No position group on this edition of Indiana football is generating more buzz than the defensive line. Words like bigger, stronger and more athletic have been circulating throughout fall camp.
One thing is certain — Indiana has a bunch of new faces up front with impressive resumes. The IU staff hit the transfer portal hard to replace a wave of outgoing veterans, and they appear to have brought in impactful talent.
Here’s our outlook at the 2023 IU defensive line, with roster turnover, the projected depth chart, fall camp quotes, and more.
ROSTER TURNOVER — WHO’S GONE
- James Head Jr. (out of eligibility),
- Richard Thomas (transfer — Florida Atlantic),
- Sio Nofoagatoto’a (transfer — Arizona),
- JH Tevis (graduated),
- Demarcus Elliott (out of eligibility),
- Beau Robbins (graduated)
ROSTER TURNOVER — WHO’S BACK
- Patrick Lucas Jr. (redshirt senior),
- LeDarrius Cox (redshirt senior),
- Venson Sneed Jr. (redshirt freshman),
- J’Mari Monette (redshirt freshman),
- Nick James (redshirt freshman)
ROSTER TURNOVER — WHO’S NEW
- Philip Blidi (transfer — Texas Tech),
- Marcus Burris (transfer, Texas A&M),
- Andre Carter (transfer — Western Michigan),
- Robby Harrison (transfer – Arizona State),
- Ta’Derius Collins (3-star, Shreveport, La.)
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
Indiana will put a lot of different looks on the field, from a traditional 4-2-5, to a three defensive linemen look with one or more outside linebackers. It’s conceivable that six of the first eight defensive linemen who play will have arrived to IU via the transfer portal over the last two seasons. And the competition in this group has been very interesting to watch during fall camp.
Indiana rotates heavily along the defensive line, and that’s expected to continue this fall. Everyone in the two-deep depth chart should play.
On the edge, Andre Carter (6-foot-5, 270) is a clear starter with All-Big Ten potential.
Texas A&M transfer Marcus Burris (6-foot-4, 290) is former consensus 4-star recruit who has the versatility to play inside or out, and IU will likely have both him and Carter on the field, mixing them up in different spots to keep the offense guessing. If there is a major jump in production this year along the defensive line, the belief is Burris and Carter will be a major reason why.
On the interior, Patrick Lucas, Jr. (6-foot-3, 315) and LeDarrius Cox (6-foot-4, 305) transferred in from Ole Miss following the 2021 season, and both have emerged as likely key contributors.
Texas Tech transfer Philip Blidi (6-foot-3, 295) should be on the field a lot at the three-technique defensive tackle role.
Also in the mix for snaps should be second-year tackle Nick James (6-foot-2, 285), Arizona State transfer interior lineman Robby Harrison (6-foot-3, 330), and second-year end Venson Sneed (6-foot-4, 265).
Indiana really believes that with new players like Carter and Burris, and talent at the OLB/Bull position, they’ll be able to generate a pass rush from the front four this year.
When the IU defense has been good under Tom Allen, it’s generally been because they’ve been able to generate pressure on the quarterback, and force him into mistakes. Even during Allen’s successful years, a lot of the pressure has come from aggressive play calling that included pressure from the middle linebackers and defensive backs.
If Indiana is able to generate more pressure without blitzing and exposing the back end, that could help ignite a meaningful defensive improvement in 2023.
Fifth year offensive lineman Mike Katic on competing against this year’s defensive line
“Their physical-ness that they bring, I haven’t seen that since I’ve played here. So I’d say the ones and twos are just super physical, and I’m super excited to see how they play. There’s a lot of dominant guys who can play, there’s so many d-tackles that can play, and bulls, so I’m just excited to see them play.”
Defensive line coach Paul Randolph on the competition for playing time:
“There is a lot of competition. That’s the best part of it. We got guys competing with each other. I think the best part of them competing with each other is that they have grown into a really close brotherhood. They understand that we are going to compete. We are going to help each other be the best, but we are also competing to play.”
Randolph on the attributes of the line this year:
“We are bigger and more athletic, which allows for more playmakers. I think we are athletic enough now to make the play when it’s presented to us.
WHY IT WILL WORK
There is real size, athleticism and talent in this room.
Carter had 13.5 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks a year ago. Burris, Cox and Lucas all started their careers in the SEC. Blidi has 35 games in the Big 12 under his belt. James was a 4-star recruit. Sneed was a Tennessee commit. Harrison has a freakish combination of strength and athleticism.
The staff really believes this group is different in 2023. And the hype is not just coming from inside the program. The defensive line stood out to the Big Ten Network crew when they spent a day at fall camp. And all of these guys have something to prove.
WHY IT WON’T
Let’s just say IU fans are conditioned to ignore preseason hype at this point.
Yes the group appears to be bigger, stronger and faster than years past. But IU plays nine Big Ten games plus Louisville. Are they that good?
We won’t have to wait long to find out. Ohio State is breaking in some new faces along their offensive line. If this IU front is legit, you should know right away.
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