Jaren Handy looks to bolster Indiana’s pass rush

The first differences Jaren Handy noticed between Bloomington and the Deep South, were the scenery and the wildlife.

The former Auburn defensive end/outside linebacker arrived in Bloomington last week and saw a lot that he wasn’t used to.

“It’s different from Auburn and stuff,” Handy said. “Me being from Mississippi, seeing trees and mountains and stuff and seeing deers in the yard and rabbits running around, you don’t see that every day. It’s kinda different, but I like it though. I definitely like it.”

Handy is in Indiana because he likes the opportunity he has. The 6-foot-5, 252-pounder doesn’t know what kind of opportunity he would have got in another year at Auburn under new coach Bryan Harsin, but he sees a role and a way to make a difference on an Indiana team that impressed him last season. He kept his eye on the Hoosiers because of his cousin, IU wide receiver Ty Fryfogle, and sees a group that has a chance to be special with most of its starters from a 6-2 season returning.

“I felt like I had a pretty good chance to play,” Handy said. “The team was up and coming, I felt like we were just one step away from winning the Big Ten and getting a championship at the end of it. … Since my cousin played, I watched every game. I felt like they should have won every game they played. Even the Ohio State game. I was really upset with the Ole Miss game (in the Outback Bowl) because I really think they could have pulled that one out.”

Handy thinks he can help the Hoosiers make the next step as an edge rusher. He said he’s getting work at the Bull position, a new hybrid spot the Hoosiers have been working into the defense over the last year. The Bull lines up at the line of scrimmage where a defensive end would, but in a stand-up position rather than a three-point stance so the player can both rush the passer and drop back into coverage.

Handy got limited work at Auburn in two seasons of play, finishing with a total of 10 tackles, but three of those were for loss and one was a sack. He was an ace pass-rusher at Hattiesburg (Miss.) High School and thinks he can become one again with extended playing time.

And as he sees it, one of the things the Hoosiers were missing last season was a star pass rusher from the edge. Indiana led the Big Ten in sacks with 25, but not many of those came from the edge spot where sacks typically come from and a lot of them required blitzes. Defensive ends James Head Jr., D.K. Bonhomme and Jonathan King combined for just 3.5 sacks and none of them had more than 1.5 for the season. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers got 10 sacks from linebackers, 5.5 from cornerbacks, four from defensive tackle Jerome Johnson and two from safeties.

The Hoosiers pride themselves on their unpredictability, so that isn’t likely to change completely, but Handy believes they can be helped by a more effective standard four-man pass rush with the pressure coming from the edge.

“I think getting pressure from the D-line (could help),” Handy said. “When you get pressure from the D-Line, you don’t have to blitz your cornerbacks and you can leave them out there on the island. Me coming here, I feel like I bring that.”

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