COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 5: Chase Hoobler #47 of the Indiana Hoosiers sacks quarterback Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first half at Ohio Stadium on November 5, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
The Indiana University linebacking corps is in a weird position. They have quite a bit of turnover from last season and will be starting two Junior College transfers along with a redshirt sophomore to begin the season. This unit will probably tell us early just how good or bad the 2012 version of the Indiana Hoosiers defense will be. We’re relying on two new guys to fill in for last year’s senior veterans, but the new guys have experience. No, junior college and Big Ten football are far from the same animal but the JuCos appear to have the physical gifts necessary to compete at a high level. The interesting part to watch is how it actually translates.
Strongside Linebacker: #34 Jacarri Alexander 6-1, 232, Sr. #49 Griffen Dahlstrom 6-3, 226, Sr.
Alexander is one of 6 JuCo transfers for this upcoming season. Of all the JuCos, Alexander is the one I’m the most looking forward to seeing on the field. An All-Conference linebacker at Iowa Central Community College he registered 78 tackles, 6 sacks, 4.5 tackles for a loss and three forced fumbles. His Junior College numbers are very good and it sounds like his time on campus has been just as good. Alexander will be backed up by Dahlstrom who has 18 appearances in his two seasons. Last season he saw action in 6 games and registered 8 tackles.
Middle Linebacker: #42 David Cooper, 6-1, 225, Jr. #55 Jake Michalek, 6-2, 242, Jr.
David Cooper joins Alexander as a part of the junior college injection to try and help overhaul the defense from last season. Cooper will be playing his first season out of Coffeyville C.C. with IU as the starter at MLB. Cooper is not as decorated as Alexander but he did a much better job of covering the whole field. Collecting 102 tackles, 2 sacks, 13 tackles for a loss, 1 interception and 1 forced fumble; Cooper showed he’s very capable at the previous level. Although he wasn’t named an All-Conference linebacker he’s shown he has some skills. David will be pushed by Jake Michalek who saw time in all 12 games on special teams. He was also three time scout player of the year.
Weakside Linebacker: #47 Chase Hoobler 6-2, 242, Jr. #31 Jordan Wallace 6-0, 229, Fr.
Chase Hoobler joins safety Mark Murphy as the returning player I can’t wait to see more of in 2012. Hoobler started the final 8 games of the season and appeared in all 12. The first team All-Ohio player registered 48 tackles, 2 sacks, a forced fumble and 5 tackles for a loss in his debut year with IU. He and Murphy showed the most promise for the future of the defense and now we’ll get to see how they can handle expectations. Jordan Wallace will be second string as a true freshman. The Warren Central product was rated the #6 overall prospect in Indiana by ESPN and will be looking to put his stamp of approval on that ranking through his play.
On the whole, the linebackers should be much improved by the injection of JuCo talent. They’re also a large beneficiary of the "young experience" that everyone is talking about. Hoobler has 3 years of eligibility remaining counting this one but already has a bevy of experience from his major minutes last season. If the defensive line is the hinge for the improvement of the defense as a whole then the linebackers are the door. If they can protect the middle of the field from the short routes it will put much more pressure on the opposing QBs that have to wait for receivers to beat the secondary further up the field. I can’t say I’m confident in the defense yet, but hopes are higher for something that resembles more of a football team and less of a traffic cone.