Photo by Mike Schumann / The Daily Hoosier

Pulling back the curtain: A position-by-position guide when IU football takes the field on Friday

After months of secrecy, IU football fans will be drinking from a firehose on Friday night when it comes to new information about the 2022 Hoosiers.

Who won the key position battles?  Who will rotate in behind the starters?  What does Walt Bell’s offense look like?  How will Tom Allen tweak the defense as he returns to calling plays?

Indiana carried out its covert offseason through to this week when Allen diverted from his norm and did not publish an end of fall camp depth chart.  That means our eyes will be focused on several position groups during pre-game warmups on Friday night, and during the first few series of the season opener against Illinois.

Allen hinted this week on the radio that there will be “quite a few” transfers starting against the Illini, but exactly who they are remains to be seen.  One thing we do know, he’ll have the option to start a defense of all fourth, fifth and sixth year players if he so chooses, and IU is similarly experienced on the offensive side.

Here is a position-by-position guide for what to look for when the new lights come on at Memorial Stadium tomorrow night.

QUARTERBACK:  This is the headliner.  Will it be Missouri transfer Connor Bazelak or fourth-year program veteran Jack Tuttle?  Pre-game is typically a good indicator as the first team typically warms-up together, but we may not have certainty until IU’s first series on offense.  Allen has said there won’t be a rotation, so once we know, we know.

RUNNING BACK:  We are at the point where it would be a surprise if anyone other than Shaun Shivers ran out with the first team.  The main questions here are how much will Shivers carry the load, who will back him up, does IU have a specified third down back, and how much will we see freshman playmaker Jaylin Lucas.

WIDE RECEIVER:  It may take the entire first half before we have this group figured out.  Both Allen and Bell have said to expect a rotation of eight or nine.  Four players who have transferred in over the last two years — D.J. Matthews, Emery Simmons, Cam Camper and Andison Coby seem to be main group, but we’ll be watching for who else sees the field.  Javon Swinton, Malachi Holt-Bennett, Jaquez Smith, Omar Cooper, Jr. and Donaven McCulley all seem like contenders.

TIGHT END:  Barring something unforeseen, A.J. Barner should dominate the snaps at tight end.  The question will be who rounds out the rotation when he needs a break.  It looks like Bloomington products Aaron Steinfeldt and James Bomba should be the go to back-ups in passing and running situations, respectively, and IU has a pair of promising true freshmen in the mix.

OFFENSIVE LINE:  Four seem to be fairly locked in at this point.  It would come as a surprise if Matthew Bedford (RT), Luke Haggard (LT), Zach Carpenter (C) and Mike Katic (LG) are not on the field for IU’s opening drive.  The big question is who starts at right guard — Tim Weaver, Kahlil Benson, or someone else?

DEFENSIVE LINE:  Tackle is interesting, with returning program veterans Demarcus Elliott and Sio Nofoagatoto’a being pushed by Cal transfer JH Tevis.  We might give a slight edge to Tevis over Nofoagatoto’a, and Tevis could also rotate outside and spell James Head, Jr., who we expect to start at the traditional end spot.  Collectively those four would seem to be the main group.  We’ll also be watching to see who among Beau Robbins, Cooper Jones, Nick James, Patrick Lucas and LeDarrius Cox round out the rotation.  Perhaps all of them, especially early in the season.

BULL (OLB):  This has been one of the more interesting fall camp battles.  Sixth-year veteran Lance Bryant has been the subject of much praise by the staff, and they say that is in large part because he’s in his last year and being pushed by UCLA transfer Myles Jackson.  The reality is both should play plenty as the staff watches to see what translates to the field on gameday.  True freshman Dasan McCullough is the wildcard.  The staff thinks he can both get to the quarterback and be a weapon in coverage.  He’ll likely play the outside linebacker spot in some passing situations.

HUSKY:  The seems like program veteran Noah Pierre’s job to lose.  But the staff really likes Jordan Grier and he’ll almost certainly see the field as well.

LINEBACKER:  Cam Jones is locked in as the starter at the stinger position, but he has a very talented and fast backup in Jared Casey who will play plenty.  The traditional middle linebacker has been more of an open competition that we’ll be watching.  Will it be program veteran Aaron Casey or Miami, Fla. transfer Bradley Jennings, Jr.?  They’ll also rotate, and don’t count out McCullough here either.

SAFETY:  The starters seem locked in here — Devon Matthews and Bryant Fitzgerald provide a wealth of experience. We’ll be watching who rotates in behind them.  That is most likely to be Josh Sanguinetti and Jonathan Haynes, along with Bryson Bonds, who made a strong impression in 2020 as a true freshman before suffering an injury in 2021.  JUCO transfer Lou Moore is also a possibility.

CORNERBACK:  Again, there is no doubt about the starters.  Tiawan Mullen and Jaylin Williams anchor Indiana’s defense.  But who fills the third spot and rotates in remains a mystery.  Alabama transfer Brylan Lanier and Lem Watley-Neeley seem to have separated themselves, while Chris Keys and Mullen’s true freshman younger brother Trevell are worth keeping an eye on.

For in depth position previews, GO HERE:


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