By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
BLOOMINGTON -- Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell just wanted a chance to lead his hometown team.
Now he doesn't even have to worry about looking over his talented shoulders.
The Bloomington native has overcome the quarterback controversies and game-day rotations of past seasons to land himself a new role: Unquestioned starter.
"I've gotten more reps with the ones, and I take a lot more reps than I did before," he said Wednesday as Indiana ended fall camp. "I think guys are used to me now, guys know what it will be like, they know my leadership style, and I think we're starting to jell as an offense."
For Chappell, it certainly is different.
He redshirted in 2006 after being one of the state's most highly touted prep quarterbacks.
The next season, when Indiana finally ended its 14-year bowl drought, Chappell made only three appearances and threw just two passes -- one being an interception.
Things started to change last year when former all-conference quarterback Kellen Lewis was suspended for violating team rules just before spring practice began. Chappell took over the role of starter in the spring and early fall, but Lewis won the job back after being reinstated.
When Lewis hurt his ankle in October, Chappell got another chance. He wound up starting three games, finishing 80 of 153 with four touchdowns and three interceptions and played with the kind of vision that forced coach Bill Lynch to take a second look.
"He's got total command of the offense," Lynch said. "He sees all 11 guys on the field, where most quarterbacks only see half of the field. You know when he tells you something about what the defense is doing, and you go in and look at the film, it's exactly what he told us."
That gave Lynch a clearer idea of which way to go in 2009.
He named Chappell the starter in the spring, and when Lewis was kicked off the team for violating team rules a second time in April, Lynch had only one real option -- Chappell.
"He's done everything the right way," offensive lineman Pete Saxon said. "Being a leader is about more than taking the right steps on a three-stop drop or hitting the right receiver. Being a leader has a lot to do with what you do off the field, and he does everything right."
Chappell was named an academic all-conference choice in 2008 and despite the rigors of playing college football -- and now starting at quarterback -- still holds a 3.7 GPA in accounting.
He led the Hoosiers through individual workouts and earned the respect of his teammates with the perseverance, passion and pride that hometown fans embraced when he was playing high school ball at Bloomington South.
"Everybody around here knows Ben Chappell and I've not heard one bad thing about him," defensive end Jammie Kirlew said this summer. "He's great, he's sociable. The offense definitely loves him. I think the offensive line loves Ben Chappell and they want to get him protected so he can do his job. They'll do anything for him."
The question, of course, is what will Chappell do for Indiana football?
In the new "Pistol" offense, a revamped version of the spread, Chappell lines up closer to center and welcomes the concept of a stronger ground game. He has a deep, talented corps of receivers and a cadre of running backs looking to have breakout seasons.
The offensive line, devastated by injuries last season, has returned essentially intact though one starter, Justin Pagan, was on crutches at Wednesday's practice with a left ankle injury. His status for next Thursday's game against Eastern Kentucky is uncertain.
"He got rolled up on yesterday, so we decided to hold him out," Lynch said. "We'd love to get him back in there, but I don't know how long it will be."
Chappell, however, is focused on doing all those little things coaches talk about -- with or without Pagan.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound junior is spending extra time in the team's new film room, more time on the field with receivers and learning the nuances of what it takes to be a starting quarterback in the Big Ten.
But for Chappell no task is too big to fulfill his dream job.
"Nobody should feel secure in this spot," he said. "We've got to keep working and trying to change the culture here. Building that Indiana culture will require us to do all the little things that good football programs do."