In case you haven’t noticed, IU is putting a big emphasis on upgrading its secondary, in part because of graduation losses, mostly because of necessity. The Hoosiers struggled in defending the pass last year, especially in giving up big plays. Yes, injuries played a part, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. If they can’t play better pass defense, they can’t win. And if they can’t win, well, everybody knows the stakes.
So we offer Mitchell Evans and Matt Ernest, who have switched from receivers to defensive backs in what could be crucial moves.
“Both guys are good athletes,” coach Bill Lynch said. “Mitchell has played safety in the Big Ten before. Matt played both ways in high school.”
Evans has seemingly played every position but center in his previous three years in the program. He was a quarterback, a receiver, a safety, a Wildcat quarterback, a running back, a special teams guy and, well, you get the picture. Last year he caught 33 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns, rushed for 151 yards (averaging 4.6 yards a carry) and completed 3-of-7 passes for 21 yards.
You’ve got to have that kind of athleticism on the field, and given IU’s receiver depth, the move to safety makes sense. Evans likely will miss spring practice because of a hip injury, but he’s expected to be ready to go for the fall.
Ernest has been a decent receiver (10 catches, 87 yards, one TD in his first two seasons) and a better special teams player (four times winning special teams player-of-the-week honors). His speed and agility make him a cornerback candidate. He’ll get his shot in the spring to see how well he makes the transition.
He does have an extra challenge -- he also pitches for the baseball team. He’s appeared in four games and totaled a 4.00 earned run average in nine innings. He is also 2-for-2 in stolen bases, an indication of his speed.
“For Matt it will be unusual because he might miss some (football) practice time,” Lynch said. “He has great speed and feet. He became a good special teams player for us. And if it doesn’t work out, Matt can go back to wide receiver and fit right in.”
In an ideal Cream ‘n Crimson world, it will work out, and if that leads to an 8-4 record and a bowl bid, well, isn’t that what spring optimism is all about?