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Notebook: Updates on Indiana’s quarterbacks, offensive line, and defense

Indiana football held its final regular practice of spring camp on Thursday.

The Hoosiers have one more session left, with Saturday’s spring football fan event at Memorial Stadium. After that, the next time the team will fully reconvene is to start preseason camp ahead of the 2023 season.

Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Walt Bell and co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Matt Guerrieri met with the media after Thursday’s practice. Here’s a look at some of their thoughts.

Quarterback updates

Bell works more closely with Indiana’s quarterbacks than anyone else, so he’s had a front-row seat to watch redshirt freshmen Tayven Jackson and Brendan Sorsby battle for the starting job.

He said they both have done a good job of protecting the football, with few turnovers compared to the number of reps they’ve taken this spring. But they’re still young, and it hasn’t been totally perfect for either player.

And he hasn’t been afraid to let them know about those moments, even if it’s small mistakes that aren’t completely obvious. Part of that has been intentional, trying to create adversity for them to respond to.

But Bell, in all, has been pleased with Jackson and Sorsby this spring.

“Both are really physically talented,” Bell said. “They both love football. They both compete well, and they’re both also really true to themselves and authentic in terms of personalities. They’re just really confident in themselves. Excited for both of those guys.”

Bell also praised true freshman Broc Lowry. He doesn’t seem to be in the mix to start, but Bell said he’s had a very good spring and the staff is keen on his potential.

Additionally, Bell provided positive updates on redshirt junior Dexter Williams II, who’s still recovering from a gruesome leg injury suffered in the season finale against Purdue. Williams had surgery — performed by the renowned Dr. James Andrews, per Bell — and faced a lengthy rehab process.

Bell said Thursday that Williams has started to run. He’s not actively participating in any team activity this spring, but that is progress. Bell also said they’ve treated Williams like a grad assistant this spring, giving him a headset and having him help with signals to the other quarterbacks.

“He’s doing great,” Bell said. “He’s doing everything he’s supposed to be doing. But in terms of ahead of schedule, behind schedule, on schedule, that’s way above my ability level. I just know that he looks good, he’s starting to move around, and he’s a great kid. Can’t wait to get him back.”

Veterans leading way on defense

IU’s defense underwent a lot of roster turnover this offseason. Nearly the entire starting secondary is gone, and standout linebacker and key team leader Cam Jones is as well.

But two key veterans in sixth-year senior linebacker Aaron Casey and husky Noah Pierre have stepped into major leadership roles and are setting the example on the field as well.

Guerrieri said those two, along with senior safety Louis Moore and sixth-year senior Andre Carter, have stood out the most to him this spring. Moore appears to be a favorite for expanded playing time in a revamped secondary in 2023, and Carter may anchor IU’s pass rush after transferring in from Western Michigan this offseason.

Casey, in particular, has impressed Guerrieri.

“He has athleticism to be able to play sideline-to-sideline, he has physicality to be able to play in the box. That’s unique. And cerebrally, he can process, too. He has command in the middle of the defense,” Guerrieri said. “To me, if you can do those things at linebacker, you check all the boxes.”

Guerrieri added that junior cornerback Jamier Johnson has also made notable progress this spring. He said the Texas transfer has the competitive mentality he looks for in defensive backs.

Offensive line making strides

Offensive line was one of Indiana’s biggest weak spots in 2022, but with Bob Bostad coaching the group now, the team is hopeful it can become a strength.

And Bell has seen a lot of improvement there this spring, in techniques and fundamentals.

“Coach Bostad has done a great job,” Bell said. “There’s been improvement there. But it’s got to continue. We’ve got to continue to improve this summer and into fall camp.”

Bell said redshirt seniors Mike Katic, Zach Carpenter, and UMass transfer Max Longman have all had good springs. Carpenter, however, has been dealing with a foot injury of some sort, as he has not been in uniform for the last few practices and has sported a cast and a scooter.

Additionally, Bell said redshirt junior Kahlil Benson is improving as a multi-position player, with ability to play both tackle and guard. Redshirt sophomore Cooper Jones switched from defensive line to offensive line this spring, and Bell said he’s handled it well. And, he said, redshirt freshman Carter Smith has improved, which could be a big boost for the line’s depth this year.

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