And now, the tough part. For the most part, previewing the offense was fun. The Hoosiers’ offense is full of talent, experience, and even some depth, particularly at receiver. Defense, on the other hand, is a cause for concern, and really has been since, literally, 1993. IU’s last truly above-average team featured Bill Mallory’s last tough defense, and it’s been varying shades of ugly since then. In a post early last season, I said this:
Taking a look at the 2007 [Akron] box score demonstrates just how experienced the IU defense is: in addition to [Greg] Middleton, Austin Thomas, Will Patterson, Matt Mayberry, Tyler Replogle, Nick Polk, and Jammie Kirlew all registered tackles. It's now or never, guys.
Despite all that experience, the 2009 defense was less than the sum of its parts, ranking #88 of 120 I-A teams in total defense and #91 in scoring defense (10th in the Big Ten in both categories). In light of that, perhaps the relative inexperience of the IU defense isn’t that big a deal. For all of the experience on last year’s unit, the defense just wasn’t particularly good, so perhaps a fresh start will be good. Still, anyone who remembers the 1999 season knows that last year was by no means as bad as a defense can get.
The offensive line returns quite a bit up the middle, but must replace two of the finest defensive ends in school history. Also, while the Hoosiers still list the depth chart in 4-3 form, the plan to dabble with a 3-4 as well.
Darius Johnson, 6-0 Jr. DE: Johnson played as a reserve in IU's first three games last year, and recorded eight tackles, but missed the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.
Fred Jones, 6-4 Jr. DE: Jones's season was a mirror imnage of Johnson's. Jones missed the first nine games of the season, and recorded 3 tackles the final three games. Obviously, the experience at defensive end is low.
Larry Black, Jr., 6-2 So. DT: Black started all 12 games as a redshirt freshman and recorded 29 tackles, including 7.5 for a loss and 1.5 sacks.
Adam Replogle, 6-2 So. DT: Replogle, younger brother of linebacker Tylere Replogle, was the only true freshman to see the field for IU in 2009, and started IU's final 11 games at DT. He had 32 tackles, including 5 for a loss and 4 sacks.
Terrance Thomas, 6-1 Sr. DE: Thomas has spent most of his career as a special teamer but saw some action at defensive end in 2009.
Kevin Bush, 6-3 Sr. DE: Bush is an interesting story. He spent 2005 as a redshirt at Toledo, then spent some time in the military before enrolling at IU in 2009 and sitting out because of transfer rules.
Deonte Mack, 6-3 Sr. DE: Mack has been an enigma, playing quite a bit as a freshmen but seeing his playing time diminish because of injuries. He spent most of his career as a DT.
Nick Sliger, 6-3 So. DT: Sliger played quite a bit as a redshirt freshman, and the highlight of his career so far was an interception at Michigan.
Mick Mentzer, 6-4 So. DT: Mentzer also played quite a bit as a freshman, recording 16 tackles.
Greg Middleton and Jammie Kirlew may have been the two most successful defensive linemen in IU history. Middleton was an all-American and led the nation in sacks as a sophomore; Kirlew was all-Big Ten his last two seasons.
Javon Cornley, 6-5 Fr. DE: Cornley is the younger brother of Penn State basketball player Jamelle Cornley and appears to be in the mix for DE playing time.
IU has lots of experience at tackle and very little at end. The pass rush provided by Middleton and Kirlew will be missed, but perhaps improved run defense can compensate for that.