After Indiana finished 10th in the Big Ten in scoring defense last season, IU coach Bill Lynch said Monday that schematic changes will be made to the defense beginning this spring.
“We’re going to be a little bit more multiple,” he said.
What that means specifically, Lynch said, is the Hoosiers will occasionally work in a 3-4 front with its base 4-3. Lynch stressed that it won’t be a wholesale change, and that anyone who attends the first few sessions of spring practice won’t see any use of the 3-4 at all. The Hoosiers don’t have the personnel to run an NFL style 3-4, Lynch said, mostly because they don’t have a truly monstrous nose tackle to put in the middle of the defense.
What they do have, though, is a group of defensive ends who are slightly smaller but more athletic than the prototypes, and who could be just as effective if not more so standing up than they could be coming out of a three-point stance.
“We felt like being able to play both a four-down lineman scheme and three down linemen, it fits what we have,” Lynch said. “We’ve got the good interior guys, but then we have different kinds of ends. We got a little bit spoiled. For three years we had two big physical guys who could play with their hand down in (Greg) Middleton and (Jammie) Kirlew. Now we’ve got a group of those guys in Fred Jones and Eric Thomas and Deonte Mack, but then we have some more athletic guys that are a combination linebacker and defensive ends, so I think we’ll have the ability, I think to play with three down linemen and more linebackers in the game.”
The two biggest catalysts for the move, Lynch said, are fourth-year junior Darius Johnson and redshirt freshman Javon Cornley. Johnson, a 6-foot, 255-pounder, played in the first three games last season and recorded a sack along with eight tackles. Cornley, a 6-foot-5, 235-pounder was often mentioned as one of the most impressive players in last year’s true freshman class.
Lynch stressed that the Hoosiers would take their time with the process
“If you’re out there the first few practices, it’s going to look very much like last year,” Lynch said. “I don’t want to say, ‘We’re going to do this,’ and then you go, ‘Coach, I’ve been at practice, you’ve never played a 34.’ So we’ll get into it, but it fits our personnel. I think probably as much as anything, we can do different kind of blitzing out of the 34 than we can out of the 4-3, so we’ll still have the standard things that we’re doing out of the 4-3, but we’ll do some different things out of the 3-4.”
Lynch said he thought the biggest problem with last season were third downs on most sides of the ball. He said on defense, the Hoosiers allowed teams to get to third-and-short too many times, meaning they obviously need to get better on first and second down.
“I think being more multiple on first down and doing some things out of a 34 front can help us get them in third and long,” Lynch said. “… We want to be more multiple, we want to give offenses a little more to work on, and I think it fits our personnel.”
There were a few other bits of news in Lynch’s spring practice preview press conference. Wide receiver Terrance Turner joins a somewhat lengthy list of players who will miss the spring with injuries. Lynch said Turner had “neck surgery” but that he is expected to make a complete recovery. Also missing spring practice will be converted safety Mitchell Evans (hip), left guard Justin Pagan (ankle), defensive end Terrance Thomas (shoulder) and running back Zach Davis-Walker (foot).
As previously reported, Evans has moved from wide receiver and wildcat quarterback to safety. Wide receiver Matt Ernest, who will be limited in practice this spring because he’s also pitching with the baseball team, has moved to cornerback. Shane Covington, a defensive back last season, has moved to running back.
Lynch said he expects Edward Wright-Baker and Dusty Kiel to battle for the spot at wildcat quarterback, filling in for Evans.
Also, the departure of Bobby Johnson and the arrival of Mo Moriarity as offensive line coach wasn’t the only change in the coaching staff. Tim Cooper, who was the defensive quality control assistant, left to be the co-defensive coordinator at Butler. Bill’s son Kevin, the offensive quality control assistant, left to become the wide receivers coach at the University of Indianapolis. Lynch said he filled the defensive quality control spot with David Elson, the former Western Kentucky head coach, who has ties going a long way back with Lynch.