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Spring practice yielding injuries to key players for Indiana football



Indiana football
Indiana football head coach Curt Cignetti discusses some of the key players who will miss spring practice with injuries. (Indiana Athletics)

Wednesday highlighted another key date on the offseason calendar for Indiana football and other programs all around the country — National Signing day. Indiana did not, and isn’t expected to add any new players but did have some significant updates to the roster looking ahead to spring practice next month.

While there is still a month away from the official start of spring practice — set to begin March 21 — Indiana football will be missing some notable players due to injury.

“Well, assuming we stay healthy in the spring, and there will be a number, probably a handful of key guys not participating in the spring, more on defense than offense, because of post-season surgery,” Cignetti said over Zoom on Wednesday. “(James) Carpenter, for one. Jailin Walker. (Lanell) Carr. (Venson) Sneed. (Nick) Kidwell on offense. I’m probably forgetting somebody.”

Three of the players mentioned are transfers from James Madison — James Carpenter, Jailin Walker and Nick Kidwell.

Carpenter and Walker are key pieces to the Indiana football defense following very strong careers with James Madison.

Carpenter was an All-Sun Belt selection this season with 53 tackles, nine tackles for loss and four sacks. The 6-foot-2 and 285-pounder played in 40 games during his JMU career.

As for Walker, he was All-Sun Belt honorable mention after totaling 61 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.

Both players have just one year of eligibility remaining.

As for Kidwell, he has played in 52 games and had 34 starts in his career — playing both right tackle and right guard. The 6-foot-5 and 315-pounder was a Second-Team All-Sun Belt selection in 2022. He had a season-ending injury in 2023 after starting the first four games.

Linebacker Lanell Carr was a terrific addition last year from the transfer portal for Indiana, finishing with 33 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. He looks to be one of the most productive defenders for Indiana again this season.

Venson Sneed played a reserve role — appearing in 11 games and finishing with five tackles on the defensive line.

Because of injuries to key players, it’ll be a critical time for some of the younger or more reserve players to make their mark. If not, the next transfer portal cycle opens up following spring practice and lasts from April 16-30.

Regardless of what happens, Cignetti says Indiana will look to add a few defensive backs for depth despite adding players like Terry Jones and Shawn Asbury II from Old Dominion in the first cycle.

“I think offensively on paper we look like we’re in pretty good shape right now. Defensively, maybe some depth in some areas. Evaluate the back end, do we have what we need going into the fall. We were really thin back there,” Cignetti said. “Probably still need that, a piece or two, after spring ball.

Indiana brought 39 players in during the 2024 class, 22 transfers and 17 high school prospects.

“I hate to ever say I was pleased because you can never be pleased and satisfied,” Cignetti said. “But I thought we got a lot of good work done in December and changed the roster, which I’m very optimistic about, what we got done in the transfer portal.”

His message remains the same on the recruiting trail — regardless if it’s through the transfer portal or high school. This isn’t the Indiana football you knew.

“Usually I start out by saying, ‘Look, anything you know about Indiana football, any perception you have, you need to erase the tape because here’s what it’s going to look like’,” Cignetti said. ” …  But we’ve got to do it on the field. When you’re successful on the field, then you start to change the way the public, the state, the Big Ten and the country think about Indiana football.

“You start putting more people in the stands, selling out games, then it’s hard to get tickets. That’s what we’re going to do.”

SEE ALSO: ‘We have to get rid of this softness in order to stalk complacency’: Curt Cignetti details offseason plan for Indiana football

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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.