Written By: Nick Holmes (@HoosierHolmes)
Good morning and welcome back, we are on the cusp of the weekend, the last weekend in fact without college football for the next four plus months. Just eight more days separate the Hoosiers from their season opener against Southern Illinois, a showdown that will take place inside Memorial Stadium at 4 pm. The team has been hard at work since the Old Oaken Bucket last November, in hopes of achieving bigger and greater things this fall. The Hoosiers will need strong performances out of a lot of players on both sides of the ball, especially from the players on our countdown today, running back Jordan Howard and linebacker Tegray Scales.
The running back position is up for grabs and the candidates to push for snaps is somewhat dwindling. Tevin Coleman is Atlanta suiting up for the Falcons, D'Angelo Roberts graduated, Myles Graham announced he would be leaving the squad to head to Monmouth back in February, and yesterday we learned that Tommy Mister would also be transferring elsewhere, leaving the team with three scholarship running backs, Devine Redding, former walk-on Ricky Brookins Jr., and Jordan Howard.
Hoosier Nation has been on the Howard hype train since UAB first announced that they would be closing the doors on their football program. With the all but certain news that Coleman would be foregoing his final season with the team, Indiana was hopeful it could reel in the 1,500-plus yard back, and Coach McCullough did just that, impressing upon Howard that he too could be successful in the Hoosiers' offense.
Now as they begin preparations for the Salukis, the Hoosier coaching staff will have to decide who they will trot out first at running back, Howard or Sophomore Redding, although it is largely inconsequential as both players will see heavy playing time. Both players bring different strengths to the gridiron, but although Howard has been advertised as a big, bruising back, he can still scoot, as he was clocked in at 4.4 this spring while running the forty.
It remains to be seen whether he can replicate the success he had down in Birmingham, at this point however, it looks like Howard fell into the perfect situation, running behind an established and talented offensive line and playing for one of the best running back coaches in the nation, Deland McCullough. Now with a little over a week until the season, Hoosier fans are anxious to see what Howard can do while wearing the Cream and Crimson this fall.
Linebacker will be a strength for the Hoosiers defense this fall, led by Cincinnati native Tegray Scales. Entering his second season in Bloomington, Scales looks to improve upon an outstanding freshman campaign when he recorded 46 tackles, with two sacks (11 yards), 4.5 tackles for loss (14 yards), and three interceptions. He received numerous accolades as a result, including being named a 247Sports.com True Freshman All-American, second team Scout.com Freshman All-American, BTN.com and 247Sports.com All-Big Ten Freshman team, and was selected as IU’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year.
The Hoosiers defense took a step forward in year one under defensive coordinator Brian Knorr, but for this team to become bowl eligible, they’re going to need further improvement. With the youth movement going on in the secondary, the front seven’s performance becomes even more critical to achieving this goal. There’s more talent at inside linebacker than there has been in previous seasons, as Junior T.J. Simmons will likely start beside Scales, with Marcus Oliver, Greg Gooch, and Reakwon Jones all providing depth, definitely an encouraging sign of things to come.
Scales is as naturally gifted and talented as anyone on the defensive side of the ball for the Hoosiers, so it is likely that he will find his name on numerous All-Big Ten teams when the season comes to a close. The sky is truly the limit for this talented linebacker.When his career eventually comes to a close in Bloomington, there’s a good chance he will hear his name announced from the podium of the NFL draft in a couple of years and will be playing on Sundays in the near future.
Now enjoy this last weekend before the season gets underway, before you become glued to your couch until next spring.