The annual Save Bill Lynch's Job Campaign begins on Thursday evening, not coincidentally on the same night as the Indiana Hoosiers open the football season against Eastern Kentucky at 8 p.m.
The Colonels won't be any sort of a pushover because they boast 31 consecutive winnings seasons, second only to Florida State's 32.
Perhaps a little surprisingly, there is more of an air of optimism this season, albeit a cautious sort of optimism, I've got admit.
I think a lot of the guarded hope stems from the feeling that the program has made some strides during the offseason. Whether or not those gains will be seen in wins or losses remains to be seen. But what I've picked up is that the players are genuinely excited and positive and seem to have some actual leadership this year. Though dismissing former star quarterback, Kellen Lewis, from the team during the offseason seemed like a colossal blow at the time, maybe it was the best thing that could have happened.
Oftentimes when you have a star player on a team that is decidedly lacking very many of them, there seems to be a more divided locker room and admittedly it seems that was the case with Lewis thrust into the role as a leader of last year's team.
While he now seems to have learned from the experience of being dismissed by IU, you can't help but think that his 'I'm better than this program' persona may have negatively affected a program that had precious too few playmakers to overcome the distraction.
One other positive for the 2009 edition of the Hoosiers is an experienced group of upperclassmen, which Lynch feels will be of great benefit. There are 35 juniors and seniors, many who have played even as true freshmen. The defense is uncharacteristically healthy for a change and has some great possibilities if both defensive ends, Jamie Kirlew (10 ½ sacks in 2008) and Greg Middleton (16 sacks in 2007) can put it together in the same season.
On offense, the jury is still out on how good Ben Chappell will be at QB in my opinion since he's still a bit of an unproven commodity for the most part. However, with the newly installed Pistol Offense, in which the quarterback lines up in a slightly modified shotgun formation with the running back behind him, the running game should be improved as well. Demetrius McCray is as healthy as he's ever been since his freshman year and his work during practice has earned him the top spot on the depth chart. However, Lynch has made no qualms about the fact that he'll be readily playing four backs to start the season and personally, I'm excited about redshirt freshman Darius Willis and what he'll bring to the table.
Up front, the offensive line is more experienced than in recent memory as left tackle Rodger Saffold returns and James Brewer has matured on the right side. Pete Saxon is a veteran at right guard and though Will Matte will have to come along at center, the pieces seem to be in place. Injuries last year on the line have given the Hoosiers some more experienced depth as well.
Several freshmen have also earned the right for some playing time as highly regarded wide receiver, Duwyce Wilson of Columbus East, who had 50 catches for 1,126 yards as a high school senior, is expected to get playing time. Quarterbacks Dusty Kiel of Columbus East (145-of-218, 2,954 yards, 34 TD and only four Int.) and Edward Wright-Baker of Jeffersonville (112-of-202, 1,625 yards, 11 TD and 3 Int.) will also be available.
On a high school side note, Northview's football sectional is shaping up to be another tough one as the most recent poll has Jasper ranked fourth, Evansville Reitz at No. 9 and Evansville Central at No. 12 in the coaches poll.
Pairings for the 37th Annual IHSAA Football State Tournament will be drawn on Tuesday, Oct. 13 beginning at 6 p.m.