Let’s start this blog post with a tweet.
Best Linebacker returning to CFB? pic.twitter.com/ycgHEPxJ1E— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 8, 2021
You read that correctly. Even in this economy, your Indiana Football Hoosiers might have the best linebacker in the country in Micah McFadden, who was named a First Team All-Big Ten selection last season, alongside Ohio State’s Pete Werner (a second-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft) and Northwestern’s Paddy Fisher.
McFadden also earned All-American honors from Phil Steele (second team) and the Associated Press (third team), while receiving the program’s Anthony Thompson Most Valuable Player award.
Now a senior, McFadden might be the best player on an Indiana roster with a handful of other All-American candidates, such as wide receiver Ty Fryfogle, cornerback Tiawan Mullen and quarterback Michael Penix Jr. He’s the cornerstone for IU’s defense and its linebacking core entering the 2021 season.
Here’s what IU’s two-deep at linebacker looked like when the program released its first depth chart for 2021 back in July. Under the 4-2-5 scheme that IU ran under former defensive coordinator Kane Wommack and that the Hoosiers will continue under Wommack’s replacement, Charlton Warren, there are only two true linebackers on the field in the team’s base defense.
47 Micah McFadden, 6-2, 232, Sr.
8 James Miller, 6-2, 223, Jr.
44 Thomas Allen, 6-3, 240, Sr.
4 Cam Jones, 6-3, 224, Sr.
46 Aaron Casey, 6-2, 228, Jr.
Here are the 2020 stats from the IU linebackers who are on the team’s 2021 two-deep, from the team’s eight games last season:
Micah McFadden: 59 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 6.0 sacks, 2 INT
Cam Jones: 35 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks
James Miller: 24 tackles
Aaron Casey: 15 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 1.0 sack
Thomas Allen: 7 tackles
McFadden led the team, by a wide margin, in tackles (17 more than the next-closest Hoosier), tackles for loss (six more) and sacks (two more), and his fellow starter Cam Jones, who was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick in 2020, ranked in the top five in the team in all three statistical categories.
It’s not a bad thing for a pair of seniors to lead IU’s linebacking corps in a season in which the Hoosiers, ranked in the preseason AP poll for the first time since 1969, are adapting to a new defensive coordinator.
A sign that IU feels very comfortable with its current linebacking core? The Hoosiers didn’t sign a single high school linebacker or add any linebackers through the transfer portal in its 2021 recruiting class or during the offseason, respectively. The Hoosiers only signed one linebacker in their 2020 recruiting class – three-star linebacker Ty Wise out of Carmel – so this is an experienced, top-heavy bunch in the middle of IU’s defense.
Linebacker might be IU’s strongest position group and with two senior starters, 2021 is the Hoosiers’ final chance to capitalize on the tandem of Micah McFadden and Cam Jones, who, in addition to sharing spots atop IU’s statistical leaders, could share space on All-Big Ten lists this winter.