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2019 Indiana Football Preview: The Defensive Line

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Who can step up in the trenches for Kane Wommack’s defense?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 20 Penn State at Indiana Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Though it’s not the most glamorous position, the defensive line is one of the most important position groups on the entire team. The line sets the tone in the trenches and is key in stopping both the running and passing games. IU will have to replace a lot of talent along the defensive line, but the returnees along with some new players should be able to make the Hoosier D-line more than respectable this season.

Players to Watch

Gavin Everett, redshirt senior - One of the more experienced players on the defensive line, Everett returns for his second season as a starter. Last year, he was third on the team in tackles for loss with 5.5 and finished with 23 total tackles along with a half-sack and one QB hurry. He was also named IU defensive player of the week after recording five solo tackles, one pass breakup and a QB hurry against Michigan. Everett has shown flashes of solid play at defensive end and could really thrive when playing next Jerome Johnson, who was IU’s most productive defensive lineman last season.

Jerome Johnson, redshirt junior: Expect Johnson to be a key starter in the interior of the line. As I mentioned before, Johnson was the most productive lineman for the Hoosiers last season, racking up 32 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and a team-leading 3.5 sacks. He was given IU’s Chris Del Sasso Award, given to the team’s best Defensive Lineman, along with the Terry P. Cole Award, which goes to the MVP of the Old Oaken Bucket game. When given increased playing time during his sophomore campaign, Johnson improved in nearly every statistical category. With the expectation that Johnson will become a starter this season, we could be looking at another increase in production from him.

Juan Harris, redshirt sophomore: Harris returns to Bloomington after spending last season at Independence Community College of Last Chance U fame, where he played under lovable head coach and all-around Good Guy Jason Brown. While at Indy CC, Harris was solid in the trenches, compiling 38 tackles with 4.5 for loss. You may remember Harris’ name from his previous stint at IU. He spent the 2017 season with the Hoosiers and played in the first three games of the season before an unspecified injury kept him out for the remainder of the season. Harris was a four-star recruit out of high school and really began to showcase that talent during his time at the JUCO level. Harris has a chance to be a productive member of the defensive line, and will definitely be one to keep an eye on this fall.

Battle to Watch

I didn’t mention James Head Jr. in the Players to Watch section because I already tabbed him as a potential breakout candidate, but his battle with Gavin Everett and Allen Stallings for the starting defensive end spots should really be interesting. Head is one of the most talented linemen in the group, and if he manages to improve upon his solid freshman season, Head could be a starter by the end of the season.