Written by Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
Hoosier Huddle continues its Spring Preview series today by focusing on the big fellas upfront on the defensive line. The defensive line sometimes goes unrecognized unless there is a sack or tackle for loss, but the biggest contribution that they can make may be to occupy the offensive line and allow the IU linebackers to run around and make plays. The Hoosiers lose some pieces up from in Jacob Robinson, Mike Barwick Jr. Nile Sykes, Kayton Samuels and Jamerez Bowen. So it’ll be up to the next group of seniors and underclassmen to improve upon last year’s performance. Defensive line coach Mark Hagen has done a tremendous job piecing together the line over the last three seasons. While the waters may be murky on who lines up where, fans can trust that Hagen will get the most out of his guys.
James Head Jr., Sophomore, 6’5”/248lbs
When James Head Jr. took the practice field last spring he stood out. He did not look like a true freshman early enrollee. He looked like an upper class-man ready to cause havoc. After playing in 11 games as a true freshman and making 17 tackles including three for a loss, Head is looking for more. With a year under his belt and another offseason in the strength program, Head can become the monster on the edge the Hoosiers have been looking for.
Jonathan King, Redshirt Freshman, 6’3”/270lbs
King was another highly touted recruit out of Florida finishing his high school career with 20.5 sacks. King has the chance to be a hybrid player in this defense, but his 270-pound frame could mean he’ll be on the inside (where talent is needed). The Hoosiers are thin in the interior of the line and this will be a great opportunity for King to show he belongs in the rotation.
Madison Norris, Redshirt Freshman. 6’5”/207lbs
With his lean frame Norris may be a one trick pony, but he could be really good at that one trick. Not only was Norris an outstanding defensive end at Hamilton Southeastern, he won the 2018 state title in the 110-meter hurdles. The man is fast and those fast twitch muscle could make him a terror off the end. Norris appeared in one game last season.
Jake Ostrowski, Redshirt Sophomore, 6’4”/239lbs
Ostrowski began his collegiate career up I-69 at Ball State where he redshirted the 2017 season. Prior to Ball State, Ostrowski played at Carrol High School in Fort Wayne where he made 46 tackles, seven sacks and five tackles for loss as he took home all-conference honors. The hope is that Ostrowski can be a similar case to Gavin Everett who walked on to the program from Western Illinois and has become a solid contributor.
Gavin McCabe, Redshirt Freshman, 6’4”/261
McCabe comes to IU from Marist High School where he captained his team to an undefeated 2017 season. He finished his career at Marist with 136 total tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 14 sacks. He redshirted his first year in Bloomington and earn two Scout Team Player of the Week honors as well. McCabe has a chance to break into the rotation at defensive end and add quality depth on the line.
Christian Love, Redshirt Freshman, 6’0”/293lbs
Love joined the Hoosiers as a walk-on during the 2018 season and earn a Scout Team Player of the Week honor while redshirting. Love comes to IU from Detroit Country Day where he earned all-state honors. He was a team captain his senior season and made 62 tackles, 26 tackles for loss and eight sacks. With the incoming freshman interior linemen still in high school, Love has a chance to increase his stock and get valuable reps this spring.
Gavin Everett, Redshirt Senior. 6’3”/262lbs
One of the feel-good stories surrounding IU football is Gavin Everett. He walked on to the Hoosier program in 2016 after a year at Western Illinois. Everett had to sit out the 2016 season, but over the next two seasons made his presence felt. In 2017 Everett played in nine games and made seven stops to go along with half a sack and a forced fumble. In 2018, Everett earned a scholarship and started 11 of the Hoosiers 12 games. He made 23 tackles including 5.5 tackles for loss, a half sack and three passes broken up. Everett is a high-motor player that anyone would want on their squad, will he end up starting the majority of the season again? We’ll see, but you can bet the farm that he will give every effort to keep his starting position.
Michael Ziemba, Junior, 6’3”/264lbs
Michael Ziemba has played in 22 career games at IU in his first two seasons. He made the transition from tight end in high school to defensive line in college. During his freshman season the Ziemba made four tackles in his time at defensive end and on special teams. His role increased in 2018 as he again played end and special teams. He increased his production to six total tackles and registered his first career sack in the Bucket Game. Ziemba is still developing at defensive end, but has enough game experience to be considered a veteran> This spring he needs to show the staff that he can be a bigger contributor on both special teams and defense.
Connor Schneider, Redshirt Sophomore, 6’2”/233lbs
Schneider is another player who started his colligate career elsewhere, this time at Northern Illinois. After redshirting at NIU, Schneider walked on to the Hoosier program during Fall Camp in 2018. He did not see any game time, but earned Scout Team Player of the Week once. Schneider posted 76 tackles, 46 solo, 15 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one touchdown as a senior at Penn High School in Granger, Indiana. He was rated as a two-star prospect coming out of Penn. He has a chance to make a splash this spring and add depth to the end position.
Alfred Bryant, Redshirt Sophomore, 6’2”/254lbs
The big Texan is growing into his own and after redshirting in 2017, Alfred Bryant made some impact plays in 2018. Bryant played in 10 of the 12 games last season and tallied 10 tackles including two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Bryant has to continue to develop his craft as a pass rusher, but the seeds of success have planted and the spring time is a perfect time to grow. He has the chance to move up the depth chart and into a bigger role if the production is there.
LeShaun Minor Jr., Redshirt Sophomore, 6’3”/310lbs
Minor is one of the bigger mysteries surrounding IU football. He played in his first six games as a true freshman in 2017 and mixed the next six due to injury then redshirted in 2018. Minor’s status with the team is unclear, but there is a clear need for his abilities as the Hoosiers are thin in the interior of the line. Hoosier fans and coaches are anxiously awaiting his return to action, hopefully their faith is rewarded.
Brandon Wilson, Redshirt Senior, 6’3”/285lbs
Wilson has had his successes as IU, the problem is that those bursts of good play have not been consistently there. Wilson has played in 26 games at IU including two starts. He has made 21 tackles including 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack. He has also blocked a kick and forced a fumble. As a senior, it’s now or never for Wilson and if he can put it all together, the line is that much deeper.
Shamar Jones, Redshirt Freshman, 6’1”/274lbs
Jones is one of the interior linemen Indiana needs to grow up quickly. He played in one game last season, but had a solid high school career. Jones will have a shot to make an impact this spring as the big bodied freshman don’t arrive until this summer. If he plays well, I would not be shocked if Jones can work his way to the top of the depth chart.
Tramar Reece, Redshirt Sophomore, 6’4”/252lbs
Reece saw his first game action as a Hoosier last season playing in four games and making two tackles. Reece is still very young and the spring is a great chance for him to work on upping his game and becoming a factor at defensive end.
Jerome Johnson, Redshirt Junior, 6’3”/295lbs
Johnson will be one of the keys to the success of the defense in 2019. Johnson has appeared in every game over the last two seasons and has become one of the better lineman IU trots out at tackle. Johnson has 50 career tackles including nine tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. If the upward trend continues for Johnson, it could be a big year.
Allen Stallings IV, Senior, 6’2”/247lbs
It’s hard to believe that Stallings will be a senior already. One can argue that the Hoosiers wasted Stallings freshman season in 2016 when he appeared in one game, the season opener. Over the next two years Stallings has worked his way up from being a question mark to a reliable defensive end who can make big plays. He’s made 49 tackles with 11.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. Stallings, a former wrestling standout, has two forced fumbles as well. He enters his final spring practice looking to become an anchor at the defensive end position.
Juan Harris, Redshirt Sophomore, 6’3”/350lbs
Big Juan is making his second go-a-round with IU and the Hoosiers need the big fella to contribute right away. Harris first came to IU from Parker High School in Janesville, Wisconsin. He played in three games as a true freshman before obtaining a medical red shirt. After the season, Harris left IU to head to Independence Community College for the 2018 season to improve himself on and off the field. At Independence, Harris played in nine games and made 38 tackles with 4.5 coming for a loss. He has enrolled for spring practice and the rumblings out of Bloomington are that Big Juan looks good.
Harris is THE key to the defense in 2019 and his 6’3” 350-pound frame calls for offenses to double team him. If Harris can play to his potential that middle of the line gets that much beefier and putting him and Jerome Johnson on the field together, gives the Hoosiers a strong 1-2 punch at the tackle positions.