BLOOMINGTON — Nine Indiana football players from the incoming 2020 class enrolled in January to get a jump on the upcoming season.
For two incoming freshmen — running back Tim Baldwin Jr. and linebacker Ty Wise – it was about getting accustomed to more rigorous strength training and college life.
For graduate transfer offensive lineman Dylan Powell, it was about getting healthy and adapting to a new system.
All three are hopeful their decisions to enroll early will pay dividends when the season starts Sept. 4 at Wisconsin.
“Coming here early has been a blessing in disguise,” said Baldwin, who with the departure of Ronnie Walker Jr. is now just one of three scholarship running backs on the roster. “Because if I was home right now, I’d be panicking not knowing what to expect come summer time.”
Baldwin said the biggest adjustment for him so far has been classes and strength training.
“The way the program is built as a whole, we’ll do a whole bunch of exercises and then we’ll do a whole bunch of circuits at the end to finish all,” Baldwin said. “In high school, I’m used to doing exercises and finishing, not the extra stuff. I love it. I love being pushed and challenged. I think it’s all part of the process, and I just appreciate it, but it has been an adjustment.”
The 6-foot, 210-pound Baldwin, who rushed for 1,604 yards on 233 carries (6.9 average) with 25 touchdowns his senior year at Patriot High School in Nokesville, Va., mostly ran the ball in high school and wasn’t used much as a pass catcher out of the backfield. But he wants to show IU coaches he can be counted on as an every down back. That’s a role Walker filled before entering the transfer portal. Walker played mostly on third downs because of his ability as a blocker picking up blitzes and because of his receiving ability.
“Just being a versatile type of player and having the toolset to do everything, blocking passing, whatever they need me to do, I think that’s what I can bring,” Baldwin said.
Powell, a graduate transfer from Stanford, is still rehabbing a right shoulder injury that sidelined him the entire 2019 season. He earned a degree in communications in December. In 2018, the 6-3, 290-pound Powell started three games and appeared in 11 at both guard and center. Powell is aiming to get up to 310 pounds.
“I’m going to have to knock some rust off,” Powell said. “Hopefully, I’m going to start lifting with my right arm here soon, and I’ll be back in no time. I’m confident with the training staff and the strength staff. I know they are going to get me where I need to be.”
A Hannibal, Mo., native, Powell expects to slot in at right guard, replacing departed senior Simon Stepaniak. But he’s comfortable playing any of the three interior offensive line positions.
“Everyone is going to come in and compete,” Powell said. “I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to be able to do in spring ball yet, so we’re still trying to work through that to see exactly what I’ll be able to do.”
Wise, a 2019 Indiana Mr. Football finalist, helped lead Carmel to a Class 6A state title, making 112 tackles, including 20 tackles for loss and six sacks in his senior year. The 6-2, 220-pound Wise also showed a good nose for the football as a senior with three fumble recoveries, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Wise said it was tough to leave friends in high school behind, but he’s learning what it means to be a college football player and the experience will help his development.
“I think my skillset can obviously improve the defense,” Wise said. “So whenever I do play, I mean, I’m going to give my all, hopefully help the defense.”
Hoosiers HIRE NEW DL COACH
Indiana has hired former Michigan State defensive tackles coach Ron Burton as its new defensive line coach, according to multiple reports.
Burton has prior experience at IU, working as a linebackers coach for the Hoosiers under head coach Cam Cameron from 1997-2001. At IU, Burton helped develop linebacker Justin Smith, who spent the 2003 season in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and St. Louis Rams.
Burton is a 27-year coaching veteran who spent four years in the NFL as a defensive lineman with the Dallas Cowboys (1987-88), Phoenix Cardinals (1989) and Los Angeles Raiders (1990). He replaces Mark Hagen, who left IU to take over as defensive line coach at Texas.