Checking in with ... Matt Canada, Part I

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Last fall, Indiana reached its first bowl game since 1993, a fitting tribute to its late coach, Terry Hoeppner, a master motivator whose mottos remain with the program to this day. But one of Hoeppner's greatest gifts to the team was a spread offense that caught fire last season. Led by All-Big Ten quarterback Kellen Lewis and all-conference wide receiver James Hardy, the Hoosiers finished third in the Big Ten in scoring (31.7 ppg).

But the offseason brought some obstacles. Hardy left early for the NFL and Lewis was suspended for spring practice before being reinstated July 7. Indiana implemented the no-huddle with the spread largely because of Lewis, but coach Bill Lynch said the junior will have to reclaim his starting job during training camp. I caught up with Indiana offensive coordinator Matt Canada earlier this week and discussed Lewis, the no-huddle and the outlook for the 2008 season.

How much progress did you guys make with the no-huddle during the spring?

Matt Canada: We're excited about it. We explored it in the offseason and used it in the spring, felt like it was something that we needed to look into, based on the success other people had and based on the new rule, with the 40-second [play] clock. So we really, really liked it in the spring. Our kids really like it. It wasn't as difficult a transition as some people might think. We were already a spread team. So it's just something to have as an option if you want to change the tempo of a game.

When did you start thinking of going to the no-huddle?

MC: It was after the bowl game, as you go out and recruit, talk to other coaches. Certainly we played some teams that were very successful with it against our own defense, and [we] saw the advantages it gives an offense. So as a staff, we talked and started exploring it then and took some trips, visited with some other coaches throughout February and early March and went from there. There's so many different variations of people running what you want to call the no-huddle, so you kind of pick and choose and find what you think might help you.

Who did you consult, or is that a state secret?

MC: It's not a state secret (laughs). But we just talked to a lot of people.

How much did you have Kellen in mind when you decided to go to the no-huddle?

MC: We certainly think Kellen can do well in this offense, but we also think it's a very good offense for Ben Chappell to run, and very good for the wide receivers to find ways to get the ball to 'em in different ways. We've got some good [running] backs coming back, so we felt like it was the best thing to do for our offense, not one particular player.

What will your message be to Kellen when training camp starts?

MC: It's what Coach Lynch said. He's got to come in and compete for the job. We had a very good spring, a very productive spring. Kellen's certainly had two very, very productive years, set a lot of records and did a lot of great things for us. But everybody we recruit, we think can come in and be a starter. Ben Chappell earned the respect of his teammates and did a great job in the spring. It will all work itself out.

How much did you talk to Kellen during his suspension? What's your sense of his attitude now that he's back?

MC: Kellen's really excited to be back. I was in contact with him. There are a lot of things that go on there. Kellen and I have a good relationship. I'm excited he's back, and I think he's looking forward to the challenges of the season.

Will Ben push him a little bit more than he would have if Kellen were here in the spring?

MC: There's no question. Ben certainly got a great jump, and Mitchell Evans as well, because they got a lot of reps.

Do you have a timetable on when you'd like to name a starter?

MC: No, not at all. The target date for us is we play Western Kentucky in the opener. We've got a lot of work to do from now until then.

You guys obviously lost a great wide receiver in James. What's your outlook for the guys you have coming back? Andrew [Means] is back in the mix with Ray [Fisher] and some others.

MC: We're excited Andrew's coming back. He's, obviously, a great talent, a great baseball player and we certainly wished him well with that. Ray Fisher's a big-time player for us. Terrance Turner was coming on strong last fall and he got a knee (injury). [Brandon] Walker-Roby's a very good player, in his fourth year playing. He's kind of waited his turn to play. Then we've got some young guys we've recruited we think are pretty solid as well. Obviously, James Hardy was a special, special player and did a lot of great things for us, but we've got a lot of other guys.