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Monday, June 17
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Offense will look new, but so will defense

Broadcasters barely mention his name on Saturdays.

Newspapers, Web sites and even the most die-hard fan blogs will sometimes go a full season without citing his role on the team.

Junior Jarrod Smith is a lineman, a position that is rarely the opponent’s focal point, a position that doesn’t get the praise it rightfully deserves.

But the Fairborn, Ohio, native’s mentality is team first, No. 52 second, which explains why he’s moving from the offensive line to defensive tackle.

“Any time you change positions, it’s tough at first,” Smith said after Saturday’s second spring scrimmage. “I don’t think there’s more pressure on the defense than the offense.”

That’s where I disagree.

The addition of Smith isn’t the only shakeup on defense.

Ray Fisher flipped from wide receiver to cornerback, and several returning starters, including defensive end Jammie Kirlew, linebacker Will Patterson and safety Austin Thomas are sidelined with injuries.

Last season, IU suffered the injury bug so bad, it was almost OK to use it as an excuse for the disappointing 3-9 record.

Not this year, though – not with this rigorous schedule that boasts many bowl teams.
The Hoosiers’ defense must step up even more than the offense.

With quarterback Ben Chappell and wide receiver Kellen Lewis running the show, Bill Lynch’s squad will score more points than you might predict.

But the question becomes, will the defense stop the opposition?

Unlike the offense’s shift to the pistol formation, the defensive unit is keeping its 4-3 scheme.

Up front, Kirlew leads the line, and his counterpart Greg Middleton must emulate his 2007 season, which saw him register 16 sacks – the best in the nation.

Earlier this spring, Kirlew said Middleton, who was suspended at the beginning of last year, is making great strides on and off the field.

If both ends perform at their highest levels, quarterbacks will have a tough time scrambling away from the pocket.

As for stopping the run, that’s where Patterson, Matt Mayberry and Justin Carrington come into play.

All three are seniors, and all three should be able to hold the Big Ten’s power runners to fewer than 100 yards on game day.

Lynch said if there’s one fundamental skill his squad needs to master, it’s tackling.
“We need to tackle better,” Lynch said. “Last year, we let a lot of running backs get second chances to gain more yards.”

The pass defense wasn’t worth bragging about either.

IU allowed its adversaries to throw for more than 3,000 yards in 2008 and surrendered 20 touchdowns.

Fisher, who stands at just 5 feet, 9 inches, will be defending one corner with Chris Adkins on the other side in 2009.

The safety positions are up for grabs.

Jerimy Finch, who did not see a lot of time last season, is expected to be refreshed and ready to start in the fall. He’s looked really impressive in spring practice and is probably the only Hoosier who can keep up with the speedy Lewis in the open field.

The other deep man could be the injured Thomas or Jarrell Drane.

Adkins said the most glaring difference you’ll spot on defense is tighter coverage – a change that’s necessary if IU wants to upset some top-notch opponents.

“That’s what spring practice is for,” he said. “We’re experimenting, and come the fall, we’ll be ready to shock some teams.”

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