BLOOMINGTON – Darius Willis saw a much bigger man coming his way during Indianas spring game his freshman year.
The running back had one duty on the play – cut block.
He didnt. And then he heard about it from running backs coach Dennis Springer.
He yelled at me and got on me, Willis said Tuesday at Indianas media day. I was like I never cut before.
Willis learned from the mistake.
Each game, he said, I was able to improve on my cut-blocking ability.
Its just one of the tools the group has picked up from Springer, a 1988 Northrop graduate.
We dont just learn how to run the ball, senior running back Trea Burgess said. We learn different defenses and different techniques. He basically wants us to be like the second quarterback. With certain calls, we should see it before anyone else sees it.
Springer is in his third year at Indiana (and 18th year as a college coach). In addition to his duties as the running backs and co-special teams coach, he earned the title of assistant head coach last year.
Hes a great football coach and a better person, IU coach Bill Lynch said. Ive known Dennis for a long time, since he came out of Northrop High School. I had the opportunity to coach him for a couple of years and then got reconnected a few years later and hired him.
Springer played two years for Lynch at Butler then spent 10 years at Ball State, including eight as an assistant for Lynch. Springer spent four years at Bowling Green and one more at Western Kentucky before joining the Hoosiers.
Hes very knowledgeable, very hard working, develops great rapport with his players, Lynch said. Hes a guy I really trust. Thats why hes the assistant head coach. There are times when I cant be there or other things come up and somebodys got to take over, and hes the perfect guy to do that.
Springer enjoys the added responsibilities.
Coach (Lynch) has been great in being very inclusive in letting me understand the inner-workings of his position as the head coach, Springer said. Really, its a learning process for me and looking at the overall direction of a football program instead of just being locked in on a certain position group.
Obviously thats my first responsibility, taking care of the running backs and special teams. But the off-the-field things, the administrative part of it has been a great learning experience for me as well.
Springer credited his football, wrestling and track coaches in Fort Wayne for all they instilled along the way.
They showed me the importance of being involved in athletics and giving back to those who treated you the right way, Springer said. They were great to me. And then going to Butler and being around coach Lynch and that staff, that really solidified for me that this is what I wanted to do.
Part of that focus is getting the Hoosiers to improve upon their average of 117.1 rushing yards. Willis led the team with 607 rushing yards.
We just want to be a productive group for this offense on Saturday afternoons, Springer said. Whether that is protecting (quarterback) Ben (Chappell), catching the ball out of the backfield and obviously being productive running the football, were going to do whatever it takes.