Written By Nick Holmes (@HoosierHolmes)
There are now 49 days remaining until the Indiana Hoosiers kick-off the 2016 season in Miami against the Florida International Golden Panthers. Join us each day for each part of our 100-day countdown to the opener! Junior Greg Gooch is the number 49 for the Hoosiers.
Greg Gooch (Junior)
-Weight: 257 pounds
-Hometown: Longwood, Florida
-Position: Defensive Line
When fall camp opens next month, Coach Wilson and his staff’s top priorities are likely the following;
1) Anoint a new starting quarterback.
2) Find some playmakers who can get to the opposing quarterback.
Of course finding a starting quarterback who can deliver the pigskin to the wide-array of weapons around him is of the utmost importance to the team’s offensive success in 2016. Just as important to the Hoosiers success on defense is finding some players who can make life a living hell for opposing quarterbacks.
At times during the 2015 season Nick Mangieri and Zach Shaw were effective at getting into the backfield, combining for 13.5 sacks. Other times, regardless of how many players the Hoosiers brought on a blitz, quarterbacks still had all day to sit back and pick apart Indiana’s youthful secondary. Nevertheless, both Mangieri and Shaw have graduated and Indiana is now on the lookout for someone(s) to step up at defensive end.
Junior Greg Gooch is one of the names that could emerge from the laundry list of potential suitors for the vacant spot(s). I say spots because of not knowing exactly where the staff might play sophomore defensive lineman Jacob Robinson, as he was at defensive end last fall, but saw some action inside at tackle this spring.
Gooch made his way to Bloomington during the summer of 2014 after an outstanding high school career. As a senior he registered 77 tackles, seven sacks and 26 tackles for loss and was named to the Orlando Sentinel’s All-Area team. As you might have guessed, he had a long list of schools to choose from, including the likes of Cincinnati, Mississippi State, Louisville and Wisconsin, but picked Indiana just prior to National Signing Day 2014.
So far during his career he’s been stuck behind some of the defense’s better playmakers, including TJ Simmons, Marcus Oliver, Flo Hardin, Clyde Newton and Tegray Scales at linebacker and Zach Shaw when he shifted to Bandit. He still played in 24 of a possible 25 games during his first two seasons with the team, compiling 23 total tackles, including 1.5 for a loss and 1 sack in reserve action, but has yet to have the impact many believed he might as such a highly-ranked recruit.
Now, however, is the perfect opportunity to prove that he deserves to see more time on the field, in a position of great need. But, as we have seen over the years, it takes more than just plugging in a talented athlete at defensive end for there to be an effective pass rush.
Being an effective defensive end is quite the art form, asking players to mend and mold themselves into one of the more agile athletes on the field, while retaining their size and strength. Coaches are looking for players who are explosive, yet sturdy, powerful, but nimble. While these traits are not mutually exclusive of each other, finding a player who can dip their shoulder to get past an offensive lineman or go head on against him to disrupt a run play is much harder than you might expect.
It’s going to take more than bull rushing to be a successful defensive end in the Big Ten, as we have seen over the years. Whether Gooch possesses this type of ability remains to be seen, but he certainly looks the part at 6’2”, 257 pounds. In fact, he might be better suited with his hand on the ground than standing up and dropping into coverage. Although, that too remains to be seen as we have not had adequate exposure to him on the gridiron to say for certain.
With the lack of returning production at the spot it’s fair to say there are as many questions surrounding defensive end as there any other position on the team. It’s not that the Hoosiers lack options, as the team has some talented athletes who seem capable of manning the position, however few are proven at this point. In fact, none have really played consistently enough to show they can hold down the spot for the entire season.
That will need to change quickly if this defense is to make some strides in 2016 like all Hoosier fans are hoping.
Share any memories or recollections you have of Greg Gooch as a player in the comments section (or on the message boards) and be sure to come back to Hoosier Huddle each day during our countdown!