Charlton Warren was hired as Indiana’s defensive coordinator to maintain the Hoosiers’ success on that side of the ball, not to make major changes. However, IU will be making one significant schematic change on how they operate on that side of the ball, which they hope will make them just a little bit harder to plan for.
As Indiana head coach Tom Allen mentioned at the beginning of the spring, the Hoosiers have created a position called the Bull, a hybrid position that does for the defensive line what the Husky position does for the secondary.
The Bull could be viewed as a hybrid defensive-end/outside linebacker, though Warren made a point of saying it’s not exactly that. The Bull will always line up on the line of scrimmage exactly where a defensive end would line up. The difference is, the Bull will be standing instead of down in a three-point stance, which gives the Bull the option of either rushing the quarterback or dropping back in coverage. From a standing position, it’s easier to do that without engaging with an offensive tackle.
“We haven’t changed our defense to be a 3-3-5,” Warren said. “We’re a 4-2-5 and the Bull is the fourth guy all the time on the line of scrimmage. That position is just very versatile because he’s a guy that can rush, a guy that can cover, a guy that can blitz. It takes a special skill set to be that position. You’re looking for that hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker. He’s got to be athletic enough and quick enough to drop in coverage, carry tight ends, to bull, there’s a lot of things we ask that guy to do which makes him a really specialized player. For us, it’s exciting because there’s a lot of things you can do with that guy. In the course of a game, the course of a drive, the course of a series that can keep an offense off-balance.”
The Hoosiers are generally pretty good at keeping offenses off-balance to start with. They led the Big Ten with 20 forced turnovers last season, which put them 13th nationally despite having played just eight games. No one ahead of them on the list had fewer than 10 games. They also led the Big Ten sacks with 25, finishing 15th nationally and ranked fourth in the conference in scoring defense (20.3 ppg) and fifth in total defense (378.1 yards per game.)
The Bull should make them even more multiple and make it even harder for opponents to see where rushes are coming from. Their sacks last season came from all over the field. Middle linebacker Micah McFadden led the team with six. Cornerback Tiawan Mullen was third with 3.5. Defensive backs Jamar Johnson, Devon Matthews, Reese Taylor and Jaylin Williams each had one.
The Hoosiers are still figuring out who all will get a crack at the position this season and going forward as they recruit for it. Right now, they have three players listed as Bulls — sophomore D.K. Bonhomme (6-foot-3, 231 pounds), senior Michael Ziemba (6-3, 254) and junior Alfred Bryant (6-3, 250).
“You look for a guy that’s a smaller defensive end or a guy thats a bigger linebacker and merge the two together,” Warren said. “The great thing about the Bull position, you could have four guys and have four different skill sets. This guy is on the field when you need this, this guy is on the field when you need this, by down, distance and situation. So the great thing about that is because there’s only one of them on the field, they don’t have to be the clone of each other. One can be bigger and more physical, one can be smaller and more athletic. One can be quick. One can do a little bit of everything. That what makes it exciting. If you get a nose guard, they have to be 300 pounds and big and you need a bunch of those guys. The Bull is different. You can have a 260 guy, you can have a 225 guy, you can have a 245 guy. It really just depends on what you’re doing.”