The IU defensive line returns lots of experience on the ends and lots of question marks in the middle.
The starters: Jammie Kirlew, 6-3 senior. Kirlew's production has steadily incrfeasing during his three years, and last year, he had 52 tackles and 10 sacks, good enough for first-team all-Big Ten. Greg Middleton, 6-3 senior. After making little impact as a freshman, Middleton exploded onto the scene as a sophomore, making 51 tackles and a NCAA-leading 16 sacks. After that all-American season, Middleton fell back to the pack, recording only 18 tackles and 3 sacks. If Middleton can recapture his 2007 form, it's no exaggeration to say that IU could have one of the best DE tandems in the country.
The reserves: Darius Johnson, 6-0 sophomore. Johnson saw action at special teams and on defense and recorded 13 tackles and a forced fumble. Deonte Mack, 6-3 junior. I can't quite make sense of this. Last year, Mack started at DT and recorded 21 tackles and 2 sacks. Rivals lists him as a third string DE. While I thought this might be a mistake, Bill Lynch did not mention Mack in a lengthy discussion of defensive tackles at today's press conference. I'm sorry if I missed this, but I reserve the right to correct this. Still, it makes some sense given the lack of experienced depth at DE. Eric Thomas, 6-4 sophomore. Thomas played sparingly as a freshman, recording only a single tackle.
The starters: Mick Mentzer, 6-4 freshman (RS). Nick Sliger, 6-3 freshman (RS). The classes speak for themselves. According to Rivals/Inside Indiana, IU will be expected to start two freshmen at DT after a year in which IU really struggled to stop the run.
The reserves: Larry Black, 6-2 freshman (RS). Black has seen no college action to date. Jarrod Smith, 6-4 junior. Smith, one of the "seven blocks of limestone" offensive line recruits, is in his first year on defense. He was injured for much of preseason practice but should play quite a bit. Adam Replogle, 6-3 freshman. Replogle is a true freshman and the brother of linebacker Tyler Replogle. The staff has made clear that Replogle is too good and too needed to redshirt, and has made clear that he will play in 2009.
So, what do we have? Lots of experience at the ends. Little experience in the middle. No experienced depth anywhere. Still, if this unit can stay reasonably healthy, we can hope for improvement.