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Hoosier football players ‘ready for change'

Coach likes his team's eagerness to learn.

Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 10:33 am

Rod Smith knows his offense, which is a good thing considering he's the co-offensive coordinator at Indiana.

He also knows quarterbacks, and that's going to come in handy in these post-Ben Chappell days. As the quarterback coach at Michigan and West Virginia, Smith helped develop high-powered attacks led by quarterbacks Denard Robinson and Pat White.

Now he's working with guys such as Edward Wright-Baker, Dusty Kiel, Adam Follet and Teddy Schell. The goal is to provide an extra boost for the Hoosiers' attack. First, though, he had to learn what kind of players he had. The early returns are promising.

“I learned the guys want to win,” he said. “They're ready for a change. They're eager to listen.

“Sometimes this system is foreign to them. It takes awhile for them to grasp how hard they have to work and how fast they have to play, but they're eager to do it. They're ready to embrace something different.”

Different means ending the losing that has surrounded the program the last 15 years. That's why Kevin Wilson was hired as the head coach and why he brought in Smith. But they'll only be as good as their players.

“These guys are ready to take the next step,” Smith said. “Nobody wants to be a .500 team. We have to change gears and make this a program we all want it to be. That's at the highest level.”

The summer is more than a time to get stronger and work on player-directed drills.

“We need to develop camaraderie, leadership and togetherness,” Smith said. “That's what summer is about. It's those guys digging in, being together, working the timing. Fostering that team chemistry propels you into (August) camp. Then the coaches take back over.”

Wilson likes his offense fast, and his play calling even faster. Learning to play at the necessary tempo is crucial.

“We're still a work in progress there,” Smith said. “It was a point of emphasis every day, and we're not satisfied yet.

“At times we have seen the sense of urgency and tempo we're looking for. It's getting better. It's going to be a learned habit for these guys.”

Wilson wrapped up spring practice pushing summer's importance.

“We practiced enough. It's time to shut it down and do the offseason work. The kids have battled hard. They're in. They're trying. We need them to keep bringing their best every day. Do I want more time? Yeah. Not every day was perfect, but it was a very positive spring. In the summer we as coaches are limited in what we can do. Summer workouts are voluntary, but teams voluntarily win and lose. Teams voluntarily make choices about their commitment and work ethic.

“Good teams have good players, and good players lead the team. You're turning the team over to the players. Some players run them up, some run them down. We're getting ready to see what the seniors and leaders are all about.”

Coaches are now on the road recruiting. One area they're targeting is New Jersey. Tight end Ryan Morris, who is from Barnegat, N.J., visited IU last week. The 6-6, 237-pounder has offers from the Hoosiers, Louisville, Purdue, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Duke, Tulane and Central Florida. Also in the mix are Stanford, North Carolina, Rutgers, Boston College and Iowa.

Also, Indiana added a long snapper for next season with Paradise Valley (Ariz.) Community College's Matt Dooley. He's a late-signing player who earned all-state honors while at Scottsdale (Ariz.) Christian Academy. The 6-4, 250-pound Dooley lettered three times in football and twice in basketball.