Bill Lynch has two years to restore Indiana's winning football ways – three months if you look at the upcoming season in make-or-break terms – and it starts with a productive summer.
Yes, that means players getting bigger, stronger and faster, but it goes beyond that, the third-year coach said.
“There's nothing magical we have to do,” he said. “This is the period we can't work with players, so this is when the leadership we talk about has to show itself. They have to organize themselves. They have to get the work done. The summer is a good time for them to set their own goals.”
NCAA rules prohibit coaches from working with players during the off-season, although players are allowed to train with the strength and conditioning staff. Players organize drills to work on passing, receiving and blocking. Seniors set the tone by taking charge.
Two years ago, that tone produced a 3-9 record. Last year it was 4-8. Lynch has two years left on his contract and improvement has to continue.
“Summer is when the intangible things that are important, like leadership, come together,” Lynch said. “That's most important.”
The coaches spurred that on by emphasizing a more competitive approach in everything the team did, from weightlifting to running to drills to even academics and community service.
“We have the team split into eight different teams,” Lynch said. “There's a point system. You get positive points for workouts, some points detracted for poor performance in the classroom. I think it's more fun this way. When you have a winner and a loser, they go at it a little harder.”
The goal is to continue that competitiveness into August camp.
“We've got more competition at more positions,” Lynch said, “and that's crucial. That way a guy knows every day in practice he has to play well. If he doesn't, somebody can get ahead of him. That makes you a better team.”
Lynch's redshirt philosophy (most freshmen sit out their first years to learn the system and develop their size, strength and skills) is set to start paying off. More players are now ready to make major impacts.
“If (true freshmen) are the best guys at their positions, they'll play,” Lynch said. “If not, then we'll redshirt them.”
IU will have to thrive without defensive back Jerimy Finch, who has left school. It's a loss from a recruiting ranking standpoint given Finch was considered the nation's No. 1 high school safety coming out of Indianapolis Warren Central. He was good enough to start three games as a true freshman at Florida before getting hurt. He transferred to IU and moved to safety.
It's not much of a loss from a playing standpoint.
Finch was seemingly always hurt, and did little when he did play. In two seasons he couldn't make the starting lineup even though the Hoosiers' secondary often struggled. He played in 12 career games. Last year biggest accomplishment was his two fumble recoveries while playing special teams.
Lynch's only comment came in a release that said Finch “will pursue other options outside the program.”
“We thank Jerimy for his contributions to the program and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors,” Lynch said.