Seeing The Field
Nov. 18, 2010
By Kyle Johnson, Assistant Director of Athletics Media Relations
Fifth-year senior Ben Chappell doesn't just show up on Saturdays and play catch with his teammates. He is one of the smartest players on the field and plays a larger role in Indiana's offensive success than just as the guy throwing the ball.
Chappell provides Indiana with something it hasn't had since 2004, a senior starting quarterback. Chappell's experience on the field and hard work off of it allows the Indiana offense to do things it hasn't been able to do in quite some time. The Bloomington native has the ability to recognize defenses and change plays at the line to ensure offensive success for the Hoosiers, which is something that Head Coach Bill Lynch appreciates.
"It completely changes your offense when you have the ability to make decisions on the field and not just constantly look to the sideline," said Lynch. "Your offensive coordinator doesn't have to try and out-guess the defensive coordinator. That is such an advantage, and Ben is so good at it now. He had a good feel for it last year, but it is just so different now. He wants that responsibility on the field, and it really has made us a better offense."
Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Matt Canada said having a senior quarterback like Chappell is a luxury that any team would love to have.
"He has tremendous experience, so he is a step ahead of everyone else on the field. That is what allows us to do more things and put more on, trusting that he'll get us in the right play."
The Senior Leader
Chappell is a team captain for the second straight year, and Lynch wouldn't mind more of his players emulating his quarterback.
"He is a pretty good role model for you, on how you go about working," said Lynch. "He shows younger guys that there is a mental side as well as the physical. You can't just show up and let your athletic ability take over. There are a lot of things that go into being a great quarterback, particularly in an offense like we run."
Center Will Matte said Chappell's demeanor in games and at practice helps to give his teammates confidence that they're headed in the right direction.
"When the offense is preparing to go out onto the field, he has this calm collectedness about him," said Matte, "and it is reassuring for all of us to know that if Ben is on our side, we have a great chance to win."
Canada knows firsthand what Chappell is like to work with and says while the senior isn't going to give any rousing speeches, he leads the team the way he should, by example.
"He is a `Do as I do' guy. He isn't a big vocal leader. He'll just say, `Watch me work,' and outwork everybody. He'll be here first, leave last, and nobody will watch more tape than him."
In the Film Room
"I probably watch at least two hours of film each day, before and then after practice," said Chappell. "Sundays are a big film day for me, watching the tape from Saturday's game and then getting the game plan put together."
Adding in a full course load of 13.5 credit hours makes Chappell's life pretty hectic. When you factor in that he is pursuing his MBA in those 13.5 credit hours, you begin to see just how much this student-athlete has on his plate. It is the extra time he spends each week that sets him apart from the rest.
"He has made progress since the spring," said Lynch. "He has really worked at it, and he has done his homework. You can tell that over the summer he has on his own been watching tape. He truly has command of the offense. Even in practice, a play will be run and he'll turn around and say, `We could've done this or we could've done that.' So you can tell that he is really studying it and it is really important to him."
Already with his bachelor's degree in accounting, Chappell is obviously a mentally acute student and athlete. A recognized student pursuing his master's degree? His teammates have learned to listen to what he has to say.
"I will never try and outsmart him," said Matte. "He always knows what is best. He has helped me along with things, and he lets me know about the defense. He is the offense. People always talk about his football skills, but I think the biggest thing is his mental ability. He is in the business school with almost a 4.0. I think that is what separates him from other quarterbacks, his ability to picture the defense and find the holes. He just can pick apart a defense."
The View From Under Center
"The first thing I look at are the safeties and the whole contour of the defense," said Chappell. "Obviously I'm trying to recognize blitz and things like that. If the linebackers are coming or a corner. And then from there I rely on what I've seen on film to recognize any tendencies they might have."
Based on that knowledge, Chappell can change the play. Instead of running the ball straight into the teeth of the defense, the Hoosiers can switch to a pass or change the run play. The idea isn't to maximize individual stats, but to make sure the team succeeds and continues to move forward.
"He wants to get us into the right play or get us out of the wrong play rather than do the spectacular," Lynch said. "That is what good quarterbacks do. The biggest thing is going from a run to a pass or a pass to a run, or it can be a run and you change the protection or the side you're running to. So, there is a lot going through his mind."
For Chappell, team success leads to individual statistics. He leads the Big Ten in passing and is on pace to become the most prolific quarterback in the history of Indiana University football. He is in IU's top four in career completion percentage (1st), passing yardage (2nd), completions (1st), attempts (4th), passing touchdowns (3rd), total offense (4th), 300-yard games (1st), 250-yard games (1st) and 200-yard games (T-2nd).
"If we can get into the right play, we have a better chance of making the big play," said Lynch, "specifically with the playmakers we have on the field. That is the key thing. Ben knows the strengths of all of the different guys. He knows where he wants to go with the ball, and that is experience. That is how hard he has worked at it."
Chappell says the biggest difference in the 2010 IU offense from 2009 is familiarity. The Hoosiers are able to focus on what the defense is doing because the offense has become second nature.
"Being comfortable with our system and knowing exactly what we're doing allows me to put my full focus on what the defense is doing," said Chappell. "I don't have to think twice about what my receivers are doing on this route or what my left tackle is doing on this play. I just know it like the back of my hand, so that allows me to completely focus on what the defense is trying to do to us."
"Ben is the chief on the field," said Matte. "He has the final say on things. I might point things out, but he has the ultimate authority to change things up. He sees the whole field, and he sees things that I can't see, like the secondary. Ultimately, I might make a call, but in the end, it is Ben's call."
Chappell handles that authority with poise and leads the Indiana offense to score after score. He will go down among the greatest to play the position in school history.
"He is a great player," said Canada. "He has every throw in the bag. He is a good athlete and is everything you want in a quarterback, but his biggest strength is how smart he is and his ability to see the field."
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