Much like the cornerback position, IU must replace two long-time starters at safety in 2023. And like the corners, Indiana doesn’t have anyone with a lengthy resume of starting games at this level of college football.
Things are much clearer at the husky spot where Noah Pierre returns as one of the anchors of the defense.
Below we look at the roster turnover, projected depth chart, quotes and notes for the safeties and huskies on the 2023 IU squad.
ROSTER TURNOVER — WHO’S GONE
- Bryant Fitzgerald – S (out of eligibility),
- Devon Matthews – S (out of eligibility),
- Jonathan Haynes – S (out of eligibility)
ROSTER TURNOVER — WHO’S BACK
- Noah Pierre – H (redshirt fifth-year senior),
- Josh Sanguinetti – S (redshirt senior),
- Louis Moore – S (senior),
- Bryson Bonds – S (redshirt junior),
- Jordan Grier – S/H (junior),
- Phillip Dunnam – S (sophomore)
ROSTER TURNOVER — WHO’S NEW
- Jamison Kelly – S (transfer — Jones Community College),
- Tyrik McDaniel – S (transfer — Independence Community College),
- Amare Ferrell – S (3-star, Lake City, Fla.)
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
Program veteran Josh Sanguinetti (6-foot-1, 195) is a good bet to start at strong safety. He’ll likely be joined on the back-end of the defense by Louis Moore (6-foot-1, 190) at free safety.
On Thursday IU coach Tom Allen said a lot of players will see the field in the secondary so they can find out who’s ready for the big stage. “So you’re probably going to rotate some guys early on and see how they respond, and then play the hot hand,” he said.
Phillip Dunnam (6-foot-1, 190) seems like a certainty to be in the mix for rotational snaps at safety, and Bryson Bonds (6-foot-1, 200), Tyrik McDaniel (6-foot-1, 195), and Jamison Kelly (6-foot-1, 195) could all possibly see the field too as IU sorts things out.
At the hybrid safety/linebacker husky spot, sixth-year veteran and team captain Noah Pierre (5-foot-11, 180) is the clear starter in the Hoosiers 4-2-5 scheme. He’ll be backed up by Jordan Grier (6-0, 215), who could also see snaps at safety.
True freshman Amare Ferrell (6-foot-2, 210) may be a year away from a big role beyond special teams, but he’s impressed the staff in August and could move up the depth charts at either safety or husky before it’s all said and done this season.
Like the cornerbacks, virtually every player mentioned is a bit of a wildcard for one reason or another. Week one is more like an audition in many respects when it comes to this group.
Tom Allen acknowledged this week his defensive backs have much to prove —
“I think the biggest question mark (on the team) is a lot of new faces in the secondary,” Allen said Monday. “They’ll be tested at a very, very high level from the get go (against Ohio State). I’m excited about that.”
Louis Moore on safeties coach and co-DC Matt Guerrieri —
“The thing I like most about coach Guerrieri is he coaches really hard. I love that, honestly. I don’t want a coach to take it easy on me. He corrects everything. He just coaches hard, and that’s what you want. You don’t want players getting by because at the end of the day, we’re on the field together. Knowing we’re getting coached right, we know our responsibilities, and it’s going to make us better.”
Allen on Noah Pierre being voted captain —
“Noah is a very verbal leader, very emotional guy, passionate guy, his energy. Matter of fact, I grabbed him yesterday in practice, I said, ‘Man, this is who you are when you verbalize it this way and you play with this kind of passion,’ which he usually does. That’s infectious for everybody else, and so that’s the standard. So having guys like that, they obviously went to Big Ten Media Days for a reason, and now they’re being voted in as captain. So pretty awesome.”
WHY IT WILL WORK
Sanguinetti hasn’t started many games (2), but he’s played in 27 at IU. He’s a Big Ten veteran at this point, and he’s shown some play-making ability with a couple interceptions and eight passes broken up over his career. Moore is a bit raw at safety, but he’s very fast. We watched him chase down Jaylin Lucas from behind during a scrimmage. Pierre should be solid at husky. Collectively the trio should give Indiana some ball-hawking playmakers.
WHY IT WON’T
Moore isn’t very experienced, either as it relates to game reps or safety reps. He played the husky spot a year ago. Sanguinetti and Pierre struggled with missed tackles last season. The Hoosiers lost key contributors from a pass defense that gave up the most yards in the Big Ten a year ago. And if IU has to rely on this unit to be solid in coverage and tackling because they aren’t getting pressure up front, it could be a long year.
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