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2011 Indiana Preview – Defense
Indiana LB Jeff Thomas
Indiana LB Jeff Thomas
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 25, 2011


CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Indiana Hoosier Defense


Indiana Hoosiers

Preview 2011 - Defense


- 2011 Indiana Preview | 2011 Indiana Offense
- 2011 Indiana Defense | 2011 Indiana Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: The defense took a giant step backward last year giving up 410 yards and 34 points per game, while looking a step slow along the way. The 83 points allowed in the Wisconsin game was the biggest down moment, but there were few bright spots. New defensive coordinators Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler will try to attack more, but the overall speed and athleticism isn’t there to be too disruptive. On the plus side, the senior linebacking tandem of Jeff Thomas and Leon Beckum will swallow things up, while the line could be one of the team’s biggest strengths if the ends can get into the backfield on a regular basis. The tackles, led by Adam Replogle, are solid, but they have to be consistent. The secondary that was awful last year has to replace key parts, but there’s surprisingly decent depth and good potential at safety.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Jeff Thomas, 82
Sacks: Darius Johnson, 4.5
Interceptions: Thomas, 2

Star of the defense: Junior DT Adam Replogle
Player who has to step up and be a star: Redshirt freshman DE Ryan Phillis
Unsung star on the rise: Senior LB Jeff Thomas
Best pro prospect: Replogle
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Replogle 2) DE Darius Johnson 3) Thomas
Strength of the defense: Defensive Tackle, Linebacker
Weakness of the defense: Secondary, Pass Rush

Defensive Line

State of the Unit: The defensive line was decent against the run, but it struggled to get to the quarterback and it didn’t do nearly enough to get into the backfield. The Hoosiers allowed 5.1 yards per carry and came up with a mere 15 sacks, and now the hope will be for an overall improvement with three starters returning and a renewed effort to be more aggressive.

The spotlight was on senior Darius Johnson last season to try to replace Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton as a top pass rusher, and he wasn’t awful finishing with a team-leading 4.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss with 65 tackles. A linebacker by trade who moved to end early on in his career, the 6-0, 241-pounder has a lightning-quick first step and is a weight room superstar. After bulking up over the last few years, he should be ready to handle even more work. He’ll be backed up by Kevin Bush, a 6-3, 253-pound junior who spent four years in the Army after transferring from Toledo. The 25-year-old has no problems getting the motor going, but he didn’t produce much last year with 11 tackles and just half a tackle for loss. The old coaching staff loved him, but he has to become more of a pass rusher.

One of the team’s most experienced defenders, senior tackle Adam Replogle, will have to be even stronger on the inside. A decent interior pass rusher, he came up with four sacks and 32 tackles two years ago and made 32 stops with two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss last year. At 6-3, and 292 pounds he has good size, and he’s a decent run stopper who’s extremely active with the size and the strength to grow into more of an anchor. He has all-star potential if he does even more to get into the backfield. 6-3, 292-pound junior Nicholas Siger only made nine tackles in 11 games as a reserve last year, but he’s extremely promising with a good motor and a quick, active first step.

Adding more bulk is junior Larry Black, a 6-2, 311-pound junior who has had his moments over his first two seasons, but he has struggled with his consistency. The Cincinnati native has the size and the bulk to be a space-eater in the middle, but he has to do a better job of handling the double team and he can’t be erased so much against the better power running teams. While he only finished with 15 tackles and a sack, numbers aren’t a big part of his job; he has to hold the line to let others roam free.

Junior Mick Mentzer is a 6-4, 306-pound veteran who started 11 games on the inside and made 20 tackles with a sack, four tackles for loss, and with four broken up passes. A great recruit a few years ago, he has become more than just a nice part of the tackle rotation, and while he’s not a great athlete or a pass rusher, he should be strong in a rotation with Black.

6-3, 229-pound redshirt freshman Ryan Phillis is built like a tall outside linebacker, but he has the ability to grow into a dangerous pass rusher. Out his true freshman season with a foot injury, he’s healthy now and appears ready to become a major factor on the right side. He’ll combine with Georgia native Fred Jones, a 6-4, 268-pound senior who came up with ten tackles in a limited role. With good size and nice skills, he has the potential to be a bigger factor this year.

Watch Out For … more activity against the run. The Hoosiers might be a little thin at end, but they’re solid in the middle. The combination of Mentzer, Black, Replogle and Sliger could finally bring the team the bulk and the production needed to improve the defense – finally.
Strength: Size and experience. Indiana has plenty of both. All of the starters will likely be three and four-year veteran who are hungry for a bowl game. The size is in place on the two deep and there should be a good rotation with enough bulk to hold up well.
Weakness: A second pass rusher. Johnson is good, but if the Hoosiers don’t have another legitimate pass rusher on the other side, teams will be able to take him out of the game for long stretches. The coaching staff will look to the younger plays to fill the much-needed role on the other side, and the pressure will be on Phillis.
Outlook: Wilson and his staff said it time and again during the spring: the defensive line is the strength of the defense. The line will have to make up for a weak secondary, but that’s only if a few pass rushers emerge to help out Johnson and if the tackles play as expected. There should be a strong, veteran rotation on the inside, and the production has to be there against the stronger running teams.
Unit Rating: 7

Linebackers

State of the Unit: The linebacking corps loses leading tackler and leader Tyler Replogle, who made 87 tackles with six tackles for loss with a pick, but there are decent veterans returning who looked great this offseason. There are plenty of pluggers who should be able to step up and produce against the run.

Senior Jeff Thomas is a 6-1, 244-pound former JUCO transfer who started eight games in the middle finishing second on the team with 82 tackles and two interceptions. He has good size, he’s active, and he was excellent in spring ball getting all over the field and making a slew of big plays. A huge hitter who set the Foothill C.C. career tackling record, he’s extremely tough and very active. He looked a step slow and a bit out of shape at times in 2010, but he’s dropped weight and should be prepared to handle the workload. He’ll work in combination with 6-3, 211-pound sophomore Griffen Dahlstrom, a tall, thin athlete who should have few problems getting all over the field after making six tackles.

Senior Leon Beckum, like Thomas, stepped up into a leadership role and appears ready to become a star. A local product from Bloomington, he started eight games on the weakside and finished with 69 tackles, three sacks, and nine tackles for loss as one of the D’s best all-around playmakers. He’s only 5-11 and 215 pounds, but he’s a quick, smart, tough player who should be one of the team’s three leading tacklers.

Taking over the open starting job in the corps is redshirt freshman Chase Hoobler, a 6-2, 221-pound redshirt freshman who was a star scout teamer last season and should be one of the team’s top run stoppers over the next few seasons. Athletic, he can be used as a pass rusher, but his job will be to hold up against the stronger teams. 6-1, 235-pound senior Brandon McGhee is mostly a special teamer, but he’ll bring more size on the outside. He made 14 tackles in a reserve role and will be moved around where needed.

Watch Out For … The Nebraska linebacker coach Mike Ekeler now teaching Thomas and Beckum, the Hoosiers could see a drastic improvement in production. The two veterans should be ready for big seasons.
Strength: Experience and leadership. Thomas and Beckum are two of the oldest guys on the defensive side of the ball and they looked like stars during spring practice. They were consistent, active, and they appear to be ready to grow into the leadership role left by Replogle.
Weakness: Speed. Beckum has some, but Thomas isn’t especially fast – at least he wasn’t last year. But with the Hoosiers planning to use a nickel back on a regular basis, it probably won’t be a big issue against most teams. Athleticism will be a bit of a problem.
Outlook: Thomas and Beckum aren’t the most talented guys, but they’re solid and they produce. Ekeler still has a lot to teach the group, but he’ll get a solid effort each and every day. The depth is thin and Phillis is a question mark in the third linebacker spot, but this corps should be decent. Not great, but decent.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Secondary

State of the Unit: A disaster last season, the secondary allowed 238 yards per game and 27 touchdowns, and got burned on a regular basis finishing 114th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. On the down side, most of the starters are gone and most of the key parts of last year have to be replaced. On the plus side, most of the starters need to be replaced.

One returning starter looked like a good one. Sophomore Greg Heban is a former walk-on who turned into a shocking performer last year finishing with 40 tackles with a pick and five broken up passes. At 6-1 and 188, the starting free safety has decent size with the versatility to work at corner and as a key special teamer. A good all-around athlete, he appeared to put it all together this offseason starring in the spring game. He’ll work with 6-1, 183-pound senior Chris Adkins, a versatile defender who has seem time at corner and is a good, tough hitter. He missed most of last year with an ankle injury and now he should push hard for one of the starting spots, but he has to prove he can stay healthy after missing most of the 2009 season with an elbow injury.

Working somewhere in the secondary will be Donnell Jones, a 5-10, 213-pound senior who made 47 tackles last year. The Florida native moved from corner to safety and started ten games, and now he’ll most likely be a key nickel defender if he doesn’t get the call at strong safety. 6-2, 206-pound senior Jarrell Drane made seven tackles in his four games of work, mostly as a special teamer. While he hasn’t done much for the defense, he has excellent size and has been around long enough to know what he’s doing.

Senior Lenyatte Kiles, can play both corner and safety, and he’ll get the first look at the open left corner job. He played in seven games and made seven tackles in his first season, and now the good-hitting 5-11, 194-pound former JUCO transfer should be in the mix for starting time. Also looking for the job is Brian Williams, a 6-0, 181-pound redshirt freshman who’s one of the team’s fastest players and could end up working at either corner or safety.

5-10, 188-pound sophomore Lawrence Barnett had a great spring and appears ready to take over the starting right corner back job. After working at safety last year, making five tackles, he moved back to his more natural corner spot this offseason and should have a hold on the job for the next three years. 5-11, 192-pound senior Andre Kates who was given every chance to start last year, but he made just three tackles in his limited time. The former JUCO player of the year in New York, he was kicked off the team in 2010 when he made derogatory comments about former coach Bill Lynch on Twitter. Now he’s back and in the hunt for the starting job.

Watch Out For … Heban. He stepped onto the field with something to prove last season and he still has a giant chip on his shoulder. Look for him to lead the secondary this season and be a bigger part of the pass defense mix. After Kofi Hughes caught a touchdown pass in the spring game, Heban knocked down two consecutive passes intended for Hughes on the next possession; he has an attitude.
Strength: Depth … considering the lack of returning starters. Losing key starting defensive backs Mitchell Evans and Matt Ernst should be a problem, but the Hoosiers have decent options at all four spots helped by the emergence of Kates and Barnett.
Weakness: Pass defense. The secondary gave up way too many big plays and missed far too many tackles last season. The pass defense gave up two or more touchdown passes in every game but two – Western Kentucky and Iowa – and allowed 225 yards or more in eight games.
Outlook: The Indiana secondary has consistently been one of the weakest in the Big Ten over the last several years, but if everyone can stay healthy and get some help from a pass rush, the results should be better even with so many new pieces to the puzzle. This won’t be a great secondary, but it’ll be better.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

State of the Unit: Sophomore Mitch Ewald was handed the kicking job when senior Nick Freeland went down with an injury last season. Ewald made 16-of-19 field-goal attempts in 2010 and never gave the job back, showing off good range connecting on a 48-yarder against Wisconsin and a 49-yarder against Penn State. While he doesn’t have a cannon, he has a stronger leg than Freeland and was good enough to hang on to the starting gig.

The punting game needs a kick in the pants after finishing 113th in the nation, averaging 32.84 yards per boot, and now senior Chris Hagerup has to fight for his job. He averaged 39.4 yards per kick and put 15 inside the 20, but he didn’t bomb away much. Dropping a snap in the spring game was a problem and might have been the last straw. Junior Adam Pines averaged 40.2 yards per try on his 12 attempts with two fair catches and three put inside the 20, and the starting job is now his to lose.

The Hoosiers were third in the Big Ten in kickoff returns thanks to Tandon Doss and his 24.8-yard average, but now Nick Turner will take over after averaging 21.1 yards per try on his 12 attempts. The IU punt return game struggled with Doss averaging just seven yards per try, and now Dre Muhammad will use his speed and quickness to try to add a boost.

Watch Out For … Ewald. He made the most of his opportunity as a freshman and started to look really strong near the end of the season. The Naperville, Ill. native converted on 3-of-4 attempts from 40-49 yards with a long field goal of 49. With an additional offseason under his belt, Ewald should be even more consistent.
Strength: Ewald. He made the most of his opportunity as a freshman and was stronger and stronger by the end of the season. While Freeland will still get his chances, Ewald might be too good to let the job go.
Weakness: Punting. Hagerup’s leg simply isn’t strong enough to kick at the Big Ten level, and now Pines will get his chance. Wilson went as far to suggest that the team will have to go for it too often on fourth down.
Outlook: With a new coaching staff in place, the Hoosiers have to be sharper in all areas. Their coverage was spotty last season, allowing 23.8 yards per attempt, and they made too many mistakes in the kicking game. There’s experience returning and the placekicking and kick returns will be solid. Now everything else has to fall in place.
Unit Rating: 6

- 2011 Indiana Preview | 2011 Indiana Offense
- 2011 Indiana Defense | 2011 Indiana Depth Chart