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2013 Indiana Preview – Defense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 14, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Indiana Hoosier Defense


Indiana Hoosiers

Preview 2013 - Defense


- 2013 Indiana Preview | 2013 Indiana Offense
- 2013 Indiana Defense | 2013 Indiana Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: Everything is starting to come around and improve. There will still be problems against the Wisconsin-like power running teams, and the high-octane passing offenses will still do whatever they please, but the defense showed improvement despite finishing dead last in the Big Ten in yards and scoring allowed. It’s been a process to upgrade the overall athleticism and get tougher up front, and while the front seven will hardly be a rock, there’s better quickness up front and a good group of linebackers to work around David Cooper in the middle. The secondary has a nice array of hitters at safety with Greg Heban and Mark Murphy returning, but overall the D needs to come up with more big picks and game-changing plays. There’s depth and potential, but even if they’re coming at a glacier’s pace, the steps forward will come.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Greg Heban, 91
Sacks: David Cooper, Ryan Phillis, 3
Interceptions: Greg Heban, 3

Star of the defense: Senior S Greg Heban
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore DE Zack Shaw
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman DT Ralphael Green
Best pro prospect: Green
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Heban, 2) LB David Cooper, 3) DE Ryan Phillis
Strength of the defense: Safeties, Experience
Weakness of the defense: Interceptions, Run Defense

Defensive Line

The defense might not have done much of anything overall, but the pass rush was solid – from the back seven and Adam Replogle, who’s gone from the inside. 6-3, 260-pound junior Ryan Phillis is the team’s top returning pass rushing lineman, coming up with 34 tackles with three sacks. A good athlete for his size, he’s well past a foot injury that kept him down a few years ago to be the main man on the left side. 6-3, 253-pound sophomore Zack Shaw is back on the right side after doing a nice job in his first year after moving over from the linebacking corps. He started nine games last season coming up with 29 tackles with two sacks and five tackles for loss, showing good pop off the ball and excellent quickness. The upside is there to be the team’s new top pass rusher.

Trying to replace Reologle in the middle is the combination of 6-5, 312-pound redshirt freshman Ralphael Green and 6-2, 300-pound sophomore Adarius Rayner. Quick, Rayner has the upside to grow into a dangerous interior pass rusher, doing a good job in his limited time making a sack, two tackles for loss with three broken up passes and four tackles in seven games. Green brings the mega-bulk for the interior with a huge frame and good strength to engulf ball carriers.

Working in a rotation at the other tackle spot will be sophomore Alex Todd and junior Jordan Heiderman, two more big bodies for the interior. The 6-3, 300-pound Todd saw a little work last season coming up with three tackles, but with the toughness to become a rock against the run. Heiderman is a key JUCO transfer with good interior pass rushing skills, while fellow JUCOer Chris Cormier is a huge 6-2, 315-pound anchor who’s not going to get into the backfield, but will hold up against the run.

Watch Out For … true freshmen Darius Latham and David Kenney. There’s a chance that these two could be the team’s most talented defensive linemen on the roster. The 6-2, 250-pound Kenney is a star end out of Indianapolis with tremendous quickness off the ball and playmaking ability in the backfield. At 6-5 and 291 pounds, Latham is a tackle who can get into the backfield as well as stop up the run. Athletic, he was a terrific basketball player, too.
Strength: Big young tackles. Indiana didn’t always have a slew of 300 pounders on the inside, and it almost never had 300 pounders who could move. Losing Adam Replogle isn’t a plus, but the Hoosiers have several promising big dudes for the interior.
Weakness: Run defense. Can this group hold up against anyone who wants to start running? Getting into the backfield shouldn’t be a big problem, but time and again, when push came to shove, this group got shoved. It still might take a little time, and this isn’t going to be a brick wall, it’ll become one of the program’s stronger lines in the last few years.
Outlook: Out of all the areas the coaching staff has tried to improve over the last few years, this is the No. 1 spot. The line has to be better at coming up with dangerous pass rushers, and doing a better job of stopping the run is a must, but this is a solid front that should be better with a little more time.
Unit Rating: 6

Linebackers

6-1, 235-pound junior David Cooper came in from Coffeyville CC and was ready to roll right out of the box finishing second on the team with 86 tackles with three sacks and nine tackles for loss. The 6-1, 235-pound man in the middle isn’t going to get into the backfield on a regular basis, but he’s a big hitter with great range and good hitting ability. Steady, he needs to make more big plays and has to be stronger against the run, but he’ll put up nice numbers.

6-2, 240-pound junior Chase Hoobler beefed up over the last few years and held up well last season in a rotation. The starter on the weakside now after making 26 tackles and a sack, he’s tough and can work anywhere in the linebacking corps. Senior Griffen Dahlstrom went from the special teams to the defense, coming up with 48 tackles with a sack and seven tackles for loss. At 6-3 and 235 pounds he has good size on the outside and can make plays behind the line from any of the three spots.

Forisse “Flo” Hardin turned in a nice season as a reserve and spot starter on the weakside making 48 tackles, and now the 6-1, 220-pounder will get even more of a role as an occasional pass rusher. 6-0, 235-pound sophomore T.J. Simmons is a promising option in the middle, but he needs time to show what he can do, while 6-3, 231-pound junior Steven Funderburk is a good JUCO transfer with terrific athleticism on the weakside. He came up with 49 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss for Iowa Western CC last season.

Watch Out For … Kris Smith. The 6-2, 215-pound true freshman needs time to beef up and add a bit more weight, but the Georgia native is fast, athletic and strong enough to play at either outside spot. A great tackler, he’ll eventually become one of the team’s top tacklers.
Strength: The rotation. Like everywhere else on IU, this is a young group that’s more athletic than it’s been in recent years. It’s good at swarming around the ball and good at getting into the backfield, and there’s a decent group of backups who should be able to step in and produce to keep everyone fresh.
Weakness: Stopping the run. The athleticism has improved, but the toughness is still in question. There are willing hitters, but it’s not like these linebackers will blow anyone up and make big plays to stuff a good ground game.
Outlook: Indiana tried to get by over the years with a slew of try-hard, high-motor guys who always gave the top-shelf effort but never came up with meaningful results. The coaching staff has found those same guys, but now they can run. Cooper should put up big numbers, but the outside guys should be able to shine, too.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Secondary

Senior Greg Heban put together a whale of a season, leading the team with 91 tackles with three picks, 11 defended passes and seven tackles for loss. The 6-1, 203-pound former walk-on is all over the field in a variety of ways in 4-2-5 alignments and a hard-hitting safety after starting out working as a corner. A good athlete, he has found a role as a smart, tough playmaker, and now he’s set to be on the All-Big Ten short list as the team’s most productive all-around defender. He’ll work next to junior Tim Bennett, a 5-9, 190-pound spot starter who came in from Ellsworth CC and came up with 17 tackles with three broken up passes and a sack. Extremely quick, he gets around well and should be strong when the ball is in the air. He’ll combine at a safety spot with junior Mark Murphy, the 6-2, 210-pound son of the Green Bay Packer general manager by the same name. He has excellent speed and is always around the ball, making 70 tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss after coming up with 76 stops two years ago.

5-11, 195-pound senior Antonio Marshall was exactly what the team needed after working at Georgia Military College. A great recruit, he stepped in and started over the second half of the season making 38 tackles with two picks. With great size and decent speed, he can be a No. 1 cover on the left side, while sophomore Michael Hunter and Ryan Thompson will combine forces on the right side. The 6-1, 188-pound Hunter sat out last season after seeing time in every game as a true freshman making 12 tackles. Very smart and with good speed, he has great upside, while the 5-10, 198-pound Thompson saw time on special teams after coming in from Itawmba CC in Mississippi.

Watch Out For … true freshman Antonio Allen. One of the team’s top recruits, the 5-10, 205-pound safety is in phenomenal shape with great quickness and a world of upside. The Indianapolis native is normally the type of prospect who’d be a lock for any one of several other Big Ten schools, but the Hoosiers got him.
Strength: Safety. Heban is a mortal lock for all-star honors this season if he has another year like 2012. Murphy is a strong veteran who has been through the Big Ten wars, and Bennett is a terrific pickup who should shine right away. 5-10, 184-pound junior Kenny Mullen came up with 33 tackles and four broken up passes; he can play in any nickel and dime situation.
Weakness: Interceptions. There just aren’t enough of them. Heban did his part with three picks, and Marshall picked off two, and that’s about it. The team came up with a grand total of seven interceptions and never seemed able to make the huge play at the right time.
Outlook: The secondary gave up too many long pass plays and didn’t do enough to come up with picks, but it could hit and it showed promise and potential. Help from the pass rush would bring more big plays, but as is, the safety situation is excellent and the corners should be fine. This isn’t going to be a great defensive backfield, but it’ll be decent.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Special Teams

Senior kicker Mitch Ewald has done a nice job over the years hitting 29-of-35 field goals in his first two seasons before connecting on 15-of-20 last season. One was blocked and he missed a bomb, but he connected on 5-of-7 shots from 40-to-47 yards out including a 45-yarder in the three point win against Iowa and all three attempts in the 31-30 loss to Navy. He has a solid leg from 50 yards and in, and he knows what he’s doing.

The punting game was fine with sophomore Erich Toth stepping in and putting seven inside the 20, but only averaging 39.5 yards per kick. He did a nice job working with the return team and was steady, but not spectacular. Tevin Coleman returns after averaging a solid 23.6 yards per kickoff return with a 96-yard return for touchdown against Northwestern, while Shane Wynn is back returning punts after averaging a pedestrian 5.8 yards per try.

Watch Out For … Toth. He wasn’t awful, but he didn’t blast away. While he did a nice job of hanging it up and forcing fair catches, he didn’t come up with too many huge bombs to bail the team out of jams.
Strength: Punt coverage. The Hoosiers gave up a score, but on the year they only allowed 4.5 yards per attempt and didn’t get torched on a regular basis. For a defense that needs all the help it can get, good field position is a must.
Weakness: Kickoff coverage. Consistently awful over the last few years, offenses always seemed to start around the 25 or better, averaging 22.3 yards per return. Ewald has a nice leg and forced 31 touchbacks, but he has to come up with more.
Outlook: Everyone is back and the special teams should be decent, but Ewald has been around too long to not start nailing everything, and Toth needs to generate more blast. The return game will be fine, but nothing special.
Unit Rating: 6.5

- 2013 Indiana Preview | 2013 Indiana Offense
- 2013 Indiana Defense | 2013 Indiana Depth Chart