Spring Practice 2018 Position Breakdown: Husky

Marcelino Ball was forced to sit out all but three games last year with a leg injury.  Image: Sarah Miller Hoosier Huddle

Marcelino Ball was forced to sit out all but three games last year with a leg injury. Image: Sarah Miller Hoosier Huddle

Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)

The Indiana Hoosiers run a 4-2-5 base defense and one of the key positions to make this a potent system is the “Husky”. This player is a hybrid linebacker/safety that must be stout and physical against the run while also being capable of aiding in coverage. The Hoosiers brought in Marcelino Ball and immediately plugged him into the starting Husky position during the 2016 season and the sophomore was having a strong 2017 season before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the third game of the season. IU turned to Tony Fields and others to plug the hole but his absence was noticeable and his physical presence was sorely missed. Ball will return to the lineup in 2018 and he is expected to win back his starting role at Husky. He’s far from alone at the position as the Hoosiers have recruited well here.

Starter – Marcelino Ball – 6’0”/210 – RS-SO – The redshirt sophomore from Roswell, Georgia had 10 tackles against the Ohio State Buckeyes and then eight in game number two as IU won at Virginia. He is an outstanding piece for this defense and is one of the more physically imposing players on the roster when you see him in person. Marcelino Ball needs to improve his awareness in coverage a bit as he got lost a few times during his freshman season. He is much more experienced now and I fully expect him to turn into an above average coverage man for IU’s defense. That being said, he will always be more of an asset against the run and as a potential blitzer to wreak havoc in the backfield. I touch on this more in the linebacker article but what if IU is concerned about depth at linebacker and also feel good about the guys behind Ball at Husky? What if the staff asks Ball to add 10-15 pounds to his frame and become a linebacker to pair with someone like Mo Burnam or Cam Jones? I don’t expect that to happen but it is something to at least think about as a possibility. Until proven otherwise though, he’s the starter at Husky and a leader on defense.

Exciting Depth – After a bizarre and frustrating mistake by Indiana’s compliance department (and another infuriating lack of common sense applied by the NCAA), Bryant Fitzgerald was forced to redshirt the 2017 season. The redshirt was made all the more noticeable when Ball was lost for the season to injury. However, it’s time to bury the past and look to the immediate future and the future is quite bright for the Avon, Indiana native. Fitzgerald is a heavy hitter with a frame built for the Husky position and IU’s defense. He was a safety/defensive back and athlete for Avon High School and chose IU over several other Power Five offers. Fitzgerald is seen as the primary back up for Ball and the heir apparent at the position.

While Noah Pierre is undersized for the position right now, he was brought in to play Husky and the coaches believe he has the potential to be a difference-maker for the Hoosiers. A terrific athlete and ferocious hitter from Florida, Pierre was a surprise Signing Day addition to the 2018 class and fans immediately began scrambling to find out where Pierre would be playing. According to recruiting analysts and Pierre himself, he’ll be initially given a chance at Husky. He had 45 tackles, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and 10 pass break-ups as a senior as he helped lead his team to a state championship. Pierre’s highlight film shows an explosive hitter and playmaker but it also shows a guy that will need to add at least 15 pounds to his frame if he is going to be able to play Husky in the Big Ten and stand up to the run consistently. A redshirt season would be preferred for Pierre but he might find his way onto the field as a returner due to his tremendous speed.

Those are the three guys that we feel very confident will be lining up at Husky. I expect another couple of players to be given some reps there at practice and there are a number of options as the Hoosiers have brought in a number of athletes that are capable of being tried at safety, linebacker or Husky, depending on how the coaches choose to deploy them. We’ll include a few of the more likely candidates here. Isaac James is a redshirt junior from Carmel High School in Indiana that has yet to find a home position-wise. Perhaps Husky would make sense. He’s 5’11” and could likely bulk up to around 205 pounds relatively quickly. He has the speed and athleticism to make it work. The question would be whether or not he has the ability to play physically enough to be an asset instead of a liability against the run. If the coaches don’t like him at Husky, he’s probably a special teams contributor and depth at corner.

The first commit of the 2018 recruiting class, Jordan Jusevitch, is a highly-productive underrated freshman from Lowell, Indiana. He enters IU as a 6’0”, 200 pound safety that will be adding weight to his frame. The question is whether the coaches like him as a speedy linebacker or at Husky. I expect him to redshirt but an injury or two could put Jusevitch into the mix as a special teams contributor or at one of the positions I mentioned. If he can get to 210-215 pounds, the coaches will have a decision to make. 

The Husky position is a unique one that is not used by many programs in college football. It’s part safety, part cornerback, part linebacker and a good Husky helps as an enforcer against the run and an extra coverage person against tight ends and bigger receiving targets. IU has a proven commodity in Marcelino Ball and a very exciting redshirt freshman in Bryant Fitzgerald. Behind those two, there are a number of athletes that could make for good depth pieces depending on how the coaching staff chooses to utilize them. In short, I feel good about this position entering the 2018 season and if Ball and Fitzgerald can stay healthy, I think this can be a strength for the IU defense.

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