Written By Alex Compton
At the spring practice that was open to the public a few weeks ago, I heard one fan say something that inspired this piece. “Who is number 54? We don’t have one of those.” Number 54? Well that’s Ja’merez Bowen, and you may want to get used to that name, since he figures to come up in a big way for the Hoosier defense this season and beyond.
Bowen came to Indiana last season after transferring from the University of Cincinnati. Out of high school, Bowen was a consensus three-star recruit and was ranked as the 51st best offensive tackle in the class. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds, the Bearcat coaching staff decided to redshirt Bowen as a freshman to develop his technique before letting him play. The fan base and coaching staff were happy with Bowen during his redshirt year, but he decided UC wasn’t for him, and Indiana came calling.
Due to a seriously talented and deep stable of offensive linemen currently on the roster, the coaching staff ultimately decided to flip Bowen over to the defensive side of the ball. This can be a very awkward transition for an offensive lineman, but Bowen did play some defensive line in high school and is also a superb athlete for someone his size, which will both help him make the switch easier. He obviously needs time to develop, but the ability that could make him a special player is certainly there. Defensive coordinator Tom Allen, a man with two-plus decades of coaching experience, can already tell that Coach Wilson may have landed a gem in Ja’merez Bowen.
“He’s a big ol’ body guy who can move. He shows flashes, and I said to coach Hagen, ‘He looks like some guys we played against at some other places I’ve been’. He has that body type, and so I’m thrilled to have him on defense. As the days pass you’ll see him getting better and better. For me, I think his upside and potential is sky-high.”
The big thing holding him back at this point obviously is snaps on defense. It’s a completely different mentality on the other side of the line, and is something that defensive line coach Mark Hagen has noticed so far during spring ball.
“The first few practices, he was like a backyard football guy.” Hagen said, “the ball was snapped and he was looking for the ball and he was getting blocked. We finally got him, got his eyes corrected a little bit and he’s been a much better player the last couple practices. We are still taking baby steps with him, but I think he’s a guy that again has a skill set where he can help us.”
As Bowen gets more comfortable playing defense, he should anchor the interior of the defensive line right along with Nate Hoff and Ralph Green III. He really excites the coaching staff because of the kind of a player he can become, and he should excite you too. While he may not ever be an All-B1G caliber player in his career, Ja’merez Bowen will provide immediate, talented depth to a position that IU has lacked that very trait over the last few seasons.
While many fans won’t know who #54 is, now you know. So when Ja’merez makes a big play this season and you hear, “who the heck is that guy?” in the stands, you can answer with confidence.
That’s Ja’merez Bowen.