Written by Nathan Comp
When the Indiana defense peers into its 2019 defensive secondary, a significant hole will be visible. That hole is named Jonathan Crawford.
275 tackles, 182 solo, 9 interceptions, 19 total takeaways. Just the 12th player in Big Ten history to start 50 games, every game in his career. Crawford has truly been a staple of the Indiana defense the past four years. He is now moved on to tackling the goal of making an NFL roster, and for the 2019 Hoosiers, this leaves the task of replacing his production.
“It takes everybody in the room, I’m gonna be honest with you” said safeties coach Kasey Teegarden. “It takes everybody challenging each other every single day in our room just to keep that continuity together. None of us is as strong as all of us.”
It will take a collective effort, and it will take an everyday intensity to bring back the elite defense Coach Allen had built in 2016 and 2017.
“Coach Kane always mentions swagger, we gotta come out with a swagger every day. Even if we get beat one time, we have to come back and play the next play,” said Devon “Monster” Matthews.
The road will be even tougher for a room that features primarily underclassmen. Though many impact safeties have logged time, the oldest in the room is senior Khalil Bryant who has played in 33 games, including nine starts. Bryant has made 50 career tackles to go along with a forced fumble and an interception. He will be leaned on to mentor players like Bryant Fitzgerald and Devon Matthews. The two freshmen combined for 51 tackles including three for a loss as well as two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four interceptions. The play making abilities are there.
Teegarden does have one thing going for him, however.
“We’ve got a more talented room, in my opinion, than it has ever been since I’ve been here. That’s a tribute to the guys that came before everyone that is here now, and the staff’s phenomenal job of finding and recruiting guys.”
They’ll need all of this talent to replace the legacy Crawford left behind. He was one of the best to ever put on the IU uniform at the position.
“The productivity, the starts… The guy never missed a practice.”