Junior linebackers Cam Jones and Micah McFadden both came to Bloomington as part of IU football’s 2018 recruiting class. This season, there are no seniors ahead of them, and they’re expected to lead an IU defense that will be missing senior defensive back Marcelino Ball.
Under second-year defensive coordinator Kane Wommack, they’re beginning to understand the game in the same way a coach would. They play fast, they are vocal and now they are one year older.
“They’re becoming leaders of our defense,” Wommack said Friday during a Zoom call. “We’ve been talking about that since I got here, about some actual leadership in that room. I think we’ve finally got it.”
Wommack said the linebacker corps for the Hoosiers had to overcome some growing painswhile relying heavily on underclassmen last year, even with former IU linebacker Reakwon Jones leading the group. But as the season progressed, the unit started to anticipate plays, rather than simply reacting to them.
Their experience and leadership is a benefit not only to the younger linebackers on the team looking to eventually take their place, but also to the entire defense on game day.
“Now that we’re all honed into exactly what’s going on in the defense, it’s much easier to get everybody lined up, to communicate loudly out there and be confident about what we’re doing,” McFadden said. “I think overall, as a full group, we’re getting more guys collectively into that role.”
In 2019, McFadden played more snaps than any defensive player for IU. He led the team with 61 total tackles and 10 tackles for loss while also tying junior defensive back Jamar Johnson with a team-high with two interceptions.
Jones, despite not being a full-time starter and playing in only 12 games, still accounted for 35 total tackles, an interception and a forced fumble.
“We just stepped our game up a little bit,” Jones said. “We knew that we had to fix ourselves first before we could fix anything else, so we made that the No. 1 priority.”
Wommack, alongside head coach Tom Allen, will continue to catalyze the growth of the Hoosier linebackers this season and push them toward success. Wommack said they’ll need to keep striving for a higher level of thinking to continue to play fast, be vocal and lead the defense this fall.
“That, to me, is the difference in playing a higher level of defensive football,” he said.
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