2008 Indiana Preview - Defense
Indiana DE Greg Middleton
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Indiana Hoosier Defense
Preview 2008 - Defense
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2008 Indiana Depth
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2006 CFN Indiana
What you need to know:
While the defense wasn't
great, and was hardly consistent, it was far better than it had
been in several years. Now there's plenty of hope for one of the
best defensive seasons the program has had in a long, long time
with pass rushing terror Greg Middleton and solid tackle Greg
Brown starring up front, Will Patterson and Geno Johnson leading
a strong linebacking corps, and the defensive backs all just
good enough to not be a weakness. Finding a second corner on the
other side of Chris Phillips will be job one, and not buckling
against the better running teams will be a must, but all the
pieces are there for a good season.
Tackles: Austin Thomas, 112
Sacks: Greg Middleton, 16
Interceptions: Nick Polk, 2
Star of the defense: Junior DE Greg Middleton
Player who has to step up and become a star: Someone at
the second CB spot opposite Chris Phillips
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Matt Mayberry
Best pro prospect: Middleton
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Middleton, 2) DT Greg
Brown, 3) LB Will Patterson
Strength of the defense: Defensive end, linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
Run defense, cornerback
Projected Starters: The team's defensive improvement
started with one player, junior Greg Middleton, who led the
nation with 16 sacks to go along with 17 tackles for loss, 50 tackles,
and four broken up passes. A 6-3, 275-pound end who has NFL written all
over him, he has excellent closing speed once he gets into the backfield
and is always working to get into the backfield. He'll move around a
little bit and should line up at times at tackle just to give offenses a
different look now and then, and he'll have to get used to constant
double and triple teams.
While Middleton is the star, senior Greg Brown is the anchor. The
6-2, 300-pound tackle has been the anchor for the last few years and is
coming off his best season yet making 50 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 3.5
tackles for loss. He's coming off shoulder surgery and was out this
spring, but he's expected to be fine by the fall. The line needs him to
be the run stuffer everything works around.
Working next to Brown will likely be Deonte Mack, 6-3, 282-pound
sophomore, but he was out this spring hurt with a shoulder problem and
didn't get a chance to take the job. He bulked up big-time after playing
at 260 pounds last year, making 18 tackles as a reserve. If nothing
else, he'll be a key part of the rotation.
With everyone focusing on Middleton, junior Jammie Kirlew needs
to come up with a great year, and if this spring was any indication, he
will. A great athlete, he has tremendous speed and quickness in a 6-3,
266-pound frame, and he showed some pass rushing potential making 4.5
sacks with 12.5 tackles for loss and 57 stops last year, but three of
the sacks came against Iowa.
Projected Top Reserves: Pushing for the starting
tackle job next to Brown are brother Kevin Burrus and Keith
Burrus. Keith, a junior, has been a nice reserve for the last few
year making nine tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss. While
he's a good interior pass rusher, he's not huge at 6-3 and 285 pounds.
Kevin, a junior, has the 6-2, 312-pound size to help against the run,
making 11 tackles last year, but he's not the athletic inside presence
his brother is. The former JUCO transfer has the bulk to start on the
nose, but first he has to get healthy after missing time this spring
with a knee injury.
Bringing more speed to the equation is Ryan Marando, a 6-2,
251-pound senior who made five sacks and six tackles for loss along with
20 tackles. the former tight end is a pure pass rushing specialist who
steps in on third downs when Middleton plays inside.
Watch Out For ... the ends to be stronger against the
run. It's not like Middleton and Kirlew were bad run stoppers, but each
has put on weight and should be bulkier against the Big Ten big boys.
Strength: Pass rush. Middleton and Kirlew should
be the most dangerous pass rushing tandem in the Big Ten, while Marando
is great at getting to the quarterback. If Kirlew can be more
consistent, this could be the strength of the team.
Weakness: Stopping the run. The run defense wasn't awful, but
the teams that could run the ball were able to rip through the line. The
Michigan State game was a nightmare, Wisconsin had few problems shoving
around the front four, and Oklahoma State and Illinois did whatever they
Outlook: With more size, more experience, and a
future NFL first rounder in Middleton to work around, this should be the
best IU line in several years. The pass rushing has to be consistent and
the bulk needs to be a factor against the better running teams, but
overall, this should be one of the team's biggest strengths.
Projected Starters: The linebacking corps is set now
that the middle has been established. 6-2, 236-pound junior Matt
Mayberry appears to be a fine fill-in for Adam McClurg, the team's
third leading tackler, after making 42 stops and 1.5 tackles for loss.
After hitting the weight room hard, he's bigger and should be more
physical. While he has to prove to be as solid as McClurg, he's a far
Returning to his spot on the weakside will be 6-1, 235-pound junior
Will Patterson, the team's second leading tackler with 104 stops
with two sacks, eight tackles for loss, an interception, and three force
fumbles. While he might be part of a rotation a bit more this year, he's
expected to blossom into an All-Big Ten star with his all-around range
Also looking to come up with an all-star season is 6-2, 228-pound senior
Geno Johnson, the starter on the strongside throughout last year.
A good tackler with great range, he's a bulked up safety who has grown
into the role. He has enough peed to be used more as a steady pass
rusher after making just one sack and three tackles for loss last
season, but he's a decent tackler with 58 stops.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Justin
Carrington isn't going to push Mayberry out of a spot on the
weakside, but he's good enough to start. The former running back moved
over last year and had a strong year as a backup making 37 tackles with
two tackles for loss. Now that he knows what he's doing, he should be
Ready to burst on the scene is Darius Johnson, one of the stars
of spring ball. The 6-0, 245-pound redshirt freshman has been a weight
room superstar over his first year and now has the bulk to add to his
running back athleticism. A huge hitter on the strongside, he'll rotate
behind Geno Johnson this year and will be the starter next season. He
could move to the middle if needed.
Sophomore Tyler Replogle is a tough, active defender in the
middle making eight tackles in a limited role, and while he's versatile
enough to play any of the three positions, he tore his ACL six games
into his true freshman season and was limited throughout spring ball.
Originally an outside linebacker last year, he's work inside.
Watch Out For ... the young guys. Carrington and
Darius Johnson aren't going to take over starting jobs this year, but
they showed that there's plenty of good depth waiting in the wings on
the outside. They'll be a bigger part of the rotation sooner than later.
Strength: Speed and quickness. The corps has been
built around smallish, fast defenders who can fly around the ball. All
three spots have players who can move, and the middle got a whole bunch
faster with Mayberry taking over.
Weakness: Consistent production. This group was fine against the
mediocre, but everyone who wanted to power run the ball, did. With
experience and time in the weight room, the corps should be better in
all three spots, but it'll have to show it can slow down the Michigan
State and Illinois running games as well as it can the Murray State
Outlook: The overall grand idea under the late
Terry Hoeppner was to go with small, quick, athletic linebackers who
could make up for their lack of size by swarming and gang-tackling. That
didn't work at first, but it started to last season. Now those
undersized defenders have had time in the weight room making this a
normal-sized corps that can move. It might not be a spectacular group,
but it should be solid with good depth and all-star potential on the
Projected Starters: The biggest question mark going into
the off-season was at cornerback, especially replacing all-star
ball-hawker, Tracy Porter. 6-0, 185-pound senior Chris Phillips
has emerged as the team's new No. 1 after making 12 tackles and three
interceptions with four broken up passes last year. While he's not
Porter, he's great at jamming and beating up receivers, but while he'll
make his share of big plays and big hits, he'll get torched a bit too
Trying to take over on the other side will be 5-10, 205-pound redshirt
freshman Donnell Jones, a very green player with huge upside. In
practices, he plays faster than he is and he isn't afraid to get
physical. While he'll get picked on and will have a major battle on his
hands for the starting job, he might be the best option of the bunch.
Back at his free safety spot is Nick Polk after finishing fifth
on the team with 74 tackles with two interceptions and five broken up
passes. The former receiver spent all of last year trying to figure out
what he was doing, and often played like a wide receiver trying to be a
defensive back, but outside of a hamstring issue this spring, he appears
to be on the verge of becoming a special defender. The junior has the
speed, and he has the 6-0, 215-pound size to be a big hitter.
6-2, 200-pound junior Austin Thomas led the team in tackles last
season with 112 stops, but while he's been great as the last line of
defense against the run, he's mediocre when the ball is in the air. A
huge, tone-setting hitter, he has to be a better pass defender after
making just one interception with three broken up passes. He'll be
replaced from time to time on pure passing downs.
Projected Top Reserves: Looking for time at corner
will be Bruce Hampton, a 5-10, 195-pound junior who made one
tackle before suffering a major knee injury. He had the speed and he has
the skills before the injury to be a good one, but he still might need
another year before he has all the movement and all the same athleticism
Also looking for a corner job will be 6-0, 177-pound sophomore Adrian
Burks, a great athlete who made just two tackles in five games last
year. The job is wide open and he'll have to fight for it, but he has
the upside to get a long look this fall.
While Thomas is a great run defending strong safety, he's lacking as a
pass defender leaving a role open for senior Brandon Mosley, a
5-8, 204-pound special teamer who made eight tackles last season. Purely
a backup, if he starts making big plays against the pass, he'll see more
Senior Joe Kleinsmith is a reliable reserve free safety making 19
tackles with an interception. The former kicker has been fine, and he'll
see plenty of time when a fifth defensive back is needed, but he'll
mostly work behind Polk as an occasional sub.
Watch Out For ... the second corner spot. While Jones
might have the biggest upside and should be the best option, the gig is
wide open for the taking. Whomever ends up there will get picked on as
teams try to stay away from Phillips.
Strength: Hitting safeties. Thomas might cover
like a linebacker, but he also hits like one. Polk is emerging as a
possible star now that he's more comfortable in the free safety job.
Weakness: Pass coverage. Despite having one of the nation's best
pass rushes to help the cause, and with great corners in Tray Porter and
Leslie Majors, the secondary was mediocre, at best. This group can
tackle, but it's not going to shut anyone down.
Outlook: A slight disappointment last year, the
secondary should be fine, but nothing special, as it replaces its two
star corners. There's decent overall depth and the safeties should be
great, but a second corner has to show up in a hurry to help out
Phillips on the other side.
Projected Starters: Senior Austin Starr has gone
from good to Lou Groza Award great. The 6-3, 204 pounder nailed 12 of 15
field goals as a sophomore, and then connected on 21 of 23 kicks last
year including 11 of 12 from 40-to-49 yards. He has the leg to start
getting some chances from beyond 50.
Former punter Michael Hines as good, especially at putting the ball
inside the 20, which he did 21 times last year, but he's not
irreplaceable. Getting the first shot will be 6-5, 207-pound redshirt
freshman Chris Hagerup, a big-legged bomber who can air it out
more than Hines, but he's wildly inconsistent.
Tracy Porter was a top punt returner averaging 11 yards per try, and now
it'll be up to the speedy Ray Fisher to try to step in and take
over. RB Marcus Thigpen is one of the nation's premier kick
returners averaging 22.9 yards per try last year after averaging 30.1
yards per try in 2006.
Watch Out For ... the punting game. Hagerup has the
leg to force the coaching staff to fight through the problems, but the
job has remained open for someone, possibly sophomore Kyle Lembeck,
to step in and take it over.
Strength: Starr and Thigpen. Teams figured out to
do everything possible to keep Thigpen from coming up with a big return,
but he's still a weapon. Starr might be the nation's best kicker inside
Weakness: Uncertainty at punter. Hagerup could be an Achilles
heel if he shanks one in a key spot. The kickoff coverage could be
better after giving up 22.3 yards per try.
Outlook: If Hagerup and the punting game can come
through and be serviceable, the special teams should be terrific. Starr
has hit 33 of 38 field goals over the last two years, and Fisher and
Thigpen will be great on returns.