Indiana Football 2012: The Defensive Line

July 26, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Indiana Hoosiers defensive tackle Adam Replogle talks to reporters during the Big Ten media day at the McCormick Place Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Reid Compton-US PRESSWIRE

This morning we’re taking a look at Indiana’s most experienced and elder unit on the 2012 team. In fact, it is the only unit that you can say is truly experienced. Of the top 8 players on the depth chart 5 of them are upperclassmen and 3 specifically are seniors. For 2012 that is encouraging for the age and experience but it also screams how badly we need to recruit some guys to anchor the line (welcome newest recruit, DT Jacobi Hunter).

Last year the Defensive Line was certainly an issue for the Hoosiers. They allowed a very discouraging 243 yards per game on the ground and struggled to get to the quarterback to help out the secondary. I truly believe that the core of the defenses issues last year came with the defensive line’s inability to get a push at the line of scrimmage. They only sacked the QB 1.5 times a game for a season total of 18. Only 10 of which actually came at the hands of the defensive line. So yeah, Indiana has to get better at holding their own in a conference that produces NFL-ready linemen at a consistent rate. The defensive line MUST step up.

On that note, we should see a difference between this year and last. Yes, for the most part the players remain the same but the physical abilities of the players should have changed. Coach Wilson on his first radio show of the night even stated that strength and size was an issue last year. He said some encouraging words that give me hope on that front. According to Coach Wilson the day after the Purdue game and the official end to the season off-season weight training began. Hopefully that extra month and a half of lifting will show in the trenches this season.

Follow the jump for individual projections and roster depth.

Left Defensive End: #25 Ryan Phillis, 6-3, 261 Jr. #95 Bobby Richardson, 6-3, 279 So.

Indiana will be returning two defensive ends that could probably be interchangeable depending on how you want to play. Phillis is more of a quicker lateral player that makes plays with his feet, whereas Richardson uses his extra 18 lbs. to be more of a bull on the end. Between the both of them it will be interesting to see who gets the most starts on the season. Phillis started the final four last year and finished on a great note against Purdue. Richardson went from scout team DT to six starts in Big Ten play. He started on the other side with Richardson in the final game of the year. For now it appears Phillis has won the spot to begin the year.

Right Defensive End: #96 John Laihinen, 6-4, 250 So. #33 Zack Shaw 6-3, 245, Fr.

Laihinen outside of being first place for the most impossible name to spell for the 2012 Hoosiers has also appeared to have proven himself in workouts. He didn’t see a single snap last year but was named defensive scout team player of the year. Now he is #1 on the depth chart to start on the right. A Wisconsin All-State DE in high school he should have the chops to compete in the Big Ten. Behind him on the depth chart is another player that didn’t see game action last year, but this because of a redshirt. Recently converted from linebacker to d-line the first team All Ohio linebacker will have something to prove in game action on the line.

Defensive Tackle: #97 Larry Black Jr., 6-2, 294 Sr. #99 Adarius Rayner, 6-2, 292, So.

Black teams up with Adam Replogle as the team’s two most experienced players this year and they’ll play next to each other at DT. Black has logged a total of 36 games in his IU career and will be looking to bring that experience and leadership to the field. I wouldn’t expect him to load up on sacks but the added muscle and weight should help him clog the middle this year. Rayner was a redshirt last year and will be looking to take the reins from Black next year. For this season he’ll be looking to log strong rotational minutes as I imagine he’ll still play in all 12 games.

Defensive Tackle: #98 Adam Replogle, 6-3, 294, Sr. #75 Nick Sliger, 6-3, 290, Sr.

Adam Replogle is just one of the millions of Replogles to pass through Indiana football. OK there may only be three of them, the younger one a traitor who is committed to Purdue for the 2013 class when all of his brothers went IU. Either way it didn’t take Replogle long to make a splash. He has played in all 36 of his career games and started 35. He leads the team in career tackles and should add plenty more to that this year. He’s probably the one player on the line that I think will have the biggest year/step forward. His rotation partner will be Nick Sliger another seasoned vet. Sliger also played in all 12 games last season and collected at least three tackles in six of his twelve games.

Overall:

This group is by far the most experienced unit the Hoosiers have this year, which also means they have the least amount of excuses. If Indiana truly expects to take a step forward defensively it is going to have to start on the line. Black, Replogle and their battery mates at DT are going to have to stop getting pushed around by bigger offensive linemen. Meanwhile the DE’s MUST find a way to the quarterback to at least be disruptive in the oppositions footwork. If those things happen look for IU’s defense to go from the worst to not terrible.

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