With new defensive coordinator Charlton Warren in charge, the Hoosiers are doing something different this year. After each practice, they’re tallying the havoc plays — the tackles for loss, forced fumbles, sacks, pass breakups, picks, etc. — and spotlighting a daily leader.
Across two of the first four practices, the havoc leader was a defensive lineman. Both times, it was C.J. Person.
Entering his third year with the program, Person is being counted on to help fill the void left at three-technique by the departures of Jerome Johnson and Jovan Swann. Person, IU’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year in 2020, demonstrated in bursts last fall that he has the potential to be a difference maker up front. Less than a week into camp, he continues to fuel that belief.
“C.J. has always been a talented kid,” IU defensive line coach Kevin Peoples said Wednesday. “He’s twitchy. He’s got a little extra athleticism — a little twitch. He did some really good things for us last year.”
Indeed, Person made himself a factor in Indiana’s defensive line rotation as a redshirt freshman, appearing in all eight games and logging eight tackles, five solo stops — including a half for loss — and one breakup. In his first career start at Wisconsin on Dec. 5, he logged four solo tackles — three of which constituted a failure for the offense, according to data compiled by Pro Football Focus.
After a solid spring, Person enjoyed what Peoples called a “tremendous” summer, working with strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman to add muscle and develop his body into that of an impact Big Ten lineman.
“He’s done an unbelievable job of taking Coach Wellman’s leadership in the weight room and then changing the things that he needed to change,” Peoples said.
Alfred Bryant, a Bull lineman who partnered with Person in their lift group this summer, vouches for Peoples’ assessment, saying the Alabama native’s offseason work has turned him into a more explosive player in camp.
“He is a hard worker,” Bryant said. “He comes to work every day. He’s locked in — locked in during meetings, locked in in the film room, locked in in the weight room. He is a different guy. He comes to work every day. He gets after me. He gets after all of us. If we don’t show up to work, he’s gonna be on our butts about it, for sure.”
That’s a good sign for IU’s defense, which is hoping to find some impactful contributors on a new-look line this fall. So far, Person is answering that call.
“He’ll be a good piece of our team this year,” Bryant said.