Preview 2007 - Defense
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What you need to know:
The IU defense has struggled over the last few years to slow
anyone down, but now the youth movement should produce results.
The goal is to bend but not break, and now there has to be less
breaking. It's still a young overall group, but there's
experience and potential, especially at corner where Tracy
Porter and Leslie Majors should be among the Big Ten's best.
There's little proven pass rush up front, while the linebacking
corps is small and quick by design.
Tackles: Tracy Porter, 59
Sacks: Brian Faires, 2
Interceptions: Tracy Porter, 4
Star of the defense: Senior CB Tracy Porter
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
DE Greg Middleton
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore FS Nick Polk
Best pro prospect: Porter
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Porter, 2) CB Leslie
Majors, 3) DT Greg Brown
Strength of the defense: Cornerback, linebacker quickness
Weakness of the defense:
Pass rush, linebacker size
Projected Starters: Three starters return to the
defensive front, led by 6-2, 299-pound junior Greg Brown at
tackle. A shot putter on the IU track team, he's one of the team's few
solid run defenders making 42 tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss. He
needs to be more consistent, and he needs to do more against the top
teams, but he's a good one to work around.
Next to Brown on the nose will nose again be 6-2, 305-pound senior
Joe Kremer, who made 24 tackles with a sack. He has good
quickness for his size, and has done a good job getting bigger and
stronger over the last few years, but he has to become more of an
interior pass rusher.
Also back in a starting job is 6-3, 257-pound sophomore Jammie Kirlew,
who was thrown to the wolves as a freshman and ended up with 27 tackles,
1.5 sacks and five tackles for loss. One of the best athletes on the
line, he has speed and quickness to go along with his good size. Now he
has to do something with all his measurables.
The one new starter, taking over for Kenny Kendal on the end, is 6-3,
265-pound sophomore Greg Middleton after making six tackles in a
limited role. He's a big pass rushing prospect who needs to quickly
develop into a steady producer to give the line a threat into the
Projected Top Reserves: Former JUCO transfer
Keith Burrus turned into a nice reserve in his first season on the
inside with 18 tackles and two tackles for loss on the inside. With good
size and interior pass rushing potential, he'll be a key reserve behind
Sophomore Emile Bass saw a little bit of action in his fist year,
making five tackles as a backup tackle. At 6-3 and 294 pounds, he's a
big body who can step in at either spot, but is better suited for the
tackle job (as opposed to playing on the nose). He'll start out behind
On the verge of breaking out is 6-4, 246-pound sophomore Fabiene
Boone despite not making any stops in four games. He's a fast
athlete who'll be in the rotation right away behind Middleton.
Watch Out For ... Kirlew. He bulked up a bit and now
should be be more than linebacker playing end. He has the speed and the
experience to become the pass rusher the line desperately needed. It's
not a stretch to consider him the key to the improvement of the IU
Strength: A combination of potential and
experience. Three starters return, along with a host of backups who've
seen time, but it's still a young group with only one senior, Kremer.
This is a line that can continue to grow over the next few years.
Weakness: Pass rushing. Stopping the run has been a problem for
years in Bloomington, but getting to the quarterback has been a bigger
problem with a mere 14 last season, and four coming from Kenny Kendal.
Someone has to emerge.
Outlook: The line is deeper and better than it's
been in a few years, and now the production has to come. The line got
pushed around far too much against the run and failed to get into the
backfield on a regular basis. This might not be a brick wall of a front
four, but it'll be better.
Projected Starters: The linebacking corps should be one
of the team's strengths as long as junior Geno Johnson and senior
Adam McClurg progress as needed. McClurg made 58 tackles in the
middle last year with 5.5 tackles for loss. He's only 215 pounds, but
he's a sure tackler with enough quickness and overall experience to
handle himself well.
Johnson got a little bigger, going from 204 pounds to 220, and now he
has to be more physical. One of the team's faster defenders, he was able
to come up with 42 tackles and a sack with 3.5 tackles for loss and a
forced fumble. He has the potential to be a major playmaker if he's
turned loose a little more into the backfield.
The real star on the rise is 6-1, 233-pound sophomore Will Patterson,
a desperately needed combination of size and athleticism on the weakside.
He came up with 41 tackles and an interception as a freshman, and now he
should flourish with the starting job all to himself.
Projected Top Reserves: Indiana hasn't been afraid
to play freshmen when needed to upgrade the talent level, and it has two
good one who'll quickly see time as two of the team's top reserve Tyler Replogle
is a tough, active 215-pound middle
linebacker who can get in the backfield and make big stops against the
run. While he's best suited for the inside, he's good enough to play any
of the three positions.
Also looking for early playing time will be
Dane Conwell, a tough defender who's
a near perfect fit for the strongside. Once he gets a little bit of
time, he'll be a major factor ... it just might take a few years.
Already in the mix is sophomores Madela Roberts and Matt
Mayberry, who each made 12 stops as true freshmen. The 222-pound
Mayberry is a bigger option than McClurg in the middle, while the
217-pound Roberts is a blur is a tremendous athlete who could see time
as a safety if needed.
Watch Out For ... Patterson. He came on as a true
freshman to quickly become of the team's best all-around defenders. Now
he should blow up into a possible All-Big Ten star with all the help
he'll get around him.
Strength: Speed and quickness. The corps has been
built around smallish, fast defenders who can fly around the ball.
Johnson and Patterson can move, while everyone else flies to the ball.
Weakness: Size. Sacrificing beef has proven costly. The coaching
staff has put together the linebackers by design, but they get shoved
around by anyone with a decent running game. For all the athleticism,
there haven't been nearly enough big plays.
Outlook: Going small and fast works if you're
Florida State or Auburn, but for Indiana, it hasn't paid off yet. At
least there's a plan, as opposed to simply going after linebackers and
hoping for the best. The chance is there for a big season if Johnson,
McClurg and Patterson stay healthy, but it'll take a slew of
underclassmen to step up and shine for the group to be great.
Projected Starters: Outside of the leading receivers,
IU's top players are at corner with the tandem of seniors Tracy
Porter and Leslie Majors. Porter earned second team All-Big
Ten honors after finishing third on the team with 59 stops and four
interceptions with eight broken up passes. He's almost too physical at
times, throwing around his 5-11, 185-pound body like a safety with 51
solo tackles; he has to stay healthy.
The 5-9, 168-pound Majors started in four games and finished with 32
tackles and an interception. One of the team's fastest players, and a
sprinter on the IU track team, he's growing into a top cover-corner who
should make teams pay for staying away from Porter.
One of the team's biggest holes to fill is at free safety with the loss
of Will Meyers and his team's leading 78 tackles and four picks. Part
receiver, part defensive back, sophomore Nick Polk will spend
more time on the defensive side even though he tore it up on offense
this spring. At 6-0 and 205, he has the size to go along with the speed
to be all over the field.
The Hoosiers need more of a playmaker at strong safety, and must get a
big year out of sophomore Austin Thomas after making 49 tackles.
He's 6-2, 197 pounds, and physical against the run, but he's been a
liability so far when the ball's in the air.
Projected Top Reserves: Majors might have a line
on a starting corner spot, but 6-0, 190-pound junior Chris Phillips
will see more than his share of time after starting eight times and
making 24 tackles with an interception and three broken up passes. While
he's a good hitter with plenty of experience, he's not as fast as Majors
and isn't as good in coverage.
Able to play either corner or free safety, junior Joe Kleinsmith
is one of the team's most versatile defensive backs making 12 tackles,
and even saw time as a kicker earlier in his career. He'll start out
playing behind Polk, but will move around.
Watch Out For ... Polk. He's turning into such a
solid receiver that he'll have to split his duties, but the team needs
him more on defense. He has all the tools, but it might take a little
time before he's a star.
Strength: Cornerback. It's not crazy to say Porter
and Majors are the best in the Big Ten. At least, they're among the
best. Porter might grow into an All-America caliber shutdown defender,
while Majors has tremendous upside.
Weakness: Safeties in pass coverage. Thomas hasn't shown he can
do anything in coverage, while Polk is still an unknown. The safeties
were the reason the Hoosiers finished last in the league in pass
Outlook: If the front seven can provide a little
more pressure, the corners should take care of the rest. More
interceptions are a must, and more big plays from the safeties would be
nice, but the potential is there for a decent overall year, even if the
numbers won't show it. Expect the secondary to be dinked and dunked on,
but there won't be many deep balls allowed.
Projected Starters: Junior Austin Starr took over
and became a reliable kicker, even with misses from 25 and 26 yards. He
connected on 12 of 15 field goals, but he didn't get too many chances to
hit from long range with a 46-yarder against Iowa the only boot from
beyond 40 yards.
Former walk-on Michael Hines, a senior, has a good enough leg to
keep the punting production going after the loss of Tyson Beattie and
his 40.5-yard average. His key will have to be consistency after Beattie
put 16 inside the 20 and forced 12 fair catches.
Watch Out For ... Starr to get more chances. After a
good enough year to be considered reliable, he should get a few shots to
air it out from deep.
Strength: Marcus Thigpen. One of the nation's
premier kick returners. He average 30.1 yards per try with three scores.
Weakness: Uncertainty at punter. The offense isn't going to be
so consistent that it'll put up points in bunches, and the defense needs
all the help it can get, so Hines needs to bail the team out time and
again. That's asking a lot compared to what Beattie did last year.
Outlook: The return game will be the best in the
Big Ten with Thigpen on kickoff returns and Tracy Porter on punt returns
after averaging a whopping 18.6 yards per try. The coverage units have
been decent over the last few years, while the kicking game will be