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Notebook: Howard impressing, pass rush gains depth

Jordan Howard is the new guy. The transfer running back is the skill player who is both the most proven from his time at UAB and the least known to IU fans who have not seen him play.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Johns described Howard as quiet and 

As outsiders wait to see what he can do on the field, Johns said he was very satisfied with Howard during Monday’s press conference.

“I’m really pleased with Jordan Howard, just how he has picked everything up,” he said. “He has such a natural knack of making the zone cut, of seeing the blocking scheme unfold.”

Howard ran for 1,587 yards last season for the Blazers but zero thus far for the Hoosiers.

The word from coaches has been that the competition between Howard and sophomore running back Devine Redding was still open.

Lately, coaches have made comments referring to Redding as a complementary runner, signaling Howard has taken the starting job.

Regardless of depth chart positions that are still not set in stone, Howard’s addition has sparked further competition between the two. Redding has seen how good Howard can be, and it has led to him working harder, Johns said.

“I really think the presence of Jordan Howard has taken Devine Redding’s game to another level,” Johns said.

Gooch moves to bandit

In defensive coordinator Brian Knorr’s 3-4 scheme, the bandit rusher is intended to put pressure on the quarterback from the edge.

Yet in the first season with the scheme last year, IU finished 11th in the Big Ten in sacks, and then-bandit Nick Mangieri compiled only two sacks.

Senior Zack Shaw is taking over that role now, but sophomore linebacker Greg Gooch recently made the move over to bandit 
as well.

Gooch is a player who received plenty of praise as a freshman inside linebacker.

His move creates a three-man rotation at bandit between Shaw, Gooch and freshman Nile Sykes.

Gooch was an edge pass rusher at Lyman High School in Florida — compiling seven sacks in his senior year — and Knorr has said him being at bandit has put some heat on Sykes to step up.

“We’ve got three guys that can be edge rushers,” Knorr said.

UAB transfer Hawkins developing new role

Since the transfer of freshman running back Tommy Mister was announced last week, incoming transfer receiver Marqui Hawkins has been utilized lately as a combination player between receiver and running back.

Hawkins transferred in from the disbanded UAB program, then missed all spring with injuries.

Wilson said he is in a position where he is not very high on the depth chart because of some talented freshmen stepping up, but the team likes his skill set.

Wilson described him as a bigger receiver who may not have the speed of a guy like senior Ricky Jones. Therefore, he isn’t quite as fast getting off pressure, but he can use his size well when given a cushion.

Secondary becoming “workable”

Wilson often compares the inexperienced receivers to the inexperienced defensive secondary. Monday, the comparison was how many freshmen are as talented — if not more so — than the older players.

The common names remain the same five 

Jonathan Crawford, Andre Brown, Tyler Green, Jameel Cook and Devonte Williams are players Wilson and his teammates have been happy with. Wilson says they are all in the mix to play and will be on the field.

In terms of slightly more experienced players, Wilson said sophomore cornerbacks Rashard Fant and Ben Bach are looking the best they’ve ever been. Defensive coordinator Brian Knorr mentioned Fant has stepped up to challenges put on him by the 
coaching staff.

“It will be a work in progress, but it’s workable, and it’s got a chance,” Wilson said. “So we feel good about it.”

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