The start of the 2014 college football season is just months away, and the major question surrounding the Indiana football team is whether or not the defense will be better. IU will enter the season with another talented offense, but moving the ball and scoring was not what led to last season’s 5-7 record. The Hoosiers defense allowed just over 506 yards per game in conference play, which is the worst in Big Ten Conference history.
The IU defense allowed 290.2 pass yards per game last season, which ranked 112th among the 125 FBS schools. Although it is hard to tell by those numbers, the Hoosiers have plenty of talented athletes in the defensive secondary. Head coach Kevin Wilson replaced Doug Mallory with former Wake Forest defensive coordinator Brian Knorr as the team’s defensive coordinator this past offseason. Last season, Knorr’s defense ranked 32nd among FBS schools against the pass. Let’s preview the projected defensive secondary for the upcoming season.
Senior Tim Bennett and junior Michael Hunter will return as the starting corners this season. Although they gave up yardage and scores, these two are gifted athletes that can thrive in a better defensive system. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Bennett recorded 73 tackles and 20 pass breakups to go along with one interception last season. Coming off an injury-plagued 2012 season in which he was redshirted, Hunter finished the 2013 season with 42 tackles, 7 pass breakups and one interception.
Senior Kenny Mullen (5-foot-10 and 185 pounds) and redshirt freshman Rashard Fant (5-foot-10 and 175 pounds) will likely play behind Bennett and Hunter. These two will also see additional time as additional defensive backs in different packages.
The safety positions are more difficult to project for next season. Mark Murphy will return as the starter at one of the safety spots. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior recorded 84 tackles and one interception last season. Last season, Greg Heban started as the other safety in which he had 82 tackles and 3 interceptions in his final year of eligibility. Heban’s versatility and experience will be missed this season, and projecting who is replacement will be is where the difficulty comes in.
Sophomore Antonio Allen and junior Dawson Fletcher were the backup safeties last season. The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Allen showed great potential while playing behind Murphy in 2013, finishing his freshman season with 35 tackles. Although Allen has more experience and greater potential, Fletcher (6-foot and 205 pounds) is being projected by many to start alongside Murphy this season, while Allen is projected to be Murphy’s backup. Redshirt freshman Chase Dutra (6-foot-1 and 210 pounds) is projected to backup Fletcher.
From what I have seen (and not seen) from these players, my guess is that Murphy and Allen will be the starters with Fletcher and Dutra being the backups. With Knorr coming in as the new defensive coordinator, maybe he sees Murphy and Fletcher as his best lineup, but this would shock this would shock me.