BLOOMINGTON, IN - 2020.09.30 - Football Practice

BLOOMINGTON, IN - SEPTEMBER 30, 2020 - running back Tim Baldwin Jr. #22 of the Indiana Hoosiers during practice at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, IN. Photo By Missy Minear/Indiana Athletics

Tim Baldwin Jr. is big into routine. Structure helps him stay focused.

When Indiana University closed for the rest of the spring semester because of the coronavirus, the Patriot High School graduate did the only thing that made sense when he returned home without the benefit of a full spring football schedule. Baldwin followed a strict regimen on his own.

Sometimes that meant film study. Sometimes it was running around cones in the backyard. But no matter the outlet, Baldwin made sure he remained on track.

Baldwin’s progress continued when he returned to Indiana in early June and could eventually continue workouts with his teammates. By the time football practice began in August, it was obvious Baldwin had made huge strides since graduating from Patriot in December and enrolling at Indiana the following month,

“I know he came midyear, but he has really grown from coming in January until now,” said IU head coach Tom Allen Aug. 10. “He almost looks like a different player than he did in those first four days of spring.”

Baldwin is a key member of a deep running back corps, one fourth-year running backs coach Mike Hart said is “the most sound group we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

It’s a group Indiana plans to use more than it did last year. While the 8-5 Hoosiers led the Big Ten in passing yards in 2019 with 3,931 and tied a school-record with nine 30-point games, they finished 11th in the Big Ten in total running yards.

Junior Stevie Scott and sophomore Sampson James lead the rushers, but Baldwin, red-shirt junior Ahrod Lloyd and sophomore David Ellis are expected to provide added depth. The 6-foot, 217-pound Baldwin is physically stronger and faster, adding 17 pounds and lowering his body fat three percent (to 14 percent).

“I feel up to it,” Baldwin said. “I’m still a freshman and I have not played a game. There’s always room to grow. If they put me in a game. I’m ready.”

Baldwin refused to get caught up in the whirlwind involving Indiana’s season. He was good either way.

On Aug. 11, the Big Ten became the first major college football conference to postpone its season due to the pandemic. On Sept. 16, the conference reversed course and said it will play an eight-game season against league-only opponents. IU opens up Oct. 24 with a 3:30 p.m. game against visiting Penn State.

“I’m excited,” Baldwin said. “It’s a big opportunity as a team to show the world what we’ve been working on.”

Rated the No. 16 prospect in Virginia and the No. 37 running back nationally by ESPN, Baldwin earned all-state honors in his lone season at Patriot after finishing as Prince William County’s leading rusher and scorer with 1,605 yards and 25 touchdowns. During the summer of 2019, Baldwin transferred to Patriot from Broad Run High School in Loudoun County.

Baldwin committed to Indiana Dec. 8, the same weekend he took an official visit to the school. He chose the Hoosiers over his other finalist, West Virginia.

Hart, a former college standout running back at Michigan, was Baldwin’s primary recruiter and factored in his decision to sign with the Hoosiers. They talked about the possibility of playing as a freshman as many other recruiters did. But Hart possessed another quality that stood out to Baldwin.

“He’s great, very straightforward,” Baldwin said. “He tells you what you did wrong, but tells you that so you can be the best you can be. I like that type of coach. That’s one of the reasons I came here.”

David Fawcett is the sports editor for InsideNoVa.com. Reach him at dfawcett@insidenova.com

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