This season the Hoosiers will once again be replacing their top two linebackers in terms of production. Last season TD Roof and Dameon Willis Jr replaced Tegray Scales and Chris Covington in Tom Allen’s 4-2-5 defense, but now they’ve graduated and left a hole. Unlike last season, there are two pretty obvious replacements on the roster as well as some exciting young prospects who should fill in behind them on the depth chart.
Players to Watch
Reakwon Jones, redshirt senior - A returning starter, Jones is easily the most experienced of the Hoosier linebackers. No other player in the group even has junior status, though there is one redshirt sophomore. Last season Jones made 36 tackles, the most of any returning ‘backer, and also had a sack, a fumble recovery and two pass breakups. He should be one of the leaders of the defense for IU.
Thomas Allen, redshirt sophomore - Allen was among the more reliable backups for IU last year and is, of course, IU head coach Tom Allen’s son. In his first season on the field for the Hoosiers Allen made 28 tackles with a sack, an interception and a pair of quarterback hurries. He should enter the starting lineup alongside Jones and be solid for IU up the middle.
James Miller, redshirt freshman - One of several Tampa, Fla. natives on this team, Miller should get a chance to step up and have a significant role this season. Coming out of high school he was the Tampa Bay Times defensive player of the year and a three-star recruit who chose the Hoosiers over Florida State. Thanks to the new redshirt rules fans got a glimpse of him last year. He played in three games including a start against Michigan and made three tackles. Behind the scenes, he was a guy that won multiple scout team awards and he’s got more than enough talent to make an impact for the Hoosiers.
Micah McFadden, sophomore - The younger Allen’s high school teammate, McFadden played in all 12 games for IU last season. As a true freshman he made 20 tackles, forced a fumble and had two quarterback hurries. He should be in line for an expanded role as well now that the depth chart has thinned out in front of him.
Cameron Williams, freshman - One of the highest-rated prospects in program history, there’s a lot to like about Williams. Coming out of Andrean HS he was the fifth-ranked recruit in the state of Indiana as a four-star prospect. He’s the seventh-highest rated recruit in IU history and was the third-best recruit in this year’s recruiting class. He’s got good speed and quickness for a linebacker and can drop back into coverage if need be. As many freshmen do he’ll need to add some muscle to his frame, but he assuredly will. One thing to watch with Williams will be whether or not he eclipses the four-game limit to retain redshirt status. An educated guess says that as a highly-rated recruit at a position where he could easily be included in the regular rotation he will.
Battle to Watch
There shouldn’t be a battle for a starting spot, which means that the battle to watch will be behind the starters. Look to see who clamps down the third and fourth spots in the linebacker rotation between Miller, McFadden and Williams as well as potentially incoming freshman D.K. Bonhomme. Whoever gets the bulk of the playing time could very well be in line for a starting spot next year.