Written By: Nick Holmes (@HoosierHolmes)
We are only a couple of days away from the Cream and Crimson game, an opportunity for fans to get their first glimpse of the 2015 Indiana Hoosiers. Those in attendance will be looking to see how Nate Sudfeld has recovered since his injury, how the receiving corps has developed, how sophomore running back Devine Redding looks with increased carries, and how senior Nick Mangieri has adjusted to being back at defensive end.
But beyond the obvious, here’s the names of some of the under-the-radar players you should keep an eye on this Saturday.
No. 37 Alex Rodriquez & No. 33 Ricky Brookins, running backs
I have mentioned in past practice reports that both walk-ons have been impressive so far this spring, each showcasing their different running styles during scrimmages. The 5-foot-10, 225-pound Rodriquez is a powerful runner, capable of keeping the chains moving by running through defenders. Brookins (5-8, 188) has good balance and vision, but is also not adverse to contact.
While both expected to see plenty of snaps on Saturday, the injury to Jordan Howard only sees to increase their workload during the Cream and Crimson game. Earlier this spring Coach Wilson was complementary to both, “Those are two nice guys, you know Rodriquez, strength wise…he’s not a super-fast guy, he’s right at 4.6, ran about high 4.5’s for us, but he’s a load, he’s very, very strong, very, very explosive, he said. “Ricky Brookins is a Terre Haute North kid, they’re both well, they’ll both be nice complementary pieces.”
As it stands right now, the third-string running back position is up for grabs, so don't be surprised if either one of these guys wind up in that role next fall. At the very least, both players look to contribute on special teams in 2015.
No. 5 Noel Padmore, cornerback
Looking at the defensive side of the ball it is clear the position that has greatest amount of uncertainty surrounding is at cornerback. Most Indiana fans are already familiar with Rashad Fant, but another player who is looking to carve out some playing time in the position is fellow Georgia native Noel Padmore. The 5-11, 180-pound redshirt sophomore saw action in eight games on special teams last fall.
“He’s actually had a pretty good camp… Overall he’s probably been the surprise corner of the group out of making plays, said cornerbacks Coach Brandon Shelby. "He’s had quite a few turnovers and big hits. A guy that is kind of stepping into the role. The thing is, can he continue to get better as spring practice goes on?”
That will be the major question going into the summer and fall as well, as the Hoosiers will welcome a couple of talented 2015 recruits who will be looking to move up the depth chart once on campus.
No. 43 Dameon Willis and No. 6 Zeke Walker, linebackers
The graduation of Flo Hardin and David Cooper has opened up playing time at both the field and inside linebacker positions. Two players that are in line to compete for playing next year are redshirt freshmen Dameon Willis and Zeke Walker.
“Some guys to keep an eye on, whether they’re playing the inside or the outside spot there Dameon Willis, Zeke Walker," said Coach Wilson. "Those guys are also like Tegray (Scales). Good looking, big-bodies and we need those guys to keep coming through.”
Willis and Walker have been beneficiaries of increased reps during scrimmages this spring with inside linebacker Marcus Oliver being limited and junior TJ Simmons getting shut down after a minor knee procedure. Both guys will have a great opportunity to impress Coach Inge in a game like environment on Saturday.
No. 57 Tim Gardner, offensive lineman
While not a sexy pick, you can never overstate the importance of the offensive line. Gardner is one of the young, talented prospects pushing for playing time upfront for the Hoosiers. “The rest of spring ball we’re going to continue to fill in those holes with Timmy Gardner, Dimitric Camiel, guys who are just getting into the rotation a little bit,” said offensive coordinator Kevin Johns after a recent practice.
The 6-foot-5, 310 athlete could play inside at left guard or outside at right tackle. At this point, it appears that the Indianapolis native could have the inside track for the right tackle position, however, there is still four plus months until the season, so anything could change.
Cream and Crimson Game
When, Where: Saturday (April 18), 2:00 p.m. at Memorial Stadium
Weather: Partly Cloudy, High of 78