Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
The first half of the college football season has flown by. The Hoosiers sit at 4-2 (0-2) at this juncture. It is probably exactly where they should be after six games in terms of their record. So how did the Hoosier defense graded out at Hoosier Huddle? Let’s take a look.
Overall Defense: C
The Indiana defense has been boom or bust so far in 2015. They are allowing 31.8 points per game, down from 32.8 from 2014, over the first six games. The Hoosiers do rank at or near the bottom of the conference in big plays allowed. They have surrendered 40 plays of 20+ yards o (13th), 16 plays of 30+ yards (13th), nine plays of 40+ yards (T-12th), nine plays of 50+ yards (14th), seven plays of 60+ yards (14th), four plays of 70+ yards (14th).
However the defense does have some bright spots. They lead the conference in turnover margin at +9, averaging 1.5 turnovers per game and have risen to the middle of the pack in red zone defense and rank sixth in sacks averaging 2.67 per game.
Indiana needs to improve on the communication in the secondary, tackling at the line of scrimmage, and limiting major penalties if they want to finish the season with six wins.
Defensive Line: B-
The Hoosiers moved senior Nick Mangieri back to defensive end prior to the season and it has turned out spectacularly so far as he is third is the conference with seven sacks. Zack Shaw, who was moved to the bandit position, has three sacks to his name. So why a B-minus? Well when your two biggest defensive tackles have been suspended for three total games it is concerning. Darius Latham and Ralph Green III missed the season opener where IU gave up 46 points to FCS foe Southern Illinois. Latham was also suspended for IU’s 34-27 loss to Ohio State. You just cannot have these player missing games if the defense is going to make strides.
One of the deeper units on the team the linebackers are led by redshirt sophomore Marcus Oliver who has shown a nose for the ball in the first half of the season. He is tied for fourth in the conference with three forced fumbles and leads the Hoosiers with 47 tackles. Tegrey Scales missed the first two games of the season, but has come on the play very well over the last four. T.J. Simmons, the elder statesman of the group, has fallen victim to the big play and has issues in pass defense, but has proven to be one of the better tacklers on the team.
This is the most difficult unit to grade. They have looked really bad at times, but then they make unbelievable plays. Miscommunications and poor reads have led to numerous big plays in both the passing and running game, but they have the conference leader in pass breakups in Rashard Fant and have accounted for four interceptions and two pick sixes.
The young talent is there with Jonathan Crawford, Jameel Cook, and Tony Fields but it is probably still a year away from being really good. While Chase Dutra has looked solid, it still seems like he is shaking off some rust after missing the first two weeks with an injury. Right now though Hoosier fans are going to have to live with the boom or bust plays.