Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
One of the key members of IU’s defensive line rotation has been suspended indefinitely. Junior defensive tackle Darius Latham will not be competing with the Indiana football team until the resolution of an investigation by the Indiana University Office of Student Ethics. We have no clue how many games Latham will miss but we can safely assume he won’t be playing on Saturday. So, what does his absence mean for the Hoosiers?
This is the second suspension of the season for Latham (he also missed the SIU game for a suspension stemming from not living up to program standards) and his loss will be felt. In his three games during this season, Latham leads the team in tackles for loss with 5 (Nick Mangieri is second with 3). He also has two sacks and one pass breakup. Losing a player that caused such disruption in the opposition backfield is problematic for the Hoosier defense. Latham’s ability to put opponents behind schedule on offense made a big difference for the IU defense and the remaining defensive tackles in the playing rotation have yet to contribute a single tackle for loss.
Adarius Rayner is likely to continue to “start” in the middle of the defensive line and Ralph Green III will probably see his snaps increase a little bit. Nate Hoff (RS-SO from Ohio) and Shawn Heffern (RS-JR from Carmel, IN) have both seen action during this season and both will probably see an increased role for as long as Latham is out. I think a couple of guys that could see their roles and playing time increase due to this suspension are Jacob Robinson (FR from Westfield, IN) and Robert McCray (SO from Georgia). Robinson has seen playing time in all four games and he already has a pair of solo tackles on the young season. Robert McCray played a significant number of snaps against Wake Forest and the coaching staff has commented that they like his athleticism and ability to make things happen. McCray committed a face-masking penalty against Wake Forest quarterback Kendall Hinton but he did a nice job of shedding his blocker and getting to the quarterback prior to the penalty.
Losing Darius Latham for any period of time is going to hurt this Indiana defense. However, football is definitely a team sport and IU’s coaching staff has worked on making this a deeper roster and a roster that is capable of dealing with a few injuries or suspensions. We’ll see if young players like McCray, Hoff and Robinson are able to replicate the disrupting play of Latham along the defensive front. They won’t have any time to ease into things, the defending champs roll into town this Saturday.