Indiana football opened up its preseason practices ahead of the 2023 season this week, and playing time in several areas is up for grabs.
Defensive line is one of the bigger competitions on the team, and that group was the emphasis of Friday’s post-practice media session. Here are some of the key points addressed by IU head coach Tom Allen, defensive line coach Paul Randolph, and players.
The Hoosiers lost most of their production up front from last season, and brought in a bevy of transfers to help fill voids along with rising younger talent on the team already. The starting spots and various roles — defensive line rotates among the most of any position group on the team — are largely undecided.
“There is a lot of competition. You’ve got guys competing with each other,” Randolph said. “The best part of them competing with each other is they’ve grown into a really close brotherhood, so they understand, ‘We’re going to compete, we’re going to help each other be the best, but we’re also competing to play.’”
Western Michigan transfer Andre Carter quickly established himself in spring ball as a player to watch on the defensive line. And his ability to play in several different positions and roles on the line makes him even more valuable.
Other players Randolph has seen good things from so far in camp include redshirt senior LeDarrius Cox, redshirt senior Patrick Lucas Jr., senior Philip Blidi, sophomore Marcus Burris, redshirt freshman Venson Sneed Jr., and redshirt freshman Nick James.
“I guess what you’re hearing is, I’m excited about the depth we’ve got and the competition that we’ve got going every single day,” Randolph said.
Carter leading the way
The redshirt senior is in his sixth year of college football, but in a new environment at IU.
The beginning of this fall camp, Carter said, has been his favorite of his career. He credited Allen for that, saying he’s taken good care of his players. Carter added that everyone involved with the program has helped make his adjustment to IU smooth.
“The transition for me has been pretty amazing, for real,” Carter said. What helps is the men and the women in this program, down to the janitors, trainers, and coaches, and then along with this team of men that we’ve got, they’ve been loving and just really holding me accountable and making me feel at home. That’s really been the best part about everything.”
Carter has stood out through his play, and it’s allowed him to step into a leadership role on the D-line.
Despite being new to the Hoosiers, teammates already look up to Carter for guidance. He’s had to be more vocal than he’s been used to — but he said his teammates want him to speak up, so it’s come naturally.
His peers have seen how hard he’s worked both on and off the field, and how often he’s made plays in practice, and respect him for it.
“When you do what you’re going to do on the field, that’s not a surprise. You can kind of earn that. People look at you as, ‘Oh, you’re out there making plays.’ So it’s a mutual respect there. And plus, this is his sixth year. So he’s older. Ain’t no shyness in him. So I wasn’t surprised about that.
Allen looking for fundamentals
Tackling was a big problem for the IU defense last year. The Hoosiers, on too many occasions, whiffed on their attempts or let ball-carriers evade their grasp. Those issues routinely extended drives, created big plays, and forced the defense to stay on the field longer than necessary.
Those issues did not fall exclusively on the defensive line — it was all over the unit. But the line was certainly part of it, and Allen is focused on fixing those problems in camp.
As he and his staff evaluate their defensive linemen, they’re emphasizing the basics.
“Really big emphasis on technique for those guys,” Allen said. “Just better fundamentals, especially when we get fatigued. Big emphasis on that. I think the emphasis is technique and then finishing, winning those gaps. Whatever technique we’re asking them to do, doing some things pre-practice, post-practice to work on that to get our fits right.”
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