Dennis Springer is in his second season as assistant head coach and his third year at Indiana. He joined the Hoosier staff as running backs coach and co-special teams coordinator on Feb. 14, 2008.
In 2009, Springer helped usher in the emergence of redshirt freshman Darius Willis, who was selected to the ESPN.com and Rivals.com All-Big Ten Freshman teams. In just nine games, Willis paced the team with 607 yards, 67.4 yards per game, a 4.9 average, 123 attempts and six scores. His per game average ranked eighth among freshmen nationally and second among freshmen in the Big Ten.
Overall, four backs rushed for over 100 yards and Indiana gained 1,405 yards and scored 15 times. Seniors Demetrius McCray (290) and Bryan Payton (153) and junior Trea Burgess (130) reached the century mark.
On special teams, senior Ray Fisher led the nation with a 37.4 kick return average to go along with two touchdowns and a 9.8 punt return average. He became the second kick returner in IU history (Marcus Thigpen, three in 2006) to race back two kickoffs in one season. Fisher's average also set a Big Ten single-season average and broke Thigpen's school mark for season average of 30.1 (2006).
In addition to Fisher, sophomore Tandon Doss finished in the league's top 10 with a 21.3 kick return average and led the team with an 11.0 punt return average. The duo helped the team rank second in the Big Ten and 17th nationally with a 24.2 average as well as second in the conference with a 10.1 punt return average.
Under Springer's guidance in 2008, the Hoosiers rushed for 2,003 yards, which ranked sixth in the Big Ten, averaged 4.5 yards per carry and carded 19 rushing scores, their best numbers since 2001 (5.5, 33). The team rushed for over 250 yards four times with a season-best 297 yards in the season-opening win over Western Kentucky.
Thigpen was named the team's offensive player of the year as a senior in 2008. He led the team with 631 rushing yards, 6.7 yards per carry, seven rushing touchdowns and 94 rushes. In addition to Thigpen, Payton rushed for 339 yards and averaged 4.3 yards per carry, while McCray added 214 yards.
McCray and Thigpen finished eighth and ninth, respectively, in kick return average in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman punter Chris Hagerup received Freshman All-America second team honors. Hagerup finished the season with a 42.4 average, the seventh-best single-season average in school history.
Springer, a Fort Wayne, Ind., native and a Northrop High School graduate, spent the 2007 season as assistant head coach/defense/defensive backs coach at Western Kentucky University. The Hilltoppers finished the year with a 7-5 record, allowing 20.8 points per game and 319.6 total yards. WKU forced 29 turnovers, including 20 INTs, and held five opponents under 14 points with one shutout.
Prior to his stint at Western Kentucky, Springer spent four years at Bowling Green State University and was on the staff at Ball State University for a decade. Springer was the safeties coach at BGSU in 2006 after serving as the Falcons' running backs coach during the three previous campaigns. With Bowling Green, he coached in two bowl games and the Falcons were nationally ranked from 2003-05.
Springer's running backs averaged 2,117 yards in his three seasons, including a 2,750-yard total in 2003. He coached former NFLer P.J. Pope to back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2003 (1,005) and 2004 (1,098). Pope averaged 5.3 yards per carry and scored 10 times in 2003 and increased those numbers to 6.2 yards per carry and 15 touchdowns the following season.
His responsibilities also included developing and implementing practice and gameday strategies, recruiting and serving as the coordinator of team community service projects. Bowling Green compiled an 11-3 record in 2003, claimed the Mid-American Conference (MAC) West Division crown and earned a 28-24 victory over Northwestern in the Motor City Bowl. The following season the Falcons collected a 52-35 win over Memphis in the 2004 GMAC Bowl en route to a 9-3 finish. Bowling Green also won the 2005 MAC East Division title.
At Ball State, Springer spent the 1993 and 1994 seasons as a graduate assistant before spending the next eight years as an assistant coach under Bill Lynch. He assisted with game-day and practice planning and recruiting while serving as the liaison for both the Student Athletic Advisory Board and the strength and conditioning staff.
Springer coached defensive backs his final two years in Muncie, also working with outside linebackers for two seasons and wide receivers for four. The Cardinals earned a berth in the Las Vegas Bowl in 1993 and 1996.
He earned his undergraduate degree in secondary education from Butler University in 1993 after helping lead the Bulldogs to three conference championships, serving as captain during the 1991 season. Springer played for Lynch in 1988 and 1989 and earned three letters with the Bulldogs.
Dennis and his wife, Nicole, have two daughters, Sophia (4), and Sydney (1).
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