BLOOMINGTON – Indiana will host a Rutgers team on Saturday that will be without two of its top offensive players.
Both Rutgers quarterback Artur Sitkowski (38-of-60, 523 yards, three TD, two interceptions) and wide receiver Rasheem Blackshear (18 catches, 234 yards, three TDs) are healthy but choosing to sit out the rest of the season as redshirts after head coach Chris Ash was fired two weeks ago.
Sitkowski, a sophomore, and Blackshear, a junior, are both taking advantage of an NCAA rule adopted in 2018, in which players can appear in up to four games but still claim a redshirt. The rule was designed to give true freshmen game experience without forfeiting a year of eligibility.
Coach Tom Allen still supports the new redshirt rule but can see how it can put teams in a bind if top players decide to sit out without being injured.
“It’s created some unique situations I don’t think a lot of us thought through,” Allen said.
Allen was asked how he would handle a situation in which a player sat out while being healthy in an attempt to transfer.
“My approach has been, and will be going forward, is ‘hey, I need guys that are all in,’” Allen said. “I need coaches that are all in, I need players that are all in and if you can’t be all in, there would be a little bit of a challenge with that.”
Allen said the two things he would expect from a player going through that process is trust and communication.
“We’re all individually driven, and these guys have things, have goals that they have, and that’s why they get to sit down and talk it through, and then, when there’s trust both ways, then you can have a man to man talk about it,” Allen said. “What I don’t like is guys just making these decisions and they just walk away. And sometimes you don’t even know.
“I’ve been here for a few years. We’ve had guys that have decided to take advantage of that, and they never communicate with me, and I have a hard time with that.”
rb cole GEST IN TRANSFER PORTAL
Indiana junior running back Cole Gest has entered the NCAA transfer portal, according to multiple reports.
The 5-foot-8, 190-pound Gest entered 2018 as IU’s starting running back but suffered a knee injury in the season opener against FIU and sat out of the season. He had just four carries for 12 yards this season and had been surpassed on the depth chart by running backs Stevie Scott, Ronnie Walker Jr. and Sampson James.
Gest did not travel to IU’s last game, a 40-31 loss at Michigan State on Sept. 28.
Allen said sophomore defensive back Reese Taylor has practiced all week and will be back after sitting out the Michigan State game. Defensive tackle Juan Harris remains questionable, while cornerback A’Shon Riggins is doubtful.
With Harris out against Michigan State, true freshman Sio Nofoagatoto’a got more snaps. Allen said the 6-4, 357-pound Nofoagatoto’a has made progress, and he would not hesitate to burn his redshirt if necessary. Allen pointed out a few years ago Nofoagatoto’a was playing full-season rugby in his native American Samoa and is still learning the intricacies of football
“He’s going to play,” Allen said. “I was very encouraged by his play. I was very encouraged by his week, this week. I think he’s a really good football player. His best football is ahead of him. He’s very strong. He’s learning technique.”
IU will wear special Bicentennial uniforms for its homecoming game Saturday against Rutgers (noon, BTN) that honor the 200th birthday of the school.
The uniforms will blend elements of past and present IU football jerseys. There are candy-striped graphics on the shoulders and on the gloves, while the typography of the “Indiana” on the front of the jersey is similar to that of the 1968 jerseys IU wore in the Rose Bowl.
Allen said the Hoosiers don’t have any other specific plans for homecoming.
“We just get our alumni back, and we’re really excited about the guys that we can get back to be with us,” Allen said. “We’re trying to cut out the distractions, you know, so we just try to, it’s the next big game for us and obviously a lot of great things going on campus, but we don’t get too involved with those.”
Allen said after IU’s defense allowed 40 points and 442 yards against Michigan State, he spent the bye week discussing potential adjustments with his staff.
Allen thinks the bye week helped in implementing those adjustments heading into Saturday’s matchup with Rutgers.
“A lot of it is just increasing the rep base with these young guys,” Allen said. “There’s no substitution for reps and experiences, and you create that through multiple opportunities for them to do it live in practices.”