Thursday, August 19, 2010
IU Defense: Can These Guys Stop Anybody?
By now you’ve heard all griping about Indiana’s history of ragged defense and how the Hoosiers lost a ton of guys from last year’s mediocre defense, so that means they won’t be able to stop anybody and fall will once again become a time to wish for basketball to hurry up and arrive.
Hold on a second.
First, it’s August, which means all things are possible, even our dream to make the 2012 Olympic team in anything.
Second, there IS defensive talent at IU. It’s young, but it does exist. It’s up to the coaches to maximize it and that leads us to the 3-4 defense. That’s a change from the 4-3 and it’s designed to take advantage of that youthful athleticism.
The 3-4 means three down linemen and four linebackers. It works if you have tough interior linemen, lots of speed on the edge and plenty of athletic linebackers.
Guess what? That’s exactly what the Hoosiers have.
“The 3-4 better fits the personnel we have,” coach Bill Lynch said. “Last year we had some guys who played a lot of football. Sometimes when guys like that leave, it gives you an opportunity to do different things. That’s what we’re doing.
“A perfect example is Darius Johnson. He’s an outstanding player. His season got cut short a year ago when he got his collarbone broken before the Michigan game. He missed the whole Big Ten season. He would have played a lot.”
Last year Johnson would have played a lot behind Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton. Now the position is his for the taking.
“He’s a different kind of defensive end from Jammie,” Lynch said. “He’s better playing up. So you put him up and it looks like a 3-4 defense.”
In other words, rather than Johnson lining up in a three-point stance before the snap, he’ll be standing like a linebacker.
“It fits him,” Lynch said. “It fits (fellow defensive end) Kevin Bush.”
Both of those guys are what coaches call “hydrids,” which means they are like a combination of a defensive end and a linebacker. They are big and strong enough to deal with offensive linemen and the run, fast enough to pressure the quarterback and drop back into pass coverage.
IU also has some big, run-stuffing linebackers in Tyler Replogle, Dimitrius Car-Watson and Jeff Thomas who also fit a 3-4.
“With a 3-4, we can do more things in terms of blitzes and coverages,” Lynch said. “It will make our defense tougher to play against.”
That, of course, is what it’s all about. Check that. It’s all about keeping the other team out of the end zone and getting the ball back to the offense.
These Hoosiers seem capable of scoring. If they can play just average defense, they have a chance at a winning record and a bowl game.
“Our goal is to play in a bowl game,” Lynch said, “and we don’t want to put any limitations on what bowl game that is. But that’s a long way off.”
Yes, it is. But this is August, a time for football players to dream big. Limits, you see, are for losers.