By the numbers from 2021, you may think that the Indiana defense did not perform its job well. Indiana allowed 33 points per game last season, surrendering 147 rushing yards per game and 237 passing yards per game. They also only forced 9 turnovers on a team that prides itself on turnovers.
All of that taken into consideration, the defense was not bad last year. To start the season, they were actually quite good. The 50 yard rushing touchdown on the first possession against Iowa aside, through the first 6 games, the Indiana defense was quite stout. The defense only gave up 20 points (17 if you’re like me and consider the last second field goal the fault of the offense) in their first game on the road at Iowa. They had UC late in the first half with only 3 points before a targeting call on 3rd down gave UC life and took Micah McFadden out of the game. They walked into a matchup with highly ranked Penn State and held their own, surrendering 24 very hard earned points to the Nittany Lions. They also stifled the Michigan State running attack, allowing Kenneth Walker III only 84 yards on the ground and -5 in the air. Bad defenses don’t give their teams chances to win.
Once the Ohio State beating commenced and injuries began to creep up on them, the defense folded like a lawn chair. That sort of thing tends to happen when you face 5 top 25 teams (4 top 10 at the time of the game) in 7 weeks. Oh, and shoot. You also throw a top 10 Michigan in there in game 9 as well for good measure. The schedule was definitely stacked against Indiana and they never made it to the light. The more disappointing aspect of the defense was that there was very little fight in the Hoosiers after Ohio State. The back 6 games, admittedly the easiest stretch of games had more points allowed than the front loaded half. Not a good look.
So what’s 2022 going to look like? Well, quite frankly it’s going to look very much like 2021.
LB – Micah McFadden -> New York Giants (5th Round Selection)
LB – James Miller -> South Alabama
LB – Ty Wise -> Miami (OH)
LB – Cam Williams
LB – DK Bonhomme -> South Alabama
LB – Michael Ziemba -> Real World
LB – Jaren Handy -> Dismissed from team
CB – Reese Taylor -> Purdue
CB – Larry Smith
CB – Joseph Daniels Jr
CB – Larry Tracy III -> Illinois State
DB – Raheem Layne -> Los Angeles Chargers
DB – Maurice Freeman - Liberty
S – Juwan Burgess
S – Jordan Jusevitch -> Indiana State
S – Marcelino Ball -> Real World
DL – Gavin McCabe
DL – CJ Person -> South Alabama
DE – Ryder Anderson -> Green Bay Packers
DE – Jonathan King
DT – Shamar Jones -> Chattanooga
There are obvious holes that some of these guys are going to leave. Micah McFadden was the heart and soul of this Indiana defense for well over 2 years. There’s a reason he was drafted. Ryder Anderson and Raheem Layne are also two guys that are going to leave holes open in this crew. Ryder was a solid addition from Auburn and I think he was as advertised. Raheem Layne operated at a level that challenged Mullen for the top CB slot as well. Three guys that it sucks that are leaving, but I’m happy for them to chase their dreams.
Others on this list are going to leave holes and opportunities for young guys and transfers. Seeing some names on this list, like Ty Wise, aren’t surprising to me. Seeing Reese Taylor play at Indiana for what seemed like forever and then transferring to Purdue is strange and unwelcome, but I get he may have wanted out of this dog and pony show. It’s perplexing that Cam Williams and Juwan Burgess are leaving as I thought they’d be shoe-ins for starting spots this year.
Anyway, the biggest losses are the three NFL players that signed deals. The others can be filled in with transfers and freshmen. Let’s see what we brought in.
CB – Jonathan Haynes <- Ole Miss
DT – Patrick Lucas <- Ole Miss
DL – LaDarrius Cox <- Ole Miss
DE – JH Tevis <- California
LB – Bradley Jennings Jr <- Miami (FL)
LB – Jared Casey <- Kentucky
LB/DE – Myles Jackson <- UCLA
Recruits (247 * Rankings)
LB – Dasan McCullough – 4*
LB – Kaiden Turner – 3*
LB – Isaiah Jones – 3*
DL – Dominick James – 4*
DL – Venson Sneed – 3*
DL – J’mari Monette – 3*
DL – Richard Thomas – 3*
CB – James Monds III – 3*
CB – Trevell Mullen – 4*
CB – Jamari Sharpe – 3*
S – Phillip Dunnam – 3*
ATH – Jaylin Lucas – 3*
Overall, this group could plug in some holes quite nicely. Let’s start with the recruits. I consider Trevell Mullen, brother of Tiawan Mullen to be an instant threat to score playing time. With the CBs leaving and him perhaps being just as good as his brother, he could play right away. I also see Dasan McCullough, son of former running backs coach DeLand McCullough, carving out a role immediately. Dasan is a large, 6-5 presence and has been on campus since the new year. He is the 75th ranked recruit on 247 and could very easily be in contention for a freshman of the year type season.
The others, such as Dominick James and James Monds, could find roles out there in spots but I’m not anticipating it. Dominick may be a 4*, but so was Beau Robbins and he’s not sniffed the field in 3 years. Monds actually seems like an enigma to me, as he wasn’t ranked on 247 until he signed with Indiana. Yeah, I know how 247 works, but its still weird.
As for the transfers, I think it’s just expected for the SEC guys to come in and play right away. Holes have been created with departures, and who better to fill them than upper classmen. Might also want to note that Myles Jackson and Jared Casey are both sophomores and could be around for a bit. Lucas and Cox are juniors. The others are seniors. So it looks like Allen and company might have done enough defensively to keep the holes plugged.
Guys Sticking Around
DL – Sio Nofoagatoto’a – Aside from having Thump’s vote for best name on the team, Sio has been a great guy to have on the line. He’s been improving each year and having him back will be a big reason why the Indiana D-Line might just be one of the best in the conference.
DL – Beau Robbins – Beau is perhaps the shining example of why Indiana fans shouldn’t get excited about 4* prospects. Beau was a 4 star prospect on ESPN and 247 coming out of high school…in 2019. Last season, he played in 3 games. He redshirted and did not play in 2019 and then just practice squadded up for 2020 and 2021. Perhaps this is the year where Robbins is allowed to play. If he’s able to live up to his ranking, it could really help this Hoosier team out.
DL – Demarcus Elliott – Demarcus is back and with experience, should provide another good base for Indiana to go off.
LB – Cam Jones – Cam Jones is the replacement for Micah McFadden. If he wants the job, at least to start, it’s his. He’s had a wonderful career at Indiana and I think he could really help this team out.
S – Bryant Fitzgerald - I genuinely have no thoughts but he returns so yay, experience.
S – Devon Matthews - I genuinely have no thoughts but he returns so yay, experience.
CB - Jaylin Williams – Jaylin will be a senior across from star Tiawan Mullen to start the year. Those two guys working the 1 and 2 options will be hard for medium to bad QBs to get around, perhaps even good QBs will struggle with certain packages. He’s been a heads up player his whole career and I expect that to continue.
CB – Tiawan Mullen – The All American. The start. The shining example of how important recruiting pipelines to Florida can be. Tiawan decided to give up going to the draft this year and instead stick around and see if he can be a day 1 pick. Tiawan was injured in the Penn State game and never really made it back to action. Given how back the team was, that was a wise choice. Now, he can play on the same team as his brother, and perhaps pick up and All-American honor, as well and perhaps compete for other national awards.
There is plenty of room for optimism on this side of the ball. While I don’t know if they’ll be as good without Micah anchoring the middle, they’ve brought in guys that just might be able to. They also keep several of their key contributors from a defense that was not as bad as the overall numbers lead you to believe. I think the defense can make a killing off of Illinois in the first game, as well as really show out in the first half of the schedule. If there’s a reason to be optimistic that Tom Allen is the guy for the job, this defense he’s built and maintained over the last 4-5 years is the reason. Let’s hope it gets back to its roots quickly.