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Hoosiers open spring practice with new QB, no-huddle offense

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


AP Sports Writer

BLOOMINGTON -- Indiana's offense just got a whole lot faster, even with caretaker quarterback Ben Chappell calling the signals.

The Hoosiers, who last season realized their goal of playing in a postseason bowl game, opened spring football practice Tuesday with Chappell directing a new no-huddle offense while star quarterback Kellen Lewis serves a suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Lewis is not expected back before the start of training camp this summer.

"It was better than could be expected, really, putting in the new offense," said Chappell, a sophomore who appeared in just three games as a backup last season and completed one of two passes. "No huddle, man, we're going fast, we're on the line, ready to go. We're playing fast but under control. So that's the goal for this spring."

Lewis passed for more than 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns and rushed for another 700 yards and nine TDs. The Hoosiers won seven games in the regular season, including a 27-24 victory over archrival Purdue, but finished 7-6 with a 49-33 loss to Oklahoma State in the Insight Bowl, the team's first postseason appearance in 14 years.

"Our guys tasted what it's like," coach Bill Lynch said of his team's modest success. "Our guys know they can go play in a bowl game, and two, they know they've got to get better, because the bowl game proved we've got to get better."

That's one reason, he said, he installed the no-huddle offense.

"We're trying to tempo it. Today was really good for the first day at doing it, because it's completely different," Lynch said. "Everybody we've talked to in the offseason feels like it really gives you an advantage. And some of the people we played last year gave us problems with it. Oklahoma State, that sticks out in my mind, we never did until late in the game get used to the tempo of the game."

Lynch has not said the reason he suspended Lewis three weeks ago.

But he said the absence of Lewis has opened a new opportunity for Chappell.

"We really think Ben is a good quarterback. Unfortunately, people remember one play from last season," Lynch said of an interception that was returned 41 yards for a touchdown in a 31-28 loss to Northwestern. "But we think he is really going to be a good quarterback, so it gives him an opportunity to run the offense."

Chappell, who knows he's likely to lose the starting job when Lewis returns, said he's not approaching practice differently because of the lineup shuffle.

"I came to this spring (practice), I wanted to do the best I could to make myself the best quarterback I could be," he said. "Everything else is out of my control. So it's been fine.

"It's the same exact offense, just faster but still under control," he said. "There's obviously a little difference (from Lewis); what does he run, a 4.3? But I think I can still run the offense fine."

Junior Greg Middleton, a third-team All-American linebacker last season, said the goal is still to get to a bowl game, only this time to win.

"We just have to make sure we're preparing better than we were last year," Middleton said. "We're a better team just from experience.

"Kellen will be here. That's between him and coach Lynch," Middleton said. "We don't really know too much about it, but we're depending on whoever's there to make plays and we're comfortable with whoever's back there."

Indiana's intrasquad scrimmage will be April 19.

The Hoosiers open the 2008 season at home Aug. 30 against Western Kentucky.

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