Indiana Daily Student

Creating havoc is ‘the name of the game’ for IU football’s defensive line

Junior defensive lineman Sio Nofoagatoto'a participating in a drill during IU football's fall camp Aug. 6 in Bloomington. Nofoagatoto'a said the team's first game against Iowa will serve as a test for the defensive line during a press conference Aug. 11.
Junior defensive lineman Sio Nofoagatoto'a participating in a drill during IU football's fall camp Aug. 6 in Bloomington. Nofoagatoto'a said the team's first game against Iowa will serve as a test for the defensive line during a press conference Aug. 11.

IU football’s defensive policy under new coordinator Charlton Warren is simple – create havoc.

Each day of practice, IU selects a havoc leader based on which defender creates the most chaos during that day’s practice, specifically surrounding forced fumbles, interceptions, sacks, tackles for loss and pass breakups.

Defensive line coach Kevin Peoples said the havoc leader is a point of emphasis for a defensive line group that underperformed last season. Through four practices in fall camp, sophomore lineman C.J. Person has been selected as the havoc leader twice.

“I think we’re going to be even more aggressive this year,” graduate student lineman Ryder Anderson said. “That’s the goal. Coach has been instilling in our DNA tackling, takeaways, effort. We just be hammering that down every day.”

The idea of creating havoc has adjusted the mindset of the defensive line to emphasize tackling and takeaways. Anderson said he’s adapted to the idea and takes every chance to punch at the ball he can.

“I don’t think I’ve ever emphasized turnovers as much as right here,” Anderson said. “We’re almost in trouble if we don’t reach our goals.”

Last year’s line, which head coach Tom Allen said produced below his standards, left the need for other groups to fill in more in order to pick up the slack. Senior linebacker Micah McFadden led the Hoosiers with six sacks while junior cornerback Tiawan Mullen was third with 3.5.

Defensive lineman Jerome Johnson, who entered the NFL Draft after last season, was second with four sacks.

“Anytime you can get production out of your defensive line, or you can get more pass rush out of your defensive line, you don’t have to blitz to get the pass rush, it’s a huge benefit,” Peoples said.

With only 2.5 sacks among returning linemen, IU is looking for an increase in production among the defensive line, something Allen emphasized at IU Media Day. 

Junior lineman Sio Nofoagatoto'a said creating havoc benefits the secondary’s ability to focus on pass coverage and force turnovers through interceptions, but it’s also on the defensive line to pick up their numbers to balance the team out.

IU is also bringing in new talent on the line in graduate transfers Anderson and Weston Kramer.

Nofoagatoto'a said Allen’s LEO culture has built a perfect fit for transfers to come to IU and immediately gel with the rest of the team.

“The buy-in, that’s one of the most important things to me,” Nofoagatoto'a said. “Just seeing everybody come in and make it about each other and not about themselves, even though they may come here for their last year hoping to make something special happen.”

Anderson, who comes to IU from the University of Mississippi, and Kramer, from Northern Illinois University, both have impressed Peoples in their work ethic and physicality.

“Transfers are going to be a way of life right now in college football,” Peoples said. “Because of the culture Coach Allen has built here, it’s a little bit easier for us to get a transfer to come in, to fit right in.”

With week one being against a physical rushing team in Iowa, the transfers will have to settle even quicker than in a season that starts against a non conference opponent.

“I’ve already been watching film on other teams, mainly Iowa since it’s our first game,” Anderson said. “I see a lot of similarities in [the Big Ten and the Southeastern conference]. It’s really big, heavy hitters. I expect big, physical games week to week.”

Nofoagatoto'a said the game against Iowa will be the first test of an improved, physical defensive line. It’ll also be the first shot for the Hoosiers to employ their new havoc policy.

“Havoc, that’s the name of the game for us on defense,” Anderson said.

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