IU increases emphasis on cornerback play
Heading into the 2012 season, defensive back improvement has been a point of emphasis for the Hoosier football team.
“From a coach’s perspective, it’s probably my fault because we didn’t make turnovers an expectation last year,” IU Cornerbacks Coach Brandon Shelby said. “For a defense that maybe isn’t as talented, you definitely have to go get turnovers to help us win a game.”
IU’s leading interception leader from 2011, junior Greg Heban is returning in 2012. Heban, who had two interceptions last season and was third on the team with 62 tackles, has taken on a leadership role for the Hoosiers in 2012.
“Heban is a guy that every day is the one guy in the secondary that when we go to the practice, he practices hard,” Shelby said.
“He’ll not only be successful this year, he’ll be successful in life. You’ll talk about that kid for a long time. I wish every player was like him.”
Other returning players IU Coach Kevin Wilson expects to make an impact are junior Lawrence Barnett and sophomores Kenny Mullen and Brian Williams.
After Wednesday’s practice, Wilson said Williams had been unable to “get over the hump” until recently. Wilson also said Mullen will be playing a lot this season.
“We’re going to put those guys on islands sometimes,” Wilson said. “Last year, a couple of times we got burned. Sometimes we blew coverage. Sometimes we got burned. For our defense to work, those guys have to hold up for you. Whether they can, we’ll see.”
One newcomer, junior Antonio Marshall, a transfer from Georgia Military College, has impressed his coaches in the short time he has been at IU, Shelby said.
Marshall arrived in Bloomington just in time for fall camp and was initially out of playing shape, Wilson said.
In a similar situation last season, junior running back Stephen Houston, a junior college transfer, arrived at IU in July “with a poor mentality,” Wilson said. He did not start the first four games of the season, but eventually started the final eight games and became IU’s leading rusher.
With mentoring from Houston, Shelby said Marshall has drastically improved during his time at IU and will contend for playing time this season.
“It takes you 30 days to break an old habit,” Shelby said.
“It’s taken him a couple of days, but he’s getting better every day, and every day he goes out there and gives it his best. If he continues to do that, he’ll be a good player for us.”
Shelby said IU will not be successful, even with their talent level, if the team cannot produce turnovers.
He said the Hoosiers will model it’s 2012 campaign after the 2011 Oklahoma State defense, which led the NCAA in turnover margin despite allowing the 14th most yards per game in the FBS. That team went 12-1 and won the Fiesta Bowl.
“If you go back from the beginning of football, if you’re typically plus-two in the turnover margin throughout the year, and you’re pretty good in special teams, you’re going to be a bowl team,” Shelby said.
“That’s kind of how our motto is, and it tells our defense you can bend but not break. I truly believe we’ll see an increase in turnovers this year.”