Written By: Nick Holmes (@HoosierHolmes)
Welcome to the Monday Edition of Countdown to Kickoff, we have now made it two-thirds of the way through the Hoosiers' 2015 roster. We know it's important to get your week started off right and while we wish we could bring you a double shot of espresso, hopefully a double dose of the countdown will suffice (Cheesy I know, but you try coming up with an original introduction every few days for practically the same article). This fall the Hoosiers have two players sporting the number 33, Zach Shaw and Ricky Brookins Jr.
First taking a look at the redshirt senior from Coshocton, Oh., Shaw was a member of the Hoosiers' 2011 recruiting class, Coach Wilson's first at Indiana. Shaw played his prep ball at Coshocton High School, where as a junior he recorded a single-season school record 228 tackles and picked off eight passes and was named first team All-Ohio Division IV, All-Ohio Division IV Defensive Player of the Year, East District Player of the Year, first team East District linebacker and first team all-conference in 2009.
During his final season with the Redskins his presence was felt on both sides of the ball. On offense he carried the pigskin 153 times for 1,190 yards and 18 scores and caught six passes for 124 yards with two touchdowns. On defense he recorded 135 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, five interceptions (one touchdown), three sacks and two forced fumbles and was named first team All-Ohio Division IV, East District Player of the Year, first team East District linebacker and league player of the year in 2010. His 450 career tackles were most in school history.
After making his way to Bloomington during the summer of 2011, the coaching staff decided to redshirt the Ohio native to give him an opportunity to further physically develop. The following spring (2012) Shaw moved from linebacker to defensive end and the next season played in all 12 games, starting in nine while recording 29 tackles with two sacks and five tackles for loss. BTN.com named Shaw to their All-Big Ten Freshman team as a result of his outstanding effort. His sophomore season (2013) he started in two games and played in all 12, making 24 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss and one fumble recovery.
When the Hoosiers hired Brian Knorr, the team decided to run the 3-4 defense, an alignment Knorr had used at Wake Forest. The defense needed a couple of athletes that could play in the hybrid bandit position, a role that calls for the player to be able to pass rush and drop back into coverage. The team quickly identified Shaw and Nick Mangieri as the two most qualified candidates and both switched during the spring (2014). The two manned the position most of the season and played quite well in their new roles. Shaw played in all 12 games backing up Mangieri, recording 24 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. He also had one fumble recovery, a pass break up, and a quarterback hurry.
After the season was over Shaw reflected on how well he adapted to his new role on defense. "“I think I fit in pretty good,” Shaw said. “He uses us as kind of the guys if he needs us to rush; we can rush, but we can also drop into pass coverage if we want to. We’re there to stop the run, obviously, and we’re big guys, but we can move pretty well.”
With the graduation of the team's sack leader in Bobby Richardson, the Hoosiers needed to find a replacement at defensive end. The Hoosiers decided that moving Mangieri back to his old spot made the most sense, especially considering how well Shaw played last season at Bandit. "Zach Shaw played at his back up last year and probably played better than Nick (Mangieri)," said Wilson earlier this spring. " Not putting Nick down, but Zach played equally as well."
Entering his final season with Indiana, Shaw will play a critical role in helping the defense continue its rise towards respectability. As this is his second year in the position, Hoosier fans should expect an even better performance and increased production from Shaw this fall. Behind him at the position are some talented, albeit inexperienced athletes that Shaw will be able to mentor and prepare for the rigors of what awaits them in the months ahead.
Ricky Brookins Jr.
The running back from Terre Haute starred for the North side school, taking the Class 5A rushing title as senior with 2,012 yards on the ground. He averaged 8.1 yards per carry and scored 27 rushing touchdowns. He also added four receiving touchdowns, picked off two passes and recorded 15 tackles. When his career came to a close at Terre Haute North, he held six school records. He also excelled off the gridiron, as he was a member of the National Honor Society.
Brookins walked onto the Hoosiers football program last fall, taking a redshirt his first season with the team. He was, however, named scout team player of the week against Penn State. Now entering his second year with the program, Brookins looks to push for playing time on both special teams and as a backup running back.
As Coach Wilson has shown so many times in the past, he is more than willing to give walk-ons an opportunity to contribute on Saturdays if he deems they are deserving. Brookins played well during the spring, which undoubtedly caught the eyes of the coaching staff. While the Hoosiers look to have their top two running backs in place with Jordan Howard and Devine Redding, the third spot looks to be up for grabs and Brookins has as good as chance as any of the group. At the very least Brookins likely worked his way into some special teams action this fall.