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Indiana University

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5 things to watch
Advancement in the pistol: The Hoosiers finished 10th in the Big Ten in scoring offense. Will the new formation lead to more points?
The running game: Darius Willis is in the mix, along with Concordia’s Bryan Payton, Demetrius McCray and Trea Burgess. Who will emerge as the starter?
Wide receivers: Andrew Means is playing professional baseball. Ray Fisher is on defense. Who will become Ben Chappell’s top target?
Kicking game: Four kickers are competing to replace Austin Starr.
Health in the secondary: Austin Thomas and Nick Polk missed seven and five games respectively because of ACL injuries. The Hoosiers need the safeties to be healthy.

IU targets variety with pistol offense

Chappell

The 125th year of Indiana football will feature something new beyond upgrades at Memorial Stadium.

The Hoosiers spent the spring implementing the pistol offense with plans to showcase it in the fall.

How much the formation helps the team bounce back from a dismal 3-9 season remains to be seen. With the Sept. 3 opener against Eastern Kentucky less than a month away, IU opens camp today.

“The pistol is going to do a lot of good things for us,” IU quarterback Ben Chappell said. “It’s going to diversify our running game. We will be able to run the ball downhill more effectively than out of the traditional spread.

“We will be able to play-action off of it and throw the ball down field. We can still do all the things we’ve been doing (in the spread) but just add a little bit more.”

In the pistol, the quarterback is in shotgun position, but the running back lines up a couple of yards behind him. It was added to aid the running game and create more play-action possibilities.

“We just felt like we needed that to get more multiple,” IU coach Bill Lynch said. “With Ben Chappell being our quarterback, we knew staying in the spread every snap wasn’t in our best interest. So we looked around, and I think the first thing we wanted to do, we wanted to be able to run the football better downhill running. That’s kind of a cliché, but in the spread, a lot of things are lateral.”

Lynch said the group of backs, including Concordia’s Bryan Payton, Demetrius McCray, Darius Willis and Trea Burgess, is a better fit for the system.

“We wanted to be able to run some power football where we could have some different blocking schemes up front instead of being kind of a total zone team,” Lynch said. “I really think we’ve made great advances (at offensive line) because the kids have worked so hard. We felt like we could run that kind of offense.”

The Hoosiers also want to use the play-action pass more. In Big Ten games, the Hoosiers had 14 pass plays of 20 yards or more.

“The one thing we were missing were some big plays in the passing game,” Lynch said. “We had gotten a little bit spoiled for a couple years because we had a big receiver in James Hardy where we could kind of throw jump balls up there and he could make some plays. We needed to create some. So we felt like getting to a downhill running game gives us a chance to have some play-action pass where we could get it down the field that way. … I think it fits our personnel.”

lpope@jg.net

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