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Handy hoping to help Hoosiers’ pass rush

Auburn transfer getting used to new program, ready to grow into role at Bull spot

NCAA Football: Auburn at Florida Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

A family connection made Indiana contests appointment viewing last fall for Jaren Handy.

When he wasn’t playing in games of his own, the former Auburn defensive lineman tuned in to watch the Hoosiers and follow the latest exploits of his cousin, IU receiver Ty Fryfogle. So when it came time to pick a new school in the transfer portal this spring, Handy already had a good feel for Indiana’s brand of football and how he might fit in Bloomington.

“I watched every game,” Handy told reporters this week. “I felt like they should’ve won every game, (including) the Ohio State game. I was really upset with the Ole Miss game because I felt like they really could’ve pulled that one out.”

Now, Handy hopes he can be a factor in helping the Hoosiers win even more games this fall.

A month after transferring to IU, Handy is getting used to his new surroundings on 17th street. Summer workouts are already underway at Indiana, and as Handy begins to look toward the fall, he sees himself carving a niche as a hybrid edge rusher on a defensive line that could use some help.

“I chose IU (because) I felt like I had a pretty good chance to play,” Handy said. “The team was up and coming (last year). I feel like we were one step away from winning the Big Ten and being in the championship at the end. I was really excited (to commit).”

Handy, ranked as the No. 91 overall player and No. 7 strong-side defensive end in the nation coming out of high school in Mississippi, didn’t play much — or, at least, not as much as he probably would’ve liked — during his two seasons at Auburn. Last fall, for instance, he logged only 78 total snaps across seven contests, per Pro Football Focus.

At IU, Handy should have more opportunites to boost his snap count at the Bull position, which is where head coach Tom Allen, defensive coordinator Charlton Warren and position coach Kasey Teegardin are working to introduce another hybrid skill set to the defense. Bull responsibilities are essentially a mix of those at outside linebacker and defensive end, designed so that its players can either rush the backfield or drop into coverage. Michael Ziemba, D.K. Bonhomme and Lance Bryant will also likely be in the mix for snaps there.

When IU informed Handy of its plans for him at Bull, the 6-foot-5, 255-pound junior was intrigued.

“I’m gonna be pass rushing, dropping back in coverage, moving around, stuff like that,” Handy said. “I felt it would be a great chance to showcase my talent and what I could do.”

Although Handy’s time on the field was limited at Auburn, three of his 10 total tackles for the Tigers were for a loss. Indiana’s hope is that Handy earns plenty of time inside the defensive line rotation and helps the Hoosiers establish a presence on the edge. Last season, IU’s defensive ends graded out among the least efficent pass rushers in the Big Ten, according to PFF.

“I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge,” Handy said. “People are telling me that the Big Ten’s got some really good O-linemen and stuff like that. I like to pass rush and get sacks, so I feel (competing in this league) will really help my game and take me to that next step.”

In the meantime, Handy is taking it all in as he gets comfortable in a new locker room. He’s been working out with Bonhomme and fellow SEC transfer Ryder Anderson, himself a former D-lineman at Ole Miss. Fryfogle, too, has helped with the transition. Defensive line coach Kevin Peoples has also been placing regular phone calls from the road to check in on Handy and make sure he’s squared away.

“The team, they’ve been showing love,” Handy said. “I feel welcome. I don’t feel like the odd person out. I feel like I’ve been here for a minute.”