With Ohio State in town, Indiana needs all hands on deck on Saturday for their noon kickoff against the Buckeyes.
Already potentially down their starting quarterback, the Hoosiers cannot afford any further attrition on the roster.
That’s especially true when it comes to one of their best players on defense, and a vocal leader out on the field.
After spending last week in head coach Tom Allen’s doghouse, IU husky Marcelino Ball will return to the starting lineup to face No. 6 Ohio State.
Buckeye head coach Ryan Day is fully aware of the Georgia native’s talent.
“Their secondary is really, really strong,” Day said earlier this week. “Marcelino Ball’s one of the best guys in the secondary that’s in the league. He is really good at what he does. He does a lot of things for them.”
Playing the hybrid safety/linebacker position in Allen’s 4-2-5 scheme, Ball is counted on to use his elite speed to make high impact plays.
Ball is an emotional player on the field, and perhaps recognizing his importance to the team, he took things too far on a couple plays in the week one opener against Ball State.
The 6-foot, 223 pound Ball drew two personal foul penalties against the Cardinals, and his lack of judgment drew the ire of Allen.
“I don’t get it,” Allen said in reference to Ball’s penalties after the win over Ball State. “To me it’s just stupid. They’re called selfish penalties and that’s why I took him out and ripped his tail. We’ll have a nice little week with him for that. He’ll never do it again.”
While the full details of Ball’s “nice little week” are unknown, one clear component was losing his starting job to Jamar Johnson against Eastern Illinois.
Ball did ultimately play in the 52-0 week two win over the Panthers, and Allen was happy with how the redshirt junior responded.
“We were working through him to get him to play at the level we want him to play at and the discipline we want him to play with, and that was holistically part of all that last week,” Allen said on Thursday.
“He got the message and I think he’s going to move forward and have a great rest of his season. He’s one of our leaders and so I expect high things from those guys — the way that you play and how you handle yourself during the snap and after the whistle. I think the message was heard loud and clear. I really appreciate how he responded.”
Ball was honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2016 as a true freshman, and then again 2018. He missed most of the 2017 season due to injury.
CAM JONES EXPECTED TO PLAY VS. BUCKEYES
If Ball is the top athlete on the Hoosier defense, linebacker Cam Jones is probably a close second.
Against an opponent like Ohio State, IU will need its best athletes on the field. Allen believes that like Ball, Jones should return to a normal role and full availability against the Buckeyes.
“He practiced full bore the last two days and I think he’s looked really good, so I expect him to play,” Allen said on Thursday.
Jones missed the Eastern Illinois game and was on the sidelines in a walking boot. He was IU’s defensive newcomer of the year in 2018.
A Memphis product, Jones converted from husky to linebacker during the offseason. The 6-foot-3, 224 pound Jones had six tackles, one hit on the quarterback and one pass breakup against Ball State.
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