So now we’re less than a week away from getting our first indication, but certainly not our last, of how good Indiana’s defense will be. Here’s one thing we can say with absolute certainty:
They’re tired of being bad mouthed.
Of course they are. They have competitive pride. Nobody wants to be labeled as the team’s weak link.
There are reasons for that label, centering on eight new players, including a brand new secondary, and a history of defensive mediocrity. But here’s the deal. There is talent here and just because it’s young doesn’t mean it can’t make an impact.
Granted, Towson (the Division I-AA season-opening opponent) should not be a team that has its way with the defense. The Hoosiers should dominate. Truer tests will come in future weeks. But in terms of the unit’s potential, well, you can see in coach Bill Lynch’s eyes that he believes good things are about to happen.
“I’m anxious to watch them play. There are a lot of new faces. I’m going off watching them in practice, when our offense goes against our defense for 15 days in the spring and now like 23 practices in camp.”
What he sees is what should be a good IU offense struggle to move the ball in practice. Yes, a cynic would say this is bad news for the offense. A realist could mention that, because both units have gone against each other for so long, and know each other’s tendencies so well, a struggling offense is to be expected.
“There’s a little bit of cheat there because they know what’s coming,” Lynch said, “but I think we’re a good offensive team and they have not moved the ball on this defense. That excites me that our defense is pretty good.
“This is a group that is hungry and motivated. They have a new personality. They’ve been reading about what people have said about them. They’re anxious to prove this is a good group. They’re out there to be the IU defense. We don’t have a bunch of ‘ME’ guys. They’ve all bought in. They know their roles. It’s going to be a fun group to watch.”
Fun will include four solid defensive tackles in Mick Mentzer, Adam Replogle, Larry Black and Nicholas Sliger; a pair of do-everything defensive ends in Kevin Bush and Darius Johnson; an aggressive group of linebackers led by senior Tyler Replogle (“He’s as intense a guy as I’ve ever been around,” Lynch said), and a competitive-sharpened group of defensive backs (look for a break-out year from senior Richard Council).
The bottom line -- these guys are motivated and talented, perhaps not to the level of Ohio State (few teams are), but enough to win with. Starting on Thursday, we’ll get the chance to see how realistic that is.
After 44 years, Harold Mauro’s IU run is over. That run started as a linebacker for some bad Hoosier teams, included a stint as starting center on a Big Ten tri-champion Rose Bowl team, ended up as an Indiana assistant coach, offensive coordinator, senior associate athletic director and, for the last six years, director of football operations. He was involved in every bowl game in Hoosier history. He was an assistant coach on the 1979 Holiday Bowl winning team, plus was an administrator for the 1986 All-American Bowl, 1988 Peach Bowl, 1988 Liberty Bowl, 1990 Peach Bowl, 1991 Copper Bowl, 1993 Independence Bowl and 2007 Insight Bowl.
Mauro was honored during Friday’s Farewell Reception at Memorial Stadium’s Hall of Champions.
“It has been an honor to work for some great presidents, directors of athletics and head coaches,” he said in a university release. “It was a great journey. I met so many great people along the way. I will always be a Hoosier.”