The things Maurice Freeman likes to do on a football field don’t generally translate to one position.
The Indiana freshman from Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake, Va., likes to cover opponents in man-to-man coverage but also likes to set the edge against the run. He’s comfortable chasing receivers on deep balls, but also likes to blitz and attack the quarterback. At 6-foot, 200 pounds, he’s naturally built to be a safety and he could do all of those things at that position, just not as much as he’d like to.
Lucky for him, Indiana’s defense has a position that allows him to be everything he wants to be — the Husky spot, which has allowed Marcelino Ball to turn into a defensive star. That’s where the Hoosiers plan on playing Freeman, who is listed as a linebacker on the Indiana roster but played safety at Oscar Smith.
“We call it Husky,” Freeman said Wednesday in a Zoom press conference with Indiana beat reporters. “That’s what I’m playing. … I really like playing man, so it’s really a man position. We play man a lot. And I love coming off the edge, coming down setting the edge, and running into gaps and everything. That’s what I really like about it.”
Freeman got some work at outside linebacker at Oscar Smith, though he was primarily in the defensive backfield. As a junior, he recorded 55 tackles including five sacks and 14 tackles for loss and also forced five fumbles and grabbed an interception.
The hybrid life isn’t all that new to him.
“Everything is basically the same, things that we ran in high school,” Freeman said. “Here it’s just more man-to-man. I feel like if I just keep on my craft, I’ll be on the field early.”
Ball still has another year left and Bryant Fitzgerald is back after starting at the position last season in Ball’s absence. He has two years of eligibility remaining, so Freeman doesn’t have an immediate path to playing time, but not that far in the future, he could get an opportunity.
Freeman didn’t arrive at Indiana early for the spring, in part because he still had a high school season to play. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia held back its high school football season to the spring. Oscar Smith played its first game on Feb. 23 and its last on May 1.
However, Freeman’s team never lost, going 9-0 and claiming the Class 6A state championship. It outscored its opponents by an absurd score of 464-44. Oscar Smith pitched shutouts in its first four games, outscoring opponents 218-0, and five of its first six games, winning those by a combined score of 332-6. They won the state title game 62-21.
And that, Freeman said, was without him going all out. Set to arrive in Bloomington just a month after his high school season ended, Freeman said he made a point not to put himself in positions where he could get seriously injured.
“We had Zoom meetings every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and we stayed close as a team,” Freeman said. “But I was just fitting in at my position, just fitting in every play, just to be there and make a play. It meant a lot because I really wanted that ring. This is what we were working hard for through the whole COVID season. There was a lot we had to do. It was really meaningful for all the seniors that were there. We got it done.”
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