The Daily Hoosier is previewing each position group during the final days leading up to the opening kickoff of the 2020 Indiana University football season on October 24 against Penn State in Bloomington.
Today we take a look at the linebacker position.
Fast, dynamic linebackers are the heart and soul of Indiana’s 4-2-5 defensive scheme.
Back in 2017 IU brought in a quartet of promising linebacker recruits that looked like they might one day fit the bill and become the centerpiece of the Hoosier attack.
Now those four are veterans and appear ready to make a statement as IU looks to have its best linebacker room since the days of Scales and Covington.
WHO IS GONE
The big loss is captain and leader Reakwon Jones, who graduated with a media degree.
Jones was named honorable-mention All-Big Ten after finishing second on the team with 55 tackles and starting all 13 games on the weak-side.
Jones is the only scholarship linebacker from 2019 that is no longer with the team.
THE 2020 ROSTER
RETURNING WITH EXPERIENCE
Cam Jones made the move from husky to weak-side linebacker in 2019 and showed considerable promise. Jones had 35 tackles including 23 solo, two sacks, and 4.5 for loss. Known for his speed, Jones had a 44-yard pick-six against UConn.
Micah McFadden was named honorable-mention All-Big Ten and IU’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year. He topped the team with 61 tackles, 42 solos, 10 for loss and two interceptions.
James Miller totaled 31 tackles, including 19 solo, a half-sack and 4.5 for a loss. He shared the team lead with two forced fumbles.
Thomas Allen suffered a season-ending shoulder injury at Nebraska. He finished with 17 tackles, a half-for loss, in eight games.
NAMES ON THE RISE/IMPACT NEWCOMERS
Aaron Casey is the top name to know among the group of players that hasn’t played a big role to this point. His combination of size and speed has the coaches raving and has the Georgia product set up to see significant playing time in 2020.
D.K. Bonhomme is getting fall camp reps at both linebacker and husky. Bonhomme saw the field regularly on special teams as a freshman and projects to be a high impact player as an upperclassman.
Cam Williams was a 4-star class of 2019 recruit that will look to break through a crowded linebacker room in his second season.
Ty Wise is a true freshman that has drawn early rave reviews. He might struggle to become a regular in 2020, but the future is bright for the Carmel, Ind. product.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
Cam Jones on his class becoming leaders —
“We all came in together, me, Micah McFadden, James Miller, Aaron Casey and Thomas Allen, we all came in together as young linebackers,” Jones said. “But now, we are the leaders of the pack. Coach Allen and Coach Wommack put the pressure on us as linebackers. They told us what needed to get done, so we stepped our game up a little bit.”
Defensive coordinator Kane Wommack on what he is seeing out the group —
“Since Tegray Scales, we have not had that vocal leadership in that linebacker room,” Wommack said. “James Miller, C4 (Jones), Micah McFadden, Thomas Allen, DK (Bonhomme). Their vocal leadership, and the way they just hold a standard, of detail, of urgency. The communication is so loud.”
Tom Allen on Aaron Casey at the second scrimmage —
“Casey stuck out to me,” Allen said. “He did a great job of getting his run fits, making his reads, being very decisive, making tackles and doing some really good things.”
Whether taking on offensive linemen or covering backs and tight ends, versatility is critical for Big Ten linebackers.
With a league only schedule in 2020, the linebackers will be tested early and often.
But Indiana really likes its size, speed and depth at the position. In a season that will likely require IU to go three-deep on the depth chart, this linebacker group appears to be up to the task, and perhaps ready to make a splash.
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