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 linebacker and bull positions. For a complete position-by-position look at who is coming and going in 2022, go here.
THE SURE THING
Stinger linebacker Cam Jones will be a starter and team captain for a third straight season. Over his four seasons with the program, Jones has played in 42 games and amassed 154 tackles including 10.5 for loss, 10 passes defensed, four forced fumbles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
“He’s an All-Big Ten linebacker that’s going to be voted as a three-time captain this fall. That’s really special. Doesn’t happen very often,” head coach Tom Allen said at Big Ten media day.
Kentucky transfer Jared Casey will see plenty of playing time rotating behind Jones. Allen calls Jared Casey the most athletic and fastest linebacker on the team.
THE BIG QUESTIONS
Former IU star and current New York Giant Micah McFadden was the heart-and-soul of Indiana’s defense a year ago. Who will fill his shoes?
It appears to be a two man race between a pair of veterans — Aaron Casey and Bradley Jennings.
Aaron Casey has been with the program since 2018 and he finally has a chance to claim significant playing time.
“I think his confidence is at an all-time high, and excited to see his work ethic, which has always been strong,” Allen said of Aaron Casey. “I think that’s a guy that I see being elevated; he’s elevated himself by his preparation. He sticks out to me quite a bit I think.”
But Aaron Casey will be pushed at the middle linebacker by Jennings, who arrives from Miami of Florida where he started every game in 2020 but fell down the depth chart in 2021. Jennings is in his sixth season of college football.
The outside linebacker (bull) competition is a similar story, as program veteran Lance Bryant has been trying to hold of UCLA transfer Myles Jackson. Allen has praised Bryant’s year-over-year improvement, something he credits in part to Jackson’s presence. Both should play in a rotation, and whichever player can generate more pressure on the quarterback will likely see the field more.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
Allen on the evolution of the outside linebacker (bull) position in his 4-2-5 scheme:
“There’s no doubt it’s something that we’ve really expanded. When I first got here, we called it by that same name but really recruited more of a defensive end guy in high school to play that position. Now, we’ve really transitioned into recruiting more of a linebacker guy to play that position, a longer, taller linebacker from high school.
“I think that’s the thing we’re trying to get more out of it is the pass rush and the guy who has the flexibility to do multiple things. He’s really a hybrid for us when you think about a hybrid in the secondary. Well, the bull is our hybrid position on the defensive line/outside linebacker. Really, it’s the edge guy as they would kind of call it in today’s defense and he could be a 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 rush-end, that kind of guy. It’s a unique skill set to find.”
KEEP AN EYE ON
A year ago it looked like there may be four McCulloughs in the program — one coach (Deland, Sr.) and his threes sons. Now there is just Dasan McCullough, but he looks ready to make an immediate impact as a true freshman. The Bloomington H.S. product is listed as a linebacker, and he may see the field at both the inside and outside spots.
McCullough is one of the highest rated recruits to commit to Indiana, and with his long and athletic frame, he has been generating buzz as a player who can be disruptive as a pass rusher.
“He certainly is a talented young man,” new defensive coordinator Chad Wilt said. “He’s a guy that we have high hopes for this year and in the future. We’re working to find ways to get him on the field, be able to put him in the best situations to use his skills and his talents without overloading him.”
Defensive coordinator Chad Wilt is also the linebackers coach. Here he is at 2022 fall camp:
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