Football tour notebook: Fun takes from Indiana football practice
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Let’s get this out of the way right now: This is the most talented team in Kevin Wilson’s tenure in Bloomington. He has continually improved recruiting and has enhanced speed over the years. But Wilson continues to look for a breakthrough win—and a winning record, something IU hasn’t had since 2007.
With that out of the way, let’s get to my best of Indiana practice.
Most impressive player: Dan Feeney. The All-American guard didn’t disappoint. He plays with the hard, aggressive edge of a defensive lineman. The ultimate mauler.
Top specimen: It is difficult not to notice 6-7, 320-pound OT Dimitric Camiel. He will play in the NFL.
Loudest coach: No one can top the pipes of tight ends coach James Patton, who could make a drill sergeant blush.
Impressive newcomer: Tyler Natee is a 260-pound true freshman load who Kevin Wilson has compared to Ron Dayne. Really.
Top moment: At the end of practice, players were given delicious and refreshing fruit kabobs. I didn’t see that coming.
On the rise: Redshirt freshman RB Devonte Williams is a jet-quick back who can make people miss.
Nagging question: Will the new 4-2-5 defense of coordinator Tom Allen be a magic elixir?
Under the radar: Camion Patrick. He looks like a big-time back. Too bad he hurt a knee in the spring. He dressed today and may return in October.
Number: 4, NFL scouts at practice. The Jags, Colts, Browns and Texans were on hand.
INDIANA PRACTICE NOTES
Time and again, Kevin Wilson has said RB Camion Patrick is the best player on the team. And Wilson is a guy who doesn’t throw around praise easily. Patrick is an intriguing combination of size and speed at 6-2, 225. The problem? The junior hurt an ACL in the spring. It’s hoped he can play by October. For now, Devine Redding remains the man. He’s a solid back; not spectacular.
Speaking of running backs, there are some good ones. Keep an eye on redshirt freshman Devonte Williams, who is a speed demon. Mike Majette is another good option. Clyde Newton is a converted linebacker who can hammer foes. And true freshman Tyler Natee is a 6-0, 260-pound hammer who Wilson loves.
This has been one of the Big Ten’s more underrated offensive lines in recent years. This year’s group will be good. Stud guard Dan Feeney is taking reps at tackle. The last few years on this tour, some IU watchers have told me Feeney was the team’s best lineman; not Jason Spriggs, who was a second-round pick in April. Dimitric Camiel is a load at right tackle. He’s a guy the NFL scouts love. It’s all about being physical. And this Hoosier front is just that led by Feeney, who plays with a defensive attitude.
Lots of energy at this morning’s practice. At one point, new defensive coordinator Tom Allen was jumping in the air to chest bump a player. D-line coach Mark Hagen and tight ends coach James Patton were raging at times. Linebackers coach William Inge also was “getting after it.”
JC transfer QB Richard Lagow looked OK, but his passing was a bit spotty at times. And he’s a load at 6-6, 240. He’s fighting junior Zander Diamont for the job. His niftiness makes him an intriguing option under center. And Diamont has some experience at this level, as well as an underrated arm.
This receiving corps needs more love. The trio of Simmie Cobbs, Mitchell Paige and Ricky Jones is formidable. Each made over 50 catches last year. The Hoosiers joined Florida State and Michigan as the only teams with three players who had 50-plus catches a year ago all returning for 2016. Cobbs and Jones are the quickest of the bunch. I also like Nick Westbrook and J-Shun Harris.
I was told to watch LB Marcus Oliver. I did. And, the guy is good. He runs well and will make a lot of tackles in this 4-2-5 scheme that is basically a nickel package. Tegray Scales is Oliver’s side kick. T.J. Simmons is good vs. physical teams, a classic phone booth player.
Looking at the offensive skill talent, I wonder how good this offense could be if Nate Sudfeld was QB. Too bad he’s gone.
The defensive line may be the biggest concern on the team. There isn’t a lot of size, but new line coach Mark Hagen thinks he can play as many as 10 guys—which he wants to do, rotating them beginning in the first quarter so bodies are fresh in the fourth quarter. This was a team that had a lot of 3-4 personnel up front from the previous coordinator, so some guys aren’t ideal fits for their position.