Indiana’s defensive backfield is one of the more veteran groups on the team, but they will be without one and likely two seniors for their home opener against Idaho.
Safety Devon Matthews is definitively out for Saturday’s game according to head coach Tom Allen. That comes as no surprise after the senior starter stayed behind in Iowa City for testing on what the program referred to as an upper body injury. The injury appeared to relate to Matthews’ neck, and it temporarily limited his mobility on the field after making a tackle on Saturday. While Matthews is out for the Idaho game, the long-term update on his health and well-being from Allen was very positive.
“He is doing well, and we expect a full recovery from him,” Allen said of Matthews at a media availability on Thursday.
Backup safety Josh Sanguinetti filled in for Matthews last Saturday and is likely to start against Idaho.
Fellow defensive back and All-Big Ten performer Jaylin Williams was described as doubtful for the Idaho game by Allen. The senior cornerback suffered an injury during the game against Iowa as well.
The Hoosiers often use three cornerbacks on the field, and for all practical intents and purposes, IU has three starting cornerbacks in Williams, Tiawan Mullen, and Reese Taylor. Allen said he expects Chris Keys to step into Williams’ role, with Larry Tracy III also likely to see some snaps.
“Chris Keys is that guy and it has been good to see him elevate himself this week,” Allen said when asked who was the next man up behind Williams. “He’s got the most length of anybody in that (cornerback) room, and runs as good as anybody in that room. I think it’s just a matter of taking that next step, and that’s my challenge to him, is to be able to elevate himself. It’s a great opportunity for him to be able to play and get a lot of snaps on gameday, and that’s what is going to happen.”
Keys is a redshirt freshman from Mississippi who saw action in three games in 2020 and played against Iowa last weekend.
The injury updates are more favorable on the offensive side of the football.
Allen indicated earlier in the week that Saturday’s starting offensive line was not the group they intended to run out onto the field. The most notable absence from the expected starters was senior tackle Luke Haggard. After gaining more than 30 pounds in the offseason, the 6-foot-7 and 305 pound California native emerged as a starter in fall camp, but an injury at practice leading up to the Iowa game forced him to miss the season opener.
“He’s (Haggard) back, and that’s good,” Allen said on Thursday. “He’s had a really good week. He’ll be a part of those (starting) five. We’re just trying to get our best five on the field, and unfortunately the group that’s going to be taking the field on Saturday is the one we thought would be taking the field against Iowa until Luke got injured in practice.”
With Haggard at one of the tackle spots, that could mean Matthew Bedford moves into one of the starting guard spots, and most likely the one occupied by Tim Weaver last weekend.
Indiana will also see the return of junior running back David Ellis, who was injured in fall camp and missed the Iowa game.
“He is ready to go and he’s had a good week of practice,” Allen said of Ellis.
The Hoosiers went with two walk-on running backs on third downs in week one. It will be interesting to see if Ellis steps into that role.
Indiana and Idaho kick off at 7:30 p.m. Eastern at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
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