2017 Season Grades: The Defense Was Really, Really Good, Just Not Great


Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)

Defense: B+

Tom Allen and the Hoosier defense had a goal of being a top-25 unit, they fell just short of that goal in the regular season finishing 26th in total defense. Much like the 2017 season, it was close but no cigar. However, this defense was really good even if they were held back with injuries and turnover luck.

The unit again was led by a strong linebacking corps that was headed by All-Big Ten honorees Tegray Scales and Chris Covington. Scales and Covington finished second and third on the team in tackles respectively with 89 and 85. But the issue here was that these two players were on the field way too much do to the lack of depth at the position. The next leading tackler at linebacker was Dameon Willis with 27 and behind him was Reakwon Jones at seven. JUCO transfer Mike McGinnis was disappointing making only seven stops in 11 games, mostly on special teams. This is a position IU will have to fill with talent through recruiting.

Indiana’s secondary was one of the most experienced units in the conference which set the bar high. The Hoosiers finished fifth in the Big Ten in pass defense allowing just 179.7 yards per game through the air. Those numbers are very respectable, but this unit was held back by a lack of takeaways, the secondary only picked off three passes and IU only had five in total after having 13 interceptions in 2016, 11 made by members of the secondary. The back end of the defense was riddled with injuries as Rashard Fant, A’Shonn Riggins and Andre Brown all missed games and Marcelino Ball played in just three games before being lost for the year with a leg injury. These injuries forced IU to play freshmen Rayheem Lane and LaDamion Hunt. Lane looked like he can be a really good corner for the Hoosiers, while Hunt was used in spot duty. With Crawford, Riggins, Ball and the freshmen coming back and the expectation that Juwan Burgess and Bryant Fitzgerald are rejoining the team, the secondary is in pretty good shape moving forward.

The most impressive unit on the defense was the defensive line, which lost their best pass rusher, Nile Skykes, in the preseason to injury. Line coach Mark Hagen worked his magic again as the Hoosiers finished fourth in the conference in sacks with 36. The unit was led by senior ends Robery McCray and Greg Gooch while Nate Hoff and Jacob Robinson played well in the middle. Youngsters Allen Stallings, Jerome Johnson and LeShaun Minor played well in spots and give this unit a bright future after Hoff, Gooch and McCray graduate.

The reason this unit doesn’t get an ‘A’ is because of their lack of takeaways, only taking the ball away 13 times and their performance against Maryland and Purdue when they gave up 174 and 272 yards on the ground respectfully.