The Daily Hoosier is previewing each position group during the final 10 days leading up to the opening kickoff of the 2018 Indiana University football season on September 1 at Florida International.
Today we take a look at the linebackers. You can see links to our other previews below.
You can’t start with talking about the 2018 Indiana University football linebackers without first mentioning who is gone. Former Hoosier stars Tegray Scales and Chris Covington are both competing for roster spots in the NFL. Covington was drafted in the 6th round by the Dallas Cowboys.
With the significant losses, the working assumption is that this will be the most challenged position on the team. Time will tell, but Indiana did receive good news over the summer with regard to two experienced players that will be active and eligible to play in 2018.
There are some other player returning with experience, and the coaching staff is enthusiastic about a solid core of true freshmen.
WHO IS GONE
The good news is that there weren’t a lot of other major losses beyond Scales and Covington.
Earlier in the summer coach Tom Allen indicated that Kiante Walton has a medical issue and is no longer on the roster.
WHO IS BACK
One of the main returning linebackers is Reakwon Jones. He has received rave reviews throughout the spring and summer and seems like a lock to start.
Indiana got a big boost over the summer with the news that Dameon Willis, Jr. would return for his final year of eligibility. Willis is the leading returning tackler at linebacker with 27 stops last season. No one else returning had more than seven.
Willis, Jr. will be joined by fellow senior Mike McGinnis.
You can’t discuss the returning linebackers without mentioning Marcelino Ball. Although he is technically on the roster as a defensive back, Ball plays the Husky position and spends a lot of time with the linebacker group. As usual, Ball will be all over the field, and for our money is one of the most important players on the defense.
WHO IS NEW
To put it simply, freshmen are going to see a lot of playing time this year at linebacker.
The coaching staff continues to mention several true freshman that have been impressive including Micah McFadden, Cam Jones and James Miller. All three should see significant playing time and McFadden and Jones likely won’t redshirt.
Coach Allen’s son Thomas is a redshirt freshman that has also been mentioned multiple times by the coaches and is likely to be in the mix. Mo Burnham is another redshirt freshman that has shown promise. He appeared on the initial two-deep depth chart.
Finally, Indiana also got good news this summer when it learned that Georgia Tech transfer TD Roof would be eligible to play immediately. He adds much needed depth and experience to the group.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
Not only is much of the linebacker group new, but the linebacker coach is new as well. IU hired Kane Wommack in January under the new rule that allowed a 10th coach. Hear what he had to say about his group earlier this week.
Right now, there is legitimate concern with the lack of experience at linebacker. With a few veteran leaders and solid core of young guys, this unit may develop over the course of the season into a strength. Coach Allen is still the co-defensive coordinator and he is passionate about the linebacker position.
A mix of young and veteran Indiana linebackers have shined in Coach Allen’s system at IU in his first two seasons. Now the Hoosiers are looking for the next crop of high level performers to do the same.
Coach Wommack suggested that five or six guys will play under a committee approach. That should give several players a chance to gain experience while the Hoosiers find a couple new stars at the position.
Note: It was announced today that Mo Burnham would be suspended for the Florida International game.
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