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September 25, 2012

Confidence call at corner

This is still a young Indiana football team and nowhere is that more true than in the secondary where the Hoosiers start four sophomores. Last week Ball State took advantage of that inexperience to the tune of 41 points including a drive in the final minute that set up the winning field goal as time expired.

The big play in that drive was of course a 18-yard throw by Keith Wenning to Willie Snead. That pass down the left sideline was completed with one second left on the clock. Hoosier sophomore Brian Williams was the main cover guy on the play and took some of the blame.

"The coverage that we were in was like a two man under and I was suppose to be underneath a little bit," said Williams. "It was a pretty good throw, so I'm not going to take away from the quarterback from Ball State."

Cornerbacks coach Brandon Shelby concurred on his assessment but deflected much of the blame.

"We had a chance to get it done," said Shelby. "It was an underneath coverage with safeties over the top. B-Will has to do a better job of being aggressive and going to go get it. Goes with confidence or me giving those guys confidence at the beginning of the week. They've done everything that we've asked them to do. To their credit, it wasn't the players, it was the coaches, it was me, so I have to do better coaching."

It's a little baptism by fire for the 6-foot-0, 185-pound Williams. The redshirt soph from Georgia saw only limited play last year.

"Brian Williams hasn't played a lot of football, he hasn't been in that same situation," said Shelby.

With the Big Ten opener at Northwestern now looming this Saturday, it's time to figure out a few lessons learned.

"As I tell him, 'you have experience now, you have to step it up a notch,'" said Shelby.

His fellow starter Kenny Mullen may have more on the field experience, but he'll need to also raise his game as the meat of the schedule awaits.

"I think B-Will has done a pretty good job but I need more from Kenny Mullen," said Shelby. "Coming into the season....I thought he would be better than what he's playing. Still have a lot of time, but I expect more out of him. I expect more out of everybody but I really expect Kenny to step up."

The secondary has only forced one interception in the first three games, a pick by Williams in the 24-17 opener win over Indiana State.

"We needed some type of play to change the game and I was ready to jump on anything to make a play," said Williams.

Back in the mix at corner is former starter Lawrence Barnett from Fort Wayne. The 5-foot-10, 187-pound redshirt junior served a one game suspension in the opener.

"He couldn't play the first game and some young guys stepped in and did a good job and got into the flow of things," said Shelby. "He just has to be patient until his time comes up. I think he did that last year and come the Michigan State game, he did a great job and had the job for the rest of the season.

"There's a lot of football to be played," said Shelby. "If you look at our corners, wee aren't that big and of all the places I've been, I've never been somewhere where all the corners stay healthy all season. So LB just has to keep staying in there and when he gets the opportunity he just has to make something of it."

For now Williams and Mullen should remain the starters.

"B-Will and Kenny have done a good enough job and will continue to start until they don't make plays and LB or Michael Hunter or any of those guys (will have to) step up," Barnett.

Hunter's hernia surgery over in Germany has helped speed his recovery. The past bye week gave him a chance to further heal and gave Shelby a chance to get a better look at some of the younger secondary talent.

"When you get a chance to go back there, get some time for some ones versus ones, those young guys like Antonio Marshall, getting Michael Hunter out there, after his surgery, getting him back out there (and adjusting) to speed of the game. I don't know if anybody stood out exceptionally well, but got some more confidence in the checks, the calls and the things that we have been doing."

An unbeaten Northwestern team awaits Indiana in Evanston on Saturday.

"You watch Northwestern and three out of their four games, I believe, it was tight in the fourth quarter," said Shelby. "But they're calm, they're collected and they have a swagger about themselves that it is going to happen in some kind of way. That's what we have to do here."

A year ago the Wildcats poured it on in a 59-38 victory in Memorial Stadium.

"They beat us pretty bad last year because we couldn't get off the field on third down," said Shelby. "That's how we lost that game."

The players feel the Ball State loss is well behind them.

"Everybody has stayed positive," said Williams. "We didn't really focus on that last game, just went day by day, got better, everybody kept their head up."

The extra week of practice should help with preparing for the Wildcat offense.

"This is a good opportunity for a fresh start after a loss and I feel like we'll be ready, we'll have a lot of preparation (time)," said Williams. "I didn't play much against them last year but they have a quarterback that is pretty mobile and their offense very solid, have put up a lot of numbers."

Williams knows he can step up his play.

"I don't think I've played to my potential yet, and that's what a lot of people tell me," said Williams. "So I'm not getting big headed about anything. I don't believe I've done good enough yet to say I've done a good job."

For Shelby the answer is better coaching that leads to a more assertive attitude from his corners.

"Being confident and aggressive to go make plays on the pass," said Shelby. "Sometimes in passing situations in the coverage that we use, we kind of give up the out route. With that being said, sometimes I think we were getting out of there too quick, trying to keep the ball in front of us. Ball State is a good team, they went down and beat South Florida this week and they have some great athletes. They're a good team, not to make any excuse. We did a bad job of coaching. I did a bad job in the secondary. We have to get better."

"On the positive (side), we found a way to get back into the game and to have a chance to win it. Just didn't make the plays at the back end that we needed to be moving forward."

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