turner is considered the No. 35 inside linebacker in his class and the No. 17 overall prospect in his home state.