The linebacker position has always been a featured part of Indiana’s defense since Tom Allen arrived in 2016.
During his first two years in Bloomington, Allen had two of his best at the position, with Tegray Scales and Chris Covington solidifying the defense.
Four freshmen linebackers came in the door in 2018 as Scales and Covington exited. Now those four are third year veterans, and once again IU hopes to have the linebacker position become a centerpiece of the defense.
McFADDEN AND JONES BECOMING LEADERS
Two of the four linebackers from the class of 2018 have emerged as Indiana’s starters and a couple of fast, high impact playmakers.
Micah McFadden was the team’s defensive player of year in 2019, topping the team with 61 tackles, 42 solos, 10 for loss and two interceptions.
Playing stinger, Cam Jones posted 35 tackles, 23 solo, two sacks, and 4.5 for loss in 2019.
Defensive coordinator Kane Wommack saw the pair grow up over the course of the 2019 season.
“They grew as the (2019) season went on, but there were certainly growing pains, Wommack said. “You saw a little bit during the bowl game of them being able to hone in, anticipate and make plays, and I think they did that at a higher level.”
So far in fall camp, McFadden and Jones have taken the next step in their progression — to become leaders of the still young defense.
“Right now, we’re playing at a very different level in terms of our physical execution and certainly our mental capabilities and the way we communicate on the field. They’re becoming leaders of our defense,” Wommack added.
McFadden sees a linebacker unit that extends beyond just him and Jones when it comes to guys that are ready to play.
“We have five dudes that can really play out there,” McFadden said. “It looks good in that room and we’re getting prepared.”
CASEY AND WISE ON THE RISE
Who are some of the other players in the group that fans can expect to hear about in 2020?
“I’d definitely say Aaron Casey,” Jones said. “He’s come along real well and shown that he can be on the field effectively.”
A redshirt sophomore from Georgia, Casey came in with McFadden and Jones along with James Miller.
When it comes to the freshmen, Wommack has been impressed with Ty Wise.
“Ty Wise is everything that we thought he was going to be, plus a little more athletic. He really can run, he’s going to develop his body, and he’s learning at a higher level than any of these guys (veteran linebackers) were at their age. That’s pretty exciting for us from a young guy that will be a future leader of that linebacking core.”
Wise hails from Carmel, Ind. He enrolled early at IU which has helped him get ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding the defense, and what it takes to succeed at the college level.
FITZGERALD AND BONHOMME TO HUSKY
The dynamic and versatile attributes necessary to play the husky position are highlighted by who Indiana has slotted into the role to replace the injured Marcelino Ball.
Safety Bryant Fitzgerald has moved to husky and is at the top of the depth chart right now.
Husky is often thought of as a hybrid of the safety and linebacker positions, so it should come as no surprise that a former linebacker is backing up Fitzgerald.
DK Bonhomme was recruited to IU as a linebacker and he played in 11 games in 2019 as a true freshman, primarily on special teams.
On a defense that rotates two and even three deep during games, Bonhomme should see plenty of action at his new position this year, especially in more obvious running situations.
“D.K. Bonhomme is a young man that has been a stinger linebacker for us, so he will also be getting a lot of reps [at husky] for us right now. It is a very similar position technically with how we play our defense, so he has been moved to that position,” head coach Tom Allen said.
Jones moved the opposite direction, going from husky as a freshman to stinger linebacker as a sophomore. He likes what he sees out of Bonhomme at husky thus far.
“D.K. is a ball hawk,” Jones said. “There is a lot of carry over from linebacker to husky. He’s been picking it up good.”
Ball was lost for the season with a knee injury.
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