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IU football 2022 position previews: The defensive line

The Daily Hoosier is previewing each position group during the final days leading up to the opening kickoff of the 2022 Indiana football season on Sept. 2 against Illinois (schedule here).

Today we take a look at the defensive line.  For a complete position-by-position look at who is coming and going in 2022, go here.



The one sure thing with this group is that first year defensive line coach Paul Randolph has a lot of experience and young talent to lean on.

James Head, Jr. (39 games, 58 tackles, 4 sacks), Sio Nofoagototo’a (30 games, 30 tackles) and Demarcus Elliott (32 games, 78 tackles, 3 sacks) are all entering at least their fourth season in the program, and all of them have played a lot of snaps.  JH Tevis, a transfer from Cal, also brings a wealth of experience, with 20 games under his belt including 15 starts, 60 tackles and three 3 sacks.  Those four should be regulars on the field.

While they don’t bring a lot of experience, Indiana also added substantial size in Ole Miss transfers LeDarrius Cox and Patrick Lucas, Jr.  Getting bigger up front was an offseason priority, and this pair adds that via the portal.  Both should play.

Randolph also has several players like Beau Robbins and Cooper Jones who came to IU with accolades out of high school and appear ready to break through.

And the Hoosiers can claim a very talented freshman class.


From top to bottom, Indiana has to move from steady, reliable, sturdy defensive linemen to disruptive playmakers who wreak havoc.

Of course there is more to sacks than the defensive line, but sacks generally start with leverage and stress up front.  A year ago IU was No. 115 nationally in sacks, and while they were much better on the whole in 2020, only 6.5 sacks came from the defensive line that season.

So the big question is, whether from the returning veterans or the up-and-comers, who can get more push up front?  Indiana will rotate heavily like they always do, probably three-deep early on as they look for answers.


Head coach Tom Allen on the progression of Head, Jr. coming off of a nagging foot injury in 2021:

“James, you just take a guy like that who has been here for so many years and had such a tough year last year with a foot injury that kept him out for the first half of the season,” Allen said earlier this month.  “He never was even close to being back to being what he was before that.

“I feel like he’s changed his body and really bought in. I think we are finally seeing the benefits of [strength] Coach [Aaron] Wellman come through. He got here during the pandemic and all that and obviously last year’s challenges with everything we had going on with injuries and different guys, so James finally had a chance to have a full cycle of being healthy and training and getting his lean muscle mass numbers right, reducing his body fat percentage and it’s showing up.

“He’s twitchier. I think he’s really been playing his best football this fall camp since he’s been here, and we need him to do that.”


It isn’t easy for linemen on either side of the ball to carve-out roles in their true freshman seasons, but Indiana appears to have one up to the task in Nick James.  A Rivals and ESPN four-star prospect, James was ranked rated the No. 16 defensive tackle nationally by Rivals in the 2022 class.

After arriving at IU via the prep school route (IMG Academy), James is already 295 pounds.

Allen was asked a week ago about the progression of his young defensive linemen, and James was the first player he mentioned.

“The youngest one, Nick James, has really been impressive,” Allen said.  “I think he keeps getting better and better every time we practice. Which you expect that. He kind of did the same thing in the spring. I thought he really, once he started figuring out, getting more comfortable, even in the same way here in fall camp when it can be a little information overload sometimes even though he’s been here, he has not been through a college fall camp before.”


Defensive line coach Paul Randolph came to IU from Texas Tech.  For his background, GO HERE.  Here is Randolp at 2022 fall camp:


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