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Freeman looking to become a heavy hitter in IU’s defense

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After helping his high school to a Virginia state title this spring, Maurice Freeman is getting ready to work his way into the Husky spot at Indiana

Rutgers v Indiana
The Indiana Hoosiers take the field before the start of the game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Memorial Stadium on October 12, 2019 in Bloomington, Indiana.
Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

Maurice Freeman’s junior year highlight reel is called “Horror Movie.”

It is seven minutes and 12 seconds long, it is approaching 8,400 views, and it is a favorite of Indiana head coach Tom Allen. Because the bulk of Freeman’s recruitment took place during the dog days of the COVID-19 pandemic, that clip (and others like it) was the only way for coaches like Allen to get a feel for the way the 6-foot, 200-pound Virginia native plays the game.

Safe to say, it did its job.

“I love his film,” Allen said after signing Freeman in December. “He is so explosive.”

Indeed, the incoming freshman is a quick, versatile and hard-hitting defender who played both linebacker and safety on his Virginia Class 6 championship-winning team at Oscar Smith High School this spring. At IU, Freeman is bound for the hybrid Husky position where the Hoosiers believe his physicality will make him a scary matchup for Big Ten offenses in the years to come.

“He is able to blitz off the edge and be a great special teams guy, (too),” Allen said. “Watching his kickoff cover film gets me fired up. He is laying folks out.”

Freeman, who signed with IU over offers from Michigan, Illinois, Ole Miss, Pitt and Georgia Tech, among others, put plenty of ball carriers in the turf during a prep career spent at one of southern Virginia’s best football programs. As a junior in 2019, Freeman totaled 55 tackles, five sacks, 14 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles, four recoveries, one pick and four breakups. He was a factor on all levels of the Tigers’ defense, earning all-region honors during a breakout campaign that ended in the state finals.

But Oscar Smith didn’t win its final game of 2019, fueling a sense of unfinished business among its returning players. Although the team had to wait a year and a half to earn its way back to the championship round of the Virginia state playoffs, Freeman and his teammates were able to capture the long-coveted state title trophy in early May.

For Freeman, it was obviously a great way to close his high school career mere weeks before he left to join his new program in Bloomington. It was even sweeter considering the stop-and-start nature of his state’s high school sports calendar over the past year. After a long wait, Freeman was able to leave high school exactly how he wanted.

“It meant a lot because I really wanted that ring,” Freeman said. “This (was) what we’ve been working hard for during the whole COVID season. There was a lot we had to do (in order to play) so it was really meaningful for all the seniors. We got it done.”

Freeman is eager to be a part of even more meaningful victories at the college level. But first, he has to learn a new position. The good news for Freeman is that many of the concepts that will be thrown his way in fall camp later this summer won’t be completely foreign. Playing both linebacker and safety in high school should help with the transition, he believes.

“I really like playing man and it’s really a man position,” Freeman said. “I love coming off the edge, coming down and setting the edge, and fitting the right gaps and everything. That’s what I really like about it.”

With Marcelino Ball and Bryant Fitzgerald slotted into the two-deep at Husky entering fall camp, there’s no real rush to get Freeman onto the field. Barring injuries, his quickest route to playing time could be on one of IU’s special teams cover units.

Either way, IU’s coaching staff likes his chances to become a factor in the years to come.

“He is looking for people to hit,” Allen said.

That’s a good skill to have in the IU defense, and one that could put a scare into the rest of the Big Ten before long.