Indiana football is getting set for its season opener Friday at home against Illinois, and some of the team’s key players spoke with the media on Tuesday in preparation. Senior linebacker Cam Jones, recent graduate receiver DJ Matthews, senior offensive lineman Matthew Bedford and senior cornerback Tiawan Mullen all touched on personal information alongside team expectations for the week one matchup.
The first player to come to the stand was Jones, who will be in the middle of the Hoosier defense this year. He discussed two distinct topics: his grandmother’s impact on his life and how the Indiana defense will contain the Illinois rushing attack.
“For me, I have always been a family person,” Jones said. “My grandmother taught me from a young age that there is good in everybody, and I see that, so I want to help everybody.”
This trait is very important, as Jones helps his teammates on the defense in practice and games, along with the people he comes across in everyday life.
“We have seen that they have a great run game,” Jones said about the Illini offense. “I think that if we do our job and communicate and play Indiana Hoosier football, there won’t be any problems on our end, especially if we have 11 men flying to the ball.”
Moving to the other side of the ball, Matthews discussed the importance of having depth at the wide receiver position following a year where he had a season-ending injury. He looks forward to competing every rep and maintaining consistency.
“The whole receiver room is playing for small wins, we want to win every rep that we can, we have a chip on our shoulder and are ready to come out and play hard,” Matthews said. “I’m super excited to be back out there with my brothers, I’m just thankful that I have another opportunity to get back out there.”
Matthews also spoke about where his love for the game began.
“My big cousin and my uncle,” Matthews said. “When I was a little boy they took me out into the yard and the first ball I ever caught was a pop-up, like a punt, in the front yard and I ran it and slapped it into the fence.”
Bedford, who has started 27 of 28 games since his arrival in Bloomington in 2019, gave his thoughts on the progression of the offense through camp. The Cordova, Tennessee native has played across the offensive line during his time as a Hoosier and received Honorable Mention All-Big Ten honors in 2021.
“I think we have raised the level of accountability for the team in terms of our play as an offense,” Bedford said. “I feel like we have taken strides in terms of acknowledging when we mess up.”
Bedford made it clear his focus was on his position group moving forward on the field and winning the battle in the trenches.
Another Hoosier whose 2021 was hindered by nagging injuries was cornerback Tiawan Mullen, who addressed any possible health concerns heading out of fall camp.
“I’m back fully healthy and ready to roll,” Mullen said. “I feel like myself.”
Mullen also spoke about his decision to return to Indiana this season, touching on his younger brother Trevell’s impact and unfinished business.
“It was a process I had to focus on and work through,” Mullen said. “You know my little brother is here, everything played a part and I didn’t want to leave off last season like that.”
As camp comes to a close, it seems clear that the Hoosier football team is focused on a successful 2022 season starting with a game Friday night at home against the Illini.