BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) -Indiana's Kellen Lewis was back in his familiar black jersey for the start of fall practice.
That means the competition to be Indiana's starting quarterback has officially begun.
Lewis begins August trying to win back the job he held for the past 1 1/2 seasons but ceded, at least temporarily, after serving a four-month suspension for violating team rules. Yes, Lewis was a little rusty Monday.
``It feels a little strange, a little awkward throwing the ball a little bit,'' Lewis said. ``But it feels good to get back out there. When you throw the ball, it's not coming out like it used to, so I have to get reacclimated to how I used to do things.''
How long that will take is anybody's guess.
Lewis said he plans to give himself a week to work out the kinks; if it takes longer, he said he would start putting more pressure on himself to speed things up.
Nobody doubts Lewis' skills. A year ago, he was one of the Big Ten's most productive offensive players. He threw for more than 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns, rushed for another 726 yards and nine TDs and led the Hoosiers to their first bowl game in 14 years. The year before he replaced starter Blake Powers for good in midseason and nearly got Indiana to a bowl game.
Now he must spend this month trying to beat out Ben Chappell, a sophomore, who has completed just 1-of-2 passes for 14 yards in his college career. But Chappell does have one major advantage: Lewis' absence from spring drills gave Chappell a chance to work with the starters on the Hoosiers' new no-huddle offense.
``Obviously, Ben is so up on the no-huddle and the terminology, and it's going to take Kellen a little time to catch up on that, especially the terminology,'' coach Bill Lynch said. ``Once the play begins, he knows where to go and what to do. But it's that terminology part that will take some time.''
The bigger questions for Lewis will come off the field.
Lynch has never publicly explained what rules were violated and acknowledged Monday that he challenged Lewis to meet a set of guidelines before he could be reinstated.
Perhaps most important is that Lewis now believes being away from football helped him mature as a person, and he was more dedicated to his weightlifting regimen than in years past.
``I want to show that I've become a better individual and will stop making selfish decisions, which is what got me into this in the first place,'' he said. ``I had to grow up as a student, not just as an athlete.''
The residual effects from Lewis' extended absence are clear, though.
Chappell took most of the snaps with the starters Monday, and Lewis admitted that - for now - Chappell is No. 1 on the depth chart.
``There's no better opportunity than competing,'' Chappell said. ``It's a blast.''
Lynch has not set a time table for naming a starter, though he did say it wouldn't happen until after the Hoosiers' Aug. 16 scrimmage. The season-opener is Aug. 30 against Western Kentucky.
``We don't have to name one,'' he said. ``We just have to have someone play quarterback.''
Indiana also welcomed back Andrew Means, a receiver who signed with the Cincinnati Reds after the June baseball draft. There were some questions about whether Means would return to play football this fall, and Lynch and Lewis were both pleased to see Means back on the field.
``He's really important to this team,'' Lynch said. ``He brings maturity, he's a hardworking guy and he carries a lot of respect in the locker room. I think the experience he's had the last couple months (playing pro baseball) has to make you more competitive and a better athlete.''
Lynch also said Indiana's Memorial Stadium football field, which was damaged in June's heavy rains that produced flooding in the southern and central part of the state, has been repaired. An international drum and bugle corps competition is scheduled in the stadium this weekend, and Lynch hopes the event will help break in the new surface.
``It's really soft, like you'd expect from a nice, new field, so what we really need is some rain,'' Lynch said. ``We could practice on it tomorrow if we wanted.''

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