What you need to know ...
The IU defense wasn't exactly a thing of beauty last year, but
it wasn't all that bad in the first half of the season. And then
the roof caved in allowing 41, 46, 42, 41 and 41 points over the
final five games. All four starters return to a decent
secondary, but there are wholesale changes being made on the
front seven. Playing to the personnel, the linebacking corps is
woefully undersized, but very, very fast. It'll be in charge of
roaming around and being disruptive, while the big defensive
line concentrates on stopping the run.
Tackles: Will Meyers, 84
Sacks: Greg Brown, 2
Interceptions: Tracy Porter, 3
Star of the defense: Senior FS Will Meyers
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior MLB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Geno Johnson
Best pro prospect: Junior CB Tracy Porter
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Meyers, 2) Porter, 3)
CB Leslie Majors
Strength of the defense: Secondary
Weakness of the defense:
Run defense, linebacker size
The line takes a huge hit losing ends
Victor Adeyanju and Ben Ishola, but there's plenty of decent prospects
to hope for an improvement against the run. It'll be the front four's
job to be a wall, and there's size to do it with 266-pound Charlie
Emerson at one end and 255-pound Kenny Kendal at the other. Sophomore
Greg Brown is a promising young tackle, while Joe Kremer is a quick
newcomer on the nose. The top four backups are quick, but they're all
The key to the unit: Stumble into a pass rush while
being much, much stronger against the run.
Defensive Line Rating: 5.5
- DE Charlie Emerson, Jr. - 23 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL
Emerson emerged as a decent spot started at tackle rotating throughout
the season. He'll be moved to the outside to give the front seven
a little more bulk. He's not going to be a steady pass rusher, but at
266 pounds he should be OK against the run.
- NG Joe Kremer, Jr. - 15 tackles, 1 sack, 3.5 TFL
The 295-pound junior needs to quickly turn into an anchor replacing Russ
Richardson. He has good speed for a player of his size, even after
adding 35 pounds over the last few years, and now he has to use all his
skills to become a strong interior pass rusher.
- DT Greg Brown, Soph. - 17 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 TFL, 1 broken up
The 303-pound shot-putter on the IU track team provides the beef on the
inside. He wasn't bad as last season went on, and now he needs to become
a steady difference maker to improve the Hoosier run defense.
Kenny Kendal, Jr. - 18 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3.5 TFL,
Kendal started 32 games before turning into a reserve last year thanks
to the emergence of Ben Ishola. He's well over the knee injury that
bothered him earlier in his career and should be one of the team's
better pass rushers.
- DE Jammie Kirlew, RFr.
One of the best athletes on the line, the high school tight end
was also a top basketball player. He's 6-4, 238 pounds and fast enough
to grow into a star pass rusher in the rotation behind Kenny Kendal.
- DE Neal Jones, RFr.
While not necessarily a pure pass rusher, the 6-4, 253-pound Jones has
the skills to get into the backfield. Charlie Emerson will be the run
stopper on the left side, while Jones will try to hit the quarterback.
- DT Emile Bass, RFr.
At 288 pounds, Bass is one of the team's biggest backup tackle options.
He's quick enough to potentially see time as an end if he can prove he
has the closing speed once he gets through the line.
The IU linebackers might have problems, but they'll sure
be interesting. Can a bunch of cornerback-sized linebackers succeed
against the big, powerful Big Ten rushing offenses? That remains to be
seen with the average weight of the top four outside linebackers coming
in at around 200 pounds. On the plus side, this group should be able to
run as well as anyone in the league and JUCO transfer Vernon Smith
should play a big role right away.
The key to the unit: Hold tough against power running
teams. The term gang tackle will be used often around Bloomington, but
all the speed on the outside could lead to major production in the
Linebacker Rating: 5.5
Aaron Mitchell, Jr. - 30 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 broken up passes
The undersized 5-11, 190-pound junior was the surprise of spring ball
getting the starting nod at strongside linebacker after spending his
career at safety. He didn't do much against the pass over the last two
seasons, but he proved he can be a reliable hitter and should be an
interesting athletic option on the outside. Don't expect him to get the
start all season as a slew of young talents are coming in to challenge.
- Vernon Smith, Jr.
Big, fast, and talented, the 5-11, 230-pound JUCO transfer runs a 4.5 40
and is being penciled in to be the immediate starter at middle
linebacker. He played in the same defensive system as IU's at Butler
County CC in Florida and should be ready to fly.
- Geno Johnson, Soph. - 22 tackles, 1 fumble recovery
Part linebacker, part safety, the 204-pound true sophomore saw plenty of
time last season with three starts. He's lightning fast with enough
speed to play safety if needed. He's too good an athlete and potential
playmaker not to be turned loose close to the line of scrimmage.
- Adam McClurg, Jr. - 9 tackles, 2 TFL
McClurg was a backup for the last two years with one start and 21 career
tackles. He's a sure tackler with decent quickness, but he has battle
with JUCO star Vernon Smith to replace John Pannozzo in the middle.
- Jake Powers, Sr. - 17 tackles
The team's top backup linebacker has seen his production and time
decrease steadily over the last three years from 44 tackles as a
freshman to 22 to 17 last season. He's one of the team's biggest
linebackers with the range to play outside if needed.
- Dan Kinsey, RFr.
Kinsey has some of the best wheels on the team clocking in sub-4.5 40s.
He's a defensive back-like 6-3 and 198 pounds and a phenomenal athlete
.winning the high school national title in the decathlon. He'' play
behind Aaron Mitchell on the outside.
- Josh Bailey, RFr.
The former running back turned into a linebacker right away. The
6-1, 208-pound Bailey has great quickness on the weakside and should
grow into a decent all-around playmaker once he figures out what he's
The pass defense finished first in
the Big Ten since everyone spent so much time running the ball, but the
secondary really wasn't all that bad. However, it got dinked and dunked
on way too much. All four starters return highlighted by a pair of
undersized, but very fast corners in juniors Leslie Majors and Tracy
Porter. Safeties Will Meyers and Troy Grosfield are serviceable
all-around defenders and great tacklers. There's not much experienced
depth, but the backups will get plenty of time to develop.
The key to the unit: More big plays. IU only picked
off seven passes last season.
Secondary Rating: 6.5
- CB Leslie Majors, Jr. - 50 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 2
broken up passes
One of the team's fastest players with 4.29 speed, he's tough for his
5-9, 159-pound size finishing fifth on the team in tackles. Along with
becoming a key cover-corner, he's also a top sprinter on the IU track
- SS Troy Grosfield, Sr. - 57 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 5 broken up
The quick senior went from being a nice reserve to a major producer
finishing third on the team in tackles. With nine starts last year and
18 games of experience, he knows what he's doing and should be even
better against the pass.
- FS Will Meyers, Sr. - 84 tackles, 1 sack, 7 TFL, 1
interception, 3 broken up passes
Smarts aren't a problem for the Academic All-American, and neither is
production with 200 career tackles. One of the team's most consistent
players showed no effects of a knee injury that bothered him two years
ago, and he became better in pass coverage. There are few more sure
tacklers in the Big Ten.
- CB Tracy Porter, Jr. - 48 tackles, 3 interceptions, 6 broken up
Porter came through with a strong sophomore season turning into the
team's top cover-corner. He's a tremendous open field tackler with 61
unassisted tackles in his 70 career stops to go along with six
interceptions and 12 broken up passes. He's a bit too physical at times
suffering a shoulder injury late last year costing him the final four
- SS Eric McClurg, Sr. - 9 tackles
A decent reserve over the last 22 games, the 210-pound senior is a bit
bigger than starter Troy Grosfield but without the same range.
- CB Chris Phillips, Soph. - 5 tackles, 1 forced fumble
Phillips saw a little bit of time as a redshirt freshman seeing action
in every game. He's not huge at 5-11 and 176 pounds, but he's far bigger
than starter Leslie Majors. He's a good hitter with a little bit of pop.
- CB Joe Kleinsmith, Soph. - 3-6 FGs, 31-34 extra points
The sophomore spent his freshman season as a kicker hitting a mediocre 2
of 5 kicks from beyond 30 yards. He'll move over to corner where he
should be a physical backup behind Tracy Porter.
Punter Tyson Beattie will be solid, and
kick returner Lance Bennett is one of the best in the nation averaging
22.7 yards per kick return and 6.5 yards per punt return last season, so
the question is at place kicker. Joe Kleinsmith will move to backup
cornerback so Kevin Trulock and Austin Starr will combine at placekicker.
The coverage units need to be far better.
The key to the unit: More is needed out of the
placekickers after only three of six field goals were mad last year and
with only two attempts over the final seven games.
Special Teams Rating: 6
- PK Kevin Trulock, Soph.
With Joe Kleinsmith moving to defensive back, Trulock will get the first
shot at the starting job. He has a nice leg and should be more
productive than Kleinsmith, who only hit two of five shots from 30-39
- P Tyson Beattie, Sr. - 75 punts, 3,124 yds, 41.7 yards per
kick, 11 inside the 20
The Hoosiers didn't net out well in the punting game, but Beattie bombed
away for a nice season with 13 punts of 50 or more yards. He has a great
directional leg with 46 career kicks inside the 20. He should be in the
mix for All-Big Ten honors if he can up the average a bit.