Experienced youth makes for better Indiana spring practice

Indiana HoosiersCollege SportsBig Ten

BLOOMINGTON - New coach, new season, and a very new situation for Mark Murphy.

With a divided house of red-clad fans, it was the safety from Akron, Ohio who would have to step into the rebuilt Indiana defense of Kevin Wilson.

This was the opener against Ball State at Lucas Oil Stadium and the situation would repeat itself 11 times more in 2011.

"There was no thinking, you just play," said Murphy of that first season as a true freshman, in which he recorded 76 tackles and picked off a pass. "You just running around and trying to do your best."

Good thing for the moment-and bad as well-was the fact that Murphy was not alone in his crash course in Division I and Big Ten football. The safety was among 16 true freshman that saw the field for the Hoosiers during the 2011 season.

Add in 16 other redshirt freshman and Indiana suited up 32 players that hit the field for the first time, the highest average in the country. That showed as the Hoosiers dropped 11 of their 12 games during the season to end a less than stellar campaign to open the Wilson era.

"You've got to get past it, you've got to get it out of your memory," said defensive tackle Larry Black Jr. of last season in which he was one of the few upperclassman.

While that might be true of the season itself the experience is actually the opposite for the 32 who now are entering spring practice with a year under their belt. While the memory of a number of lopsided games may be pushed to the side the specifics of their quick education are evident as spring practice gets into full swing.

"Everyone knows the offense and now we're up here cleaning up everything, trying to clean up what we do and our craft," said Tre Roberson, who last year became the first true freshman in history to start at quarterback for Indiana.

For Wilson its not just about fundamentals but rather the way a player can gauge where they stand amongst their competition.

"I think once you play as a freshman its easier to be coached in the spring and not think you've got it figured out, you say 'Wait a minute, now, I didn't get that block, I didnt' get off that block, I missed that cut, I didn't get that protection,'" said Wilson. "I think it's easier, I think you have better winters, you can get stronger because you know you lack strength, get your body right.

"Fundamentally learn how to play because your not as good as you want to be because your exposed. I think that's the great thing about playing younger guys because you can coach them better in the offseason."

After seing a majority of the snaps at safety in the two-hour scrimmage, Murphy can understand that.

"You can know what your job is but if you don't understand it, you know, you can't play it as well," said Murphy. "I have outside leverage for a reason, than it helps you play defense better."

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