First Quarter Grades: Indiana Hoosiers Defense

Written by Lloyd Ribner III (@Ribner3

 The parents of the Hoosier Defense will not be as happy as their offensive friends when they receive first quarter grades.

The parents of the Hoosier Defense will not be as happy as their offensive friends when they receive first quarter grades.

While we may be only three games into the season, it also happens to be the quarter mark of the 2013 slate. Isn’t it amazing how much quicker time flies when football is around?! Well, with that unfortunately being the case, we decided it was time to take a look back at the opening trio of games that the Hoosiers have played.

As opposed to doing a boring breakdown of each game, we decided to spice things up a bit and give a first quarter report card to each unit of the team. Yesterday we kicked things off with the offense, but don’t worry, we’re back today grading the defense and tomorrow we will even take a look at special teams and the coaches. So stay tuned!

Defense:

Defensive Line:

Breakdown: Heading into the season not much was expected from the Hoosier defensive line, and was the only unit thought to possibly take a step back. While the defense as a whole last year was rather abysmal, a pair of senior starters in Larry Black and Adam Replogle anchored the middle of the defensive line. While the line as a whole has been far from stout, there have been some very bright spots. Leading that charge is Nick Mangieri, the sophomore defensive end. So far through three games he has 3.5 tackles for loss, including two sacks. Oh, and don’t forget he also has an interception to add to his stat sheet, half of the Hoosiers total. Fellow starter Bobby Richardson has 16 total tackles of his own leading the line from the defensive tackle spot. In addition to the starters, there has been some depth that has flashed as well, as another defensive tackle Adarius Rayner has had a big start to his season. Through the first three games the sophomore has two sacks to his name. Junior defensive end Ryan Phillis has been the biggest disappointment thus far along the line. He has just three total tackles, and one sack so far through the first quarter of the season. While Darius Latham has seen playing time, he has been far from an immediate impact player, recording just five tackles of his own. Gap discipline has been a big question mark for this group. They had a very tough time against a considerably undersized Navy offensive line. While they have been able to limit things against the likes of FCS and MAC opponents, the line could be a real problem once Big Ten play comes along.

First Quarter Grade: C-

Linebackers:

Breakdown: David Cooper had a breakout season last year, as he was second on the team in tackles. In 2013 he has showed up early and often, leading Indiana in tackles through the first three games. In addition to his 27 tackles, he also has one for loss, including half a sack. Almost as important as what he does on the field as a player, is the way he provides leadership and a steady rock for the rest of the defense, especially the linebackers, to lean on. Junior weak side linebacker Forisse Hardin has acquitted himself nicely through three games. However, Flo has been far from an impact player, as he has just 16 tackles, with just one for loss. The best present that the Doug Mallory has received early this year has to be true freshman T.J. Simmons. While he was a three-star prospect out of the state of Florida, he flew a bit under the radar. That will be considerably harder to do after he has posted 21 tackles including 1.5 for loss in the first three games of his collegiate career. Reserves Zack Shaw and Steven Funderburk have provided nice depth at the position, combining for 16 tackles. While the linebackers are able to make some plays, they leave much to be desired. They do not pressure the quarterback at all. So you would think they would force turnovers, right? Well that has not been the case either. They looked considerably better against Bowling Green, but when they were tested against Navy, they failed miserably.

First Quarter Grade: C

Secondary:

Breakdown: As much as the secondary hasn’t looked great at times, they do not get much help at all from those up front. Greg Heban is once again leading the way along the final line of defense in Bloomington. The senior leader has 24 total tackles on the year, second on the team. Third on the team is fellow starter cornerback Tim Bennett. That fact alone tells all you need to know about this Hoosiers defense. But wait that is not all, what is even more eye-popping is that as a unit the secondary has just one interception, hauled in by corner Michael Hunter. Arguably the most exciting player in the secondary is Antonio Allen. Just a true freshman, Allen cracked the two-deep from day one and already is eighth on the team in tackles with 13. While the line does not help much as stated earlier, it would be nice to see a change in mentality. While they have not allowed crazy passing numbers this year, they also have not played the teams who would do it, with the best opponent on the schedule being Navy, who runs a triple-option. With that being the case, it would be nice to see the Hoosiers adopt a more aggressive mentality when it comes to playing the pass. Since no one expects this defense to finish in the top half of the Big Ten, why not go out there and gamble a bit on some big plays?

First Quarter Grade: C+

Overall Defense:

Breakdown: We all knew that this defense was going to be far from a juggernaut heading into 2013, so it is hard to be disappointed. Against lesser teams the Hoosiers actually looked stout, most especially in their performance against Bowling Green. The problem is that just the week before the defense was absolutely shredded in their toughest game thus far. Indiana has had both an FCS and MAC team on their schedule, which they blew out, yet are still allowing 410 yards per game. The lack of big play production has been troubling. As a team the Hoosiers have just seven sacks and two interceptions. While the big play isn’t there, neither are fundamentals. Gap discipline along the line is lacking, tackling has not been consistent and opposing players have run wide open all over the field. Just as I did with the offense, I delved a bit deeper statistically defensively as well. While the Indiana offense ranked pretty well in the Football Outsiders S&P+ ranking, the same cannot be said for the defense. They come in ranked 83rd nationally in terms of S&P+, which takes into account success rate, points per play, drive efficiency, and adjust for opponents. If you are interested in delving deeper into these stats, your welcome to check out Football Outsiders S&P+ defensive rankings here.  The defense is lagging far behind the offense, and will need to show major improvement over the next three quarters if they want a grade that would get them accepted to Indiana University.

First Quarter Grade: C-